Sixth district congressional challenger Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg plans to launch a large advertising campaign this week, thanks to an unexpected financial windfall.
Tinklenberg has raised over $640,000 in campaign contributions just since Friday afternoon. That's when his opponent, incumbent Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, went on national TV and raised questions about the patriotism of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Elwyn Tinklenberg spent a few hours Sunday in Woodbury shaking hands with voters in several coffee shops. Inside the crowded Panera Bread cafe, Earl Sjobeck didn't take long to raise the issue many 6th District voters are talking about.
"Your opponent blew it the other day on TV didn't she," asked Sjobeck.
"You know she really did," replied Tinklenberg.
"She lost it," said Sjobeck.
"The aftermath of that has been pretty amazing. We raised almost a half million dollars in 24 hours after that," said Tinklenberg.
For Tinklenberg, the influx of cash will strengthen a campaign that was just beginning to gain ground. His weekend haul was more than half of what he had managed to raise for the whole campaign. Tinklenberg says Bachmann enjoyed a big financial edge over him for months, but suddenly the playing field is level.
"She has taken away that one advantage that she had. She has given us the opportunity to complete with her every step of the way. We're going to be on TV, on the radio. We're going to have an extensive media campaign over the last couple of weeks. And we're going to be able to go toe-to-toe with her to the end," said Tinklenberg.
Tinklenberg's drizzle of campaign contributions became a downpour Friday, shortly after Congresswoman Bachmann's appeared on the MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews."
Bachmann was asked about criticisms coming from Republican nominee John McCain's about Barack Obama association with Bill Ayers, a radical anti-war activist in the 1960s. Bachmann said Americans are concerned about a presidential candidate who doesn't share their values. She described Ayers as anti-American, and then she raised the same concern about Obama.
"Absolutely, I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views. That's what the American people are concerned about," said Bachmann on the program.
That comment not only replenished the campaign war chest of Bachmann's opponent, but it also clogged up her office voice mail with many angry messages. During an interview Sunday on WCCO-TV, Bachmann suggested people are overreacting to her remarks Friday.
'I feel his views are concerning, and I'm calling on the media to investigate them. I'm not saying that his views are anti-American. That was a misreading of what I said," Bachmann said. "So, I don't think that's my position. I'm calling on the media take a look at what his views are."
During the WCCO interview, Bachmann did not address another statement she made Friday in which she called for media to investigate members of Congress for anti-American views. Bachmann was not available for comment, but her campaign manager Michelle Marston said that too had been misread.
"The congresswoman never asked for some House un-American activities committee witch hunt, as the media has kind of played it out to be," said Marston. "What she did say is, look, there are people that have questions, and the media is more than willing to try to find out if Joe the plumber has the right kind of plumbing license, but they don't seem to be very interested in the kinds of views that people who want to run the country have."
The issue of an investigation also came up Sunday in the nation's capitol. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to the Bachmann comment while he talked to reporters about his endorsement of Barack Obama.
"This business, for example, we've got a congressman from Minnesota who's going around saying, 'Let's examine all congressmen to see who is pro-America and whose not pro-America.' We've got to stop this kind of nonsense and pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and our diversity," said Powell.
Back in Minnesota, Elwyn Tinklenberg estimates those spontaneous campaign donations came from 10,000 contributors throughout the nation. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is also using Bachmann's MSNBC comments in a new fundraising letter. The DCCC is trying to raise another $100,000 to assist Tinklenberg in the 6th District.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)