For three elections, Democrats have eagerly lined up to take out Sixth District congresswoman Michele Bachmann. The lesson from Bachmann’s decisive victory Tuesday is that their money and efforts are better focused elsewhere. Bachmann’s here to stay, and her political stock is headed up and up.
What kind of national leadership role she winds up with is unclear. Clearly her party would be foolish not to harness her rising star power. Bachmann enjoys a bipartisan reputation as a media showhorse, so a powerful committee appointment or congressional leadership role may be a stretch. Still, her telegenic looks and fundraising prowess have made her a formidable asset on the campaign trail. A more formal role along those lines would be a better fit.
Bachmann remains an extremist, and she has never won this newspaper’s endorsement. But she deserves grudging admiration for running a savvy campaign and defeating Democratic challenger Tarryl Clark by 13 percentage points. Bachmann’s numerous appearances on Fox News helped her rake in money from across the nation. She seized on Fox TV host Glenn Beck’s huge rally to connect even more strongly with Tea Partiers. She uncannily channels the Sixth District’s independent, anti-bigshot vibe — even as she’s morphed into a bigshot herself. No foot-in-the-mouth mistakes marred her campaign this year.
Bachmann makes no apologies for who she is — and that resonates with her no-frills district. Clark, in contrast, seemed to distance herself from her party’s foundations. When it came to health reform, Clark stuck to the middle-ground when she should have touted its benefits — helping sick kids get insurance, for example. Another misstep: ducking a debate question about "card check,’’ a bill that would help unions organize. Clark should have come out swinging for labor. Bachmann nailed her for the mealymouthed response.
Bachmann’s victory speech felt like more like a national call-to-action than an address from a fly-over-land district. No doubt Bachmann’s views will continue to draw ridicule and ire from the left. Their mistake: consistently underestimating her.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.