Tight races are becoming the norm for Republican House incumbents as they scramble to combat a building Democratic momentum, the fallout from a faltering economy and campaign missteps.
Rep. Michelle Bachmann certainly can attest to the latter.
The Minnesota Republican suddenly is in a tight re-election battle after recent remarks on MSNBC’S “Hardball,” where she said she was “very concerned” that Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama “may have anti-American views.”
The comments caused a serious backlash and helped propel her Democratic challenger, Elwyn Tinklenberg, into a race many political experts say has become too close to call.
“The race has definitely changed in the past week,” said Minnesota Democratic Party spokesman Eric S. Fought on Wednesday. “The whole world was able to see the Michele Bachmann we in Minnesota know - someone who is truly erratic, lacking the temperament and judgment necessary to serve in Congress.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the fundraising arm for House Democrats, has poured more than $1 million into the race following Mrs. Bachmann’s comments.
Adding to Mrs. Bachmann’s troubles, the DCCC’s Republican counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee, last week pulled its television advertising campaign for Mrs. Bachmann.
A recent DCCC internal poll shows Mrs. Bachmann leading Mr. Tinklenberg 42 percent to 38 percent, with 15 percent undecided - unimpressive numbers for a Republican incumbent in a Republican-leaning district.
Mrs. Bachmann won the heavily Republican Twin Cities-area district in 2006 with just 50 percent of the vote, beating Mr. Tinklenberg, who earned 42 percent.
Minnesota is far from being the only state still in play in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 elections.
“For House Republicans, already dark days are getting darker,” said David Wasserman, who covers House races for the Cook Political Report.
Democrats wrestled control of the chamber from Republicans in 2006 for the first time in a dozen years and hold a 236-to-199-seat advantage. Though Republicans had hoped to stem the Democratic tide and win back some seats this year, political forecasters say voters are prime to expand the Democrats’ mandate by at least two dozen seats on Nov. 4.
The Cook Political Report says Democrats will increase their majority by 23 to 28 seats - up from a 20- to 25-seat gain the report predicted in early October.
Also, Rothenberg Politial Report last week said Democrats should pick up 27 to 33 seats in the chamber, an increase from its earlier prediction of a 25- to 30-seat gain.
“We just continue to see Republican numbers falling,” said Nathan Gonzales, Rothenberg political editor. “It’s both at the presidential level and trickles down to congressional races.”