Once you meet Graves, it's abundantly clear that he's anything but the big-spending liberal that Bachmann's cartoonish ads make him out to be. Instead, Graves is a successful, numbers-minded business executive more at home in a boardroom than on the campaign trail.
At a time when the economy tops voters' concerns, Graves actually is a job creator whose hotel and hospitality business has about 700 employees. While Bachmann's ads depict Graves as a wild-eyed backer of the Affordable Care Act, Graves' support for it is cautious at best, with his ideas for further reform echoing those in the Republican political playbook -- tort reform and enhancing competition.
When the two candidates finally appear in the same room together -- the first debate is set for Oct. 30, one week before the election -- it will be obvious who has the bona fides on economic issues. Graves, 59, who founded the AmericInn hotel chain and later sold his interest, is a respected entrepreneur already on a first-name basis with Minnesota's business leaders. The St. Cloud native's plan to become a business "ambassador" for his congressional district, actively promoting its potential to companies elsewhere, is another reason he merits support.
Bachmann, who didn't respond to the Star Tribune Editorial Board's invitation for an endorsement interview, should be running scared. Her campaign ducked questions about the late date for the debate by responding with more shopworn phrases about big spenders. That shouldn't come as a surprise. Bachmann has little to show for her six years in Congress besides empty rhetoric in self-promoting TV appearances and a presidential bid that quickly ran out of steam when her extreme positions became too much for her own party to stomach.
It's not often that Republicans are upbraided by the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board. And yet Bachmann won that dubious distinction a year ago when she dangerously claimed after a presidential primary debate that a vaccine causes mental retardation.
Bachmann's positions and self-promotion have alienated colleagues on both sides of the aisle. In 2010, the Republican leadership of the U.S. House denied her a key leadership position. This year, Bachmann's embarrassing accusations about a Muslim Brotherhood infiltration sparked denouncements by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Republican Sen. John McCain. This lack of respect undercuts her ability to pass bills. While Bachmann touts the St. Croix River bridge as an achievement, the heavy lifting on its passage was done by others in the state delegation.
Bachmann's extreme opposition to raising taxes and the debt ceiling also undermine her fiscal responsibility claims. Her absolutism runs counter to every credible debt-reduction plan, including Simpson-Bowles. She is a roadblock to the "grand bargain" sorely needed to rein in red ink and reassure the markets.
Bachmann could have used her considerable charisma to become one of the state's most effective representatives. Instead she's used it to serve herself, not her constituents.
To read more Editorial Board endorsements, go here.