Bachmann remains strong in reconfigured 6th District, supporters say

Republican presidential hopeful Michele
Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann speaks during a campaign event in Iowa last December. Republicans believe her failed presidential bid will prove a boon to congressional re-election campaign.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is likely to have an easier time with her congressional re-election than she did with her presidential campaign.

The new 6th District she will be running in is considered even more conservative than the old one. And some Republicans seem to think Bachmann's unsuccessful run for president has helped — not hurt — her back home.

That's something that St. Michael resident Tara O'Connor has a hard time figuring out. A Democrat surrounded and outnumbered in Bachmann's 6th District, she doesn't understand why so many people are Bachmann fans.

"She puts her foot in her mouth quite a bit. I think people better get educated. I think people better go out and learn and listen to her speak," O'Connor said while sitting down for lunch at the Liberty Restaurant and Bar at St. Michael's American Legion Post.

A couple of booths away sits Chuck Greninger, also from St. Michael, has helped elect Bachmann before and plans to do the same this fall.

Tara O'Connor
St. Michael resident Tara O'Connor can't understand why so many people are such big fans of Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

"You know, I like the idea that she believes in smaller government, less money being spent," Greninger said, adding that he's convinced Bachmann's presidential run leaves her more popular than ever before.

"She's got to be because she's in the public eye more," he said.

O'Connor, the Democrat, doesn't dispute that Bachmann is more popular among many Republicans than ever. Still, she hopes a Democrat will emerge to take on successfully Bachmann, despite the challenge.

Thursday afternoon, Anne Nolan of St. Cloud said she's running in the 6th District. Nolan has run for the state House twice, most recently in 2010.

In each of Bachmann's three previous campaigns for Congress, she was challenged by relatively popular Democrats who failed to topple her. And this year, redistricting left the 6th District even more conservative than it had been before, potentially making it even more difficult for the DFL to successfully mount a campaign against her.

Still, DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin insists Bachmann is vulnerable, especially when it comes to the question of whether she neglected her Minnesota constituents and disavowed her connection to Minnesota while she ran for president by emphasizing Iowa as her birthplace.

Chuck Greninger
Chuck Greninger, St. Michael, has helped elect Bachmann before and plans to do the same this fall
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

But the chairman of the 6th District Republicans, David Fitzsimmons, is all but certain Bachmann will win again. He said he hopes Democrats will spend lots of time and money working against her. If they do, he said Bachmann will still win and Democrats will just have fewer resources to go after other Minnesota Republicans.

"Every dollar they spend here is a dollar less than they can spend to try to run someone against Chip Cravaack or prop up Betty McCollum, Tim Walz," he said. "Quite frankly, I welcome their spending in the 6th District in this congressional race because we've proven we can sustain any spending they throw at us."

As for her own campaign money, Fitzsimmons doesn't think Bachmann will have any trouble. Although she ended her presidential campaign $450,000 in debt, Bachmann raised a record $13.5 million for her last congressional campaign. And now, thanks to her presidential campaign, she has an even longer list of potential donors.

In addition to running in a more conservative district, Bachmann has something else going for her this time around. She can finally counter charges from Democrats, and even some Republicans, that she's ineffective in Washington. Bachmann was instrumental in getting Congress to pass an exemption for the St. Croix River bridge project from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

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