Public opinion polls suggest Rep. Michele Bachmann's quest for the Republican presidential nomination is in trouble, and talk in political circles has turned to the impact her White House aspirations may have on her re-election chances to Congress.
Republican insiders expect that if Bachmann drops out of the presidential race, she will regroup and seek a fourth term in Congress representing the 6th District. But voters aren't automatically lining up behind the tea party favorite.
Sara Brown, on her way into a co-op grocery store with her two young daughters in Anoka, said she's voted for Bachmann in the past congressional elections, but that Bachmann does not have a lock on her support going forward.
"I've met her before. She's a great person, but I'm not sure," Brown said. "I mean, when you run for president isn't that -- there's the cynic in me -- that's what you're after, isn't it?"
Down the street at Cowboy Mel's Barber Shop, hair cutter Doug TerHorst agreed: "I know the national spotlight is maybe what she's after, but maybe she could spend a little more time at home."
TerHorst said he does not vote regularly -- only when he's worried or concerned about the issues. He said concerns about the economy will likely lead him to vote next year. And although Bachmann has missed some votes in Congress and spent a lot of time campaigning for president, he said he will probably support Bachmann if she runs again because she's a Republican.
Minnesota House Majority Leader, Matt Dean, a Republican, is one of Bachmann's 6th district constituents. He is also thought to be interested in a congressional bid should the opportunity present itself. But right now he said he's busy recruiting GOP candidates to run for the Legislature next year. He said it's too early to focus on Bachmann's potential re-election campaign.
"The contest is at the presidential level, and that's where her work is," Dean said. "I think most folks in Minnesota understand that, particularly Republican activists."
And former Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey said the fact that Republicans are not lining up to run in Bachmann's district shows how they truly handicap her presidential prospects.
"It tells me very clearly that nobody thinks that she's going to become the Republican nominee here in Minnesota," Carey said. "I think that they're probably ready for her to come home and actually focus on her job as congresswomen for the 6th District."
Carey briefly served as Bachmann's congressional chief of staff and has attracted attention for going public with his assertion that Bachmann is not qualified to serve as president.
Beyond Bachmann's presidential campaign, the future of her congressional career is further complicated by redistricting. The 6th District needs to lose about 100,000 voters. It is still unclear what the new boundaries will be.
Even so, political observers think even a downsized 6th District will remain a Republican stronghold.
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