In a radio debate Thursday Congresswoman Michele Bachmann again denied saying Barack Obama may hold anti-American views.
The first-term Republican, running for reelection in Minnesota's 6th District, argued that voters don't care about her controversial remarks made two weeks ago on the MSNBC show known as "Hardball."
The debate moderator, Minnesota Public Radio's Midday Gary Eichten, asked her about it right off the top of the half-hour debate.
"Michele Bachmann, do you think the media should be investigating Barack Obama and members of congress for their possible anti-American views?
"You know Gary," she replied, "That is not what I said in recent remarks."
Bachmann added, "That is not an issue that has been part of the campaign and, it's not part of the campaign, and not what people are interested in."
"If they were that's something we'd be talking about, but that isn't what people have been asking me about."
Across the table in the MPR radio studio, her challenger Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg, shook his head.
"The idea that this is not an issue in the campaign is simply not credible," he said, "It's what's given this campaign national interest, it's what generated General Colin Powell's comments about 'that kind of nonsense has to stop'."
On the October 17th broadcast Bachmann noted that Senator Obama has associated with people that have "negative views" of America and that causes voters to wonder what he truly believes.
That led "Hardball" host Chris Matthews to ask whether Bachmann believes that liberals, and Obama in particular, are anti-American.
"So you believe that Barack Obama may have anti-American views?" he queried.
"Absolutely, I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views," Bachmann replied.
"That's what the American people are concerned about."
She went on to challenge the media to root out fellow members of Congress who may be down on their country.
"I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out are they pro-America and anti-America?"
The remarks were condemned by Democrats and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and led people across the nation to donate $1.3 million to Tinklenberg's campaign the following week.
When the MPR host Eichten tried to ask Bachmann about it one last time Thursday, she said the voters aren't thinking about that episode.
"The only people that bring that up are the media," she said, "It's not the people because what people are concerned about and nervous about is all of these punishing high tax increases they keep hearing about."
Tinklenberg said the MSNBC interview is an important issue in the 6th District race, because it goes to how Bachmann would regard Obama should he become the next president. He called it part of a "divisive and polarizing" campaign strategy that Minnesotans won't buy.
"Ultimately we still have to come together as a people to deal with the enormous challenges ahead," he said, "And that's why people like Colin Powell have come out in such force and said that kind of nonsense has got to stop."
Banking on Bailout backlash
Bachmann made it clear that she'll continue to play up her vote against the unpopular financial system rescue, in hopes of riding the bailout backlash factor.
"I stood against the president on the largest issue of this year which was against the bailout," she said, "El Tinklenberg said he would vote for and support President Bush's bailout."
Tinklenberg said he did not agree with the final version of the bailout bill, crafted in the Senate with all the other spending tacked onto it.
He did, however, agree the original purer version of the bill that failed in the US House.
"I know that the voters are angry about the bailout of the executives on Wall Street but this has an impact on Main Street," Tinklenberg asserted, "It has an impact on peoples lives."
"You can't just be opposed to everything; you have to be for something you have to be building positive solutions."
Misleading lines of attack
Those who tuned into the radio debate heard Bachmann say several times that Democrats are going to let the Bush tax cuts expire for all income groups.
And she added, "If Barack Obama would win the presidency we will see punishingly high increases in taxes and redistribution of wealth."
Tinklenberg, a former state transportation commissioner who also served as mayor of Blaine for ten years, accused Bachmann of distorting Obama's tax plan by saying it will raise rates for all income groups.
"What we're supporting is tax cuts that are focused on the middle class, which are focused on small business, and will help us start building jobs again."
Democrats are proposing middle class tax breaks and credits for small businesses, financed in part by imposing a higher tax rate on those who earn more than $250,000 per year.
They challenge the "trickle down" effect of tax cuts for the wealthiest, saying it hasn't delivered the jobs and prosperity promised by advocates.
Tinklenberg decried Bachmann's new attack ads, which employ artificial Star Tribune newspaper covers as part of a claim Tinklenberg "broke laws" as transportation commissioner in the Ventura Administration from 1999 to 2003.
The "broke the law" quote used in the Bachmann ads was a newspaper quote from an administrator who alleged Tinklenberg's fast-tracking of highway projects violated regulations.
The Office of the Legislative Auditor reviewed the allegations at the time and found no wrongdoing on Tinklenberg's part.
"I think she's hoping that's going to have an impact on the people in the district," he said after the debate, "And I think she's wrong."
"I think people are way beyond that; they're looking for specific things we can do."
Recent polls show Tinklenberg with a slight lead in the battle for the Republican-leaning 6th District, which stretches from St. Cloud to Stillwater and wraps around the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities.
(Copyright 2008 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)