Michele Bachmann’s victory in the 6th District wasn’t anywhere near as close as many in the media thought it was going to be, at least as reflected by the attention her race got.
Bachmann’s opponents have operated from the position that if voters in the 6th knew more about her, they’d turn her out of office. But over the last several elections, Bachmann has shown her ability to get stronger in the district, not weaker. Fifteen million dollars in campaign contributions will do that for you.
If Bachmann has a weakness in the district, it’s been in the cities nearest the metro. Washington County, which includes Oakdale, Woodbury, and Bachmann’s hometown of Stillwater, showed lukewarm support for her in her first congressional victory in 2006. She beat her opponent, DFLer Patty Wetterling in the county by just .1%. Her biggest support is in Wright and Sherburne Counties. She won the district with 50% of the votes.
Two years later, her vote total reached 46%, mostly because of a third party candidate with an Anderson surname (political gold in Minnesota) that likely pulled votes from her opponent. But Bachmann lost Washington County to Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg by 4%. Stearns and tiny Benton County also went Tinklenberg’s way. But solid support in Anoka, Wright, and Sherburne counties allowed her to retain her seat. There’s a reason why a last-minute mailing on Bachmann’s behalf went to Anoka County this year; that’s her bullpen.
This year, Bachmann grabbed more than 50 percent of the vote in Washington County, beating Taryl Clark by 7 percent of the vote. District-wide, this will be the first campaign in which Bachmann gets the majority of the votes cast.
Washington County was one of the first areas of the district to report results on Tuesday night, and when Bachmann raced off to a big lead over her opponent, Tarryl Clark, it was over.
Her opponents now are likely hoping the state will lose a congressional seat with the 2010 census. The 6th is usually the target for weird carving and the next round of redistricting isn’t likely to be an exception. Bachmann could lose Woodbury and Oakdale to John Kline’s 2nd District. That won’t matter to her much since they’re her two weakest communities.
The question, however, comes where the new lines come. If Bachmann’s hometown of Stillwater is also shipped off to the 2nd District (not likely), she’d have to face John Kline, a less media-hungry but possibly more popular Republican member of the delegation. It’s also possible, Stillwater would be awarded to an expanded 8th District. It and Oakdale could also be sent to the DFL-heavy 4th.
With Republicans primed to take control of the Legislature, it’s quite possible the whole redistricting effort will again end up in the hands of the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. She’s a Republican.
By then, though, it may not matter to Bachmann. Her appearances on national TV shows tonight while refusing interviews to the local media suggests that this might well be her last congressional campaign.