Seemingly every cycle, a new Democratic challenger to Rep. Michele Bachmann gains just enough traction to prompt stories about whether the congresswoman will finally face a significant re-election threat. He or she inevitably falls short. But now that even Republicans are backing away from the firebrand tea party favorite in light of her recent crusade against a popular aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Bachmann’s Democratic challenger says his campaign has gotten a huge surge of momentum.
Bachmann’s baffling quest to root out Muslim infiltrators in the federal government could be the final piece in a puzzle Democrats have been trying to solve for years. This time, says hotel executive Jim Graves — the Democratic Party choice to take on Bachmann — momentum is on his side.
“It definitely has, I think, cemented people that may be in the middle that say, ‘Well you know, she’s really out there, but we need somebody to keep Congress in line,’” Graves told TPM Friday. “I think this has gone well over the edge for people.”
Graves said he’s seen an “uptick in financial support” on the ground in the 6th District as Bachmann’s quest to rid the federal government of “Islamist” infiltrators has dominated headlines. Many of Bachmann’s fellow Republicans, including her former presidential campaign manager Ed Rollins, have condemned her recent charges, especially the ones aimed at State Department staffer Huma Abedin.
Graves said he’s seen the same kind of disgust from some Republicans in Bachmann’s district. The state Republican Party did not respond to multiple requests to discuss Bachmann on Friday.
“A lot of Republicans [in the district] say, ‘This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. We just cant afford to have this uncertainty and fear-mongering and McCarthyism,’” Graves said.
Bachmann’s latest foray into the headlines has cast a new spotlight on her reelection campaign. Graves expects the controversy to drive more national money and attention to his campaign. The Democratic candidate has a net worth between $22 million and $111 million and told TPM he’s prepared to put his own money behind his bid against Bachmann, a prolific fundraiser with a national base.
Even as she faces criticism from within her own party, Bachmann remains a tea party favorite with plenty of conservative allies. Graves says his personal story (“I would be what she describes as a ‘job creator,’” he said) gives him the edge over past Democratic Bachmann opponents, though he still expects her “to raise a boatload of money.”
Bachmann’s fundraising skill is certainly formidable. In the last quarter, Bachmann’s $1.9 million haul accounted “for nearly one-third of all the money collected by Minnesota incumbents and challengers,” according to the MinnPost. Bachmann has $1.7 million on hand, which puts her well ahead of Graves’s $400,000. The Rothenberg Political Report rates the race as still “safe Republican”.
Nevertheless, Democrats are feeling better about the race with Bachmann under fire from her own party. Graves said he’s been surprised by the size of the scandal, but added that it was par for the course when running against one of conservatism’s most incendiary voices.
“She’s got a pattern. … I don’t understand her motivation, but she has a tendency to be anti-government as though the government itself is her enemy. It’s just so convoluted and being in the realm of being unhealthy that I can’t explain it,” he said. “I knew this would happen. Not if, but when.”