Voters split on Michele Bachmann

5:38 PM, Oct 26, 2008   |    comments
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Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann has come out of tight spots before. The first-term member of Congress is now known for wondering on national TV whether Barack Obama "may have anti-American views." The comment stoked Democrats including her opponent, Elwyn Tinklenberg, who has collected more than $1.45 million since she tangled with MSNBC's Chris Matthews on "Hardball." Even so, Bachmann could still win a second term in Minnesota's conservative 6th District. Reaction to the flap has been mixed. Those who didn't like her before are even more turned off -- Tinklenberg supporter Arline Satrom, 73, of Woodbury, said Bachmann is "an embarrassment" -- but others are coming to her defense. "Actually, I like her and I don't think she said anything wrong," said Janet Norris, 53, a house painter from Coon Rapids who visited nearby Anoka last week. "I don't trust Obama as far as I could throw him." Bachmann, one of Minnesota's most polarizing politicians, has always thrived on adversity. A tax attorney and mother of five, she forged her political identity by fighting to overturn an educational standard seen by conservatives as morally ambiguous. She made her name in Minnesota pushing -- unsuccessfully -- to ban gay marriage in the state constitution. Bachmann defeated incumbent state senators in her first and second runs for the Minnesota Senate. Democrats have had trouble coming up with a winning strategy in the 6th, which wraps the northern half of the Twin Cities and extends west past St. Cloud. It's Minnesota's most conservative district, an area that went for President George W. Bush by double digits in 2000 and 2004. Two years ago, voters picked Bachmann for an open U.S. House seat over Democrat Patty Wetterling, the mother known nationally after losing a son to an unknown kidnapper. Tinklenberg watched from the sidelines -- he had dropped out when Democrats endorsed the better-known Wetterling. Bachmann won 50 to 42 percent. This year the DFL party got behind Tinklenberg even though he disagrees with its bedrock support of abortion rights. He is a former Methodist minister who served as state transportation commissioner under former Independence Party Gov. Jesse Ventura, a popular figure in the 6th. Tinklenberg is now endorsed by Ventura's Independence Party, even though Bob Anderson of Woodbury is on the ballot as that party's primary winner. Republican Aubrey Immelman, who lost the GOP primary, is waging a write-in campaign. Bachmann's "Hardball" comments have sent cash pouring into Tinklenberg's campaign from all 50 states and prompted national Democrats to commit $1 million worth of advertising to defeat her. One of Tinklenberg's new TV ads combines a clip of her "anti-American" comment with video of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican who cited the remark as one reason he chose to break ranks and endorse Obama. Spokeswoman Michelle Marston said donors gave Bachmann $350,000 in a three-day period last week. But cash-strapped national Republicans pulled TV ads they had planned to run in the 6th after her comments. Before the "Hardball" remarks overshadowed other issues, Bachmann spoke against the $700 billion financial services industry bailout on national TV talk shows and toured U.S. energy sites including Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She endured some ridicule for predicting a return to $2-a-gallon gas if the U.S. more thoroughly tapped its own energy sources. At the time, gas was running around $4 a gallon. "I've been willing to be a strong reformer in Washington, D.C., and take on my own party, including the bailout in Washington D.C.," Bachmann said at a candidate forum in St. Cloud the day before "Hardball." Tinklenberg has said he would have voted for the bailout. He has criticized Bachmann's focus on oil drilling as too narrow and instead emphasizes conservation and alternative energy development. The former Blaine mayor is positioning himself as a moderate with bipartisan appeal. "We're facing some enormous challenges in the economy and energy and two wars that we're engaged in," Tinklenberg said last week. "It's really going to be important to pull the country together." The final decision will rest in the hands of voters like Josh Chase, a 23-year-old who moved to Andover two months ago. Chase supported Bachmann's vote against the bailout and was considering voting for her, but the "anti-American" controversy was giving him pause. "This definitely has made it more of a toss-up than it was a week ago," Chase said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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