The battle between Rep. Michele Bachmann and Democratic challenger Jim Graves just made the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's list of hottest House races in nation.
The DCCC announced Monday morning that it is bumping Minnesota's sixth congressional district onto its Red-to-Blue list. The list is reserved for competitive races where Democrats think they have a shot at unseating a Republican incumbent, and allows the DCCC to steer extra funds and resources to the challengers.
In a statement, the DCCC noted that Graves, a hotel CEO, "has surpassed demanding fundraising, organizing, and infrastructure goals and demonstrated to voters that he is a strong leader who will stand up for Minnesota seniors and hardworking middle class families."
A Graves campaign poll showed him within two points of Bachmann, but a new KTSP poll released Monday showed Bachmann leading 50 percent to Graves' 41 percent, with 9 percent of the district still undecided. The poll has a 4.1 percent margin of error.
The KSTP poll found that a sizable chunk of sixth district voters don't know enough about Graves to form an opinion about his candidacy. Twenty-eight percent of votes gave him a favorable rating, 27 percent rated him unfavorably and 45 percent had a neutral or no opinion, according to the station's 5 p.m. broadcast.
Bachmann, much more of a known quantity in the Republican-leaning district, had a 40 percent favorable rating, 40 percent unfavorable, with 20 percent holding a neutral or no opinion of her.
Graves can use all the outside help he can get. Bachmann, one of the most polarizing figures in Congress, announced Friday that she raised $4.5 million between July and September. Graves has not yet released his third quarter fundraising numbers.
Bachmann immediately turned the DCCC announcement into a fundraising opportunity. In a letter to supporters, she noted that the DCCC raised more money this election cycle than their counterparts in the National Republican Congressional Committee.
"Those millions are going to be used to defeat me, but you see, our campaign isn't about me- it is about US. It is about restoring our government and economy, protecting our shared constitutional conservative values, eliminating the wasteful spending in Washington, and ensuring our conservative voice is heard," she said in a fundraising email. "The hyper-liberals at the DCCC are working day and night to defeat us, and we need to fight back. The fastest way to join our campaign is by making an online donation. Won't you please give my campaign "a boost" by making a donation of $25, $50, $100 or more?"
DCCC chairman Steve Israel's statement tried to turn Bachmann's fundraising success, and her status as a high-profile national conservative figure, into a liability.
“Jim is a successful businessman, builder and problem-solver who will focus on creating jobs, growing the economy and protecting Medicare not on partisanship, political games or pandering to the Tea Party," Israel said in a statement. "During Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s career in Washington, she has been more focused on being a national right-wing celebrity than on delivering for the Minnesota families she represents. Voters are experiencing buyer’s remorse with Congresswoman Bachmann and her relentless desire to put ideology over solutions.”
The DCCC put Minnesota's second and eighth congressional districts on its Red-to-Blue list earlier this summer. But the lion's share of national resources have been funneled to northern Minnesota's eighth district, where former Democratic congressman Rick Nolan is trying to unseat freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack.