The Washington Times - October 6, 2012, 05:05PM

Michele Bachmann, the Republican fundraising juggernaut who won her Sixth Congressional District seat in Minnesota two years ago by more than 12 percentage points, is suddenly in a tight contest for re-election.

One day after the Cook Political Report downgraded the conservative-leaning Sixth District from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican,” Mrs. Bachmann’s 2012 opponent, businessman Jim Graves, took to the airwaves Saturday to trumpet his chances of upsetting the three-term congresswoman.

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“This is the first time Michele Bachmann is one on one, against one candidate, and nobody else to spoil this thing. It’s going to be Michele Bachmann against Jim Graves and we look really good against Michele Bachmann,” Mr. Graves told MSNBC on Saturday.

Ballots in the district in 2006, 2008 and 2010 included third party candidates who split the vote.

Another political handicapper, the Rothenberg Political Report last month moved the district from “safe Republican” to “Republican favored.”

Mr. Graves has been campaigning for weeks on his own internal poll that shows him within striking distance – two points – of the incumbent, who became a national figure in the Republican Party after scoring a surprising victory in the presidential straw poll in Ames, Iowa, in August 2011. She dropped out of the presidential contest after finishing sixth in Iowa five months later.

According to the poll, which dates from late August, Mrs. Bachmann’s lead in the district was 48 to 46 percent.

Mr. Graves, the 59-year-old founder and former CEO of a nationwide hotel chain, has pitched himself as the pro-business candidate in the race, and said Saturday he is focused on creating jobs in the district and making an appeal for independents in the race.

“I’m a business guy, I’ve created a lot of jobs, I understand the economy, I understand budgets, I understand how to get things done,” he said on MSNBC. “And obviously Michele Bachmann doesn’t.”

Some political prognosticators remain skeptical of the Democrat’s chances, given Mrs. Bachmann’s edge in fundraising and the district’s conservative leanings.

On his “Crystal Ball” website, Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, still lists the race as “likely Republican.”

Mr. Graves will face Mrs. Romney Oct. 30 in the first of three proposed debates.