Minnesota’s Democrats would love to knock her off, but Rep. Michele Bachmann looks likely to win a fourth term in her redrawn district. But her failed presidential bid may have clouded the tea party favorite’s hopes of moving up to higher office in the future.
After her presidential run briefly soared and then flamed out, Mrs. Bachmann confirmed last week she would run again for the House, where she has emerged as one of the Hill’s most visible conservatives and a founder of the Tea Party Caucus.
“In politics, there are some losses that make you stronger and others that hurt you fundamentally,” observes Wayne Garcia, a political consultant and journalism professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
“I think this presidential bid, and the resulting parody of herself that she has become thanks to folks like ‘Saturday Night Live,’ means that Michele Bachmann will not be a serious public officeholder, but will be a serious voice in public affairs, much like Sarah Palin.”
Mrs. Bachmann, 55, held her own in several GOP presidential debates and soared in the early polls after winning the Iowa straw poll in August. But she faltered during the state’s caucus voting Jan. 3, finishing sixth and suspending her campaign a day later.
Coming home politically has proven tricky. Her district’s boundaries are still uncertain as the state drafts a new congressional map, while a Public Policy Polling survey this month of 1,236 Minnesota voters found that 57 percent believed that she should not seek re-election for her House seat. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another Minnesotan whose presidential ambitions crashed and burned, saw a similar drop in popularity back home after he called it quits.
“Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann’s presidential bids did’nt do much to help their image back home,” according to PPP President Dean Debnam. “Both are unpopular and would have a hard time getting elected to statewide office in the future.”
Jay Kiedrowski, a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, cited the recent polling as a weakening of Mrs. Bachmann’s support — though he still says the odds favor her in November.
The PPP poll “would suggest that she did some damage to herself in running for president,” he said.
“In a race, it always has to be two candidates, and people oftentimes look worse until the other candidate is announced,” Mr. Kiedrowski said. “I also think she was so strident in her views and so conservative in her views that I think there may be some independents who just got tired of it. Some think that she had gone over the line.”
Looking to move up the political ladder within the state also may be problematic. Another PPP poll released last week found Mrs. Bachmann losing to freshman Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar by a 58 percent to 35 percent margin if she ran for the Senate in November.
But Mrs. Bachmann’s supporters laud her passionate core of supporters and her proven ability to raise record amounts of money as strengths for future campaigns, and say her political fortunes will only rise.
“Rep. Bachmann is a stellar fundraiser, and her presidential bid served to enhance those efforts,” GOP strategist Cheri Jacobus said. “No Republican has come forth to challenge her, and, as yet, there is no Democrat in the race.”
“Her biggest challenge would seem to be redrawn lines in her district, although she will not have the same issues other candidates running in redrawn congressional districts have — chiefly name ID. It is not a stretch to see Michele Bachmann running for the U.S. Senate at some point in the future.”
State Democrats say they will use her presidential ambitions and time away from representing Minnesotans to their advantage this year. Ken Martin, chairman of the states Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, said there are potential challengers who could come forward as the redistricting map is set.
“Anyone who thinks that they’re unbeatable is fooling themselves, and particularly once you hand us these issues on a silver platter,” Mr. Martin said in an interview with the Associated Press.