The Cook Political Report has downgraded the Sixth Congressional District from "likely Republican" to "leans Republican," indicating that incumbent Rep. Michele Bachmann is facing a tougher reelection fight than expected.
The political site also ranks the congressional race in Minnesota's Eighth District as "tossup Republican," giving Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack only a slight edge as he squares off against former congressman Rick Nolan in the traditional Democratic stronghold.
Bachmann, who had been expected to easily win a fourth term has run into a series of setbacks. Her neighborhood was redistricted and now she's campaigning in a district where she no longer lives. Some of her controversial claims drew criticism from her own party's leadership. She's still paying the bills for her short-lived presidential campaign (when she self-identified as an Iowan, rather than a Minnesotan). For the first time, there is no Independence Party candidate on the ballot to compete with her Democratic challenger for votes. And she's facing an independently wealthy businessman who's casting himself as the pro-business candidate in the race.
On the other hand, redistricting created a new Sixth District generally believed to be even more solidly conservative than the old district. And Bachmann, always a powerhouse fundraiser, has redoubled her efforts.
The new ranking pleased Graves campaign spokesman Adam Graves: "It reaffirms what we are hearing over and over in the district: namely, people of the Sixth see that Jim Graves' years of experience building busines, creating thousands of private sector jobs and balancing budgets through tough times makes him the right candidate to get our economy back on track. They feel abandoned by Rep. Bachmann, whose thirst for celebrity and record of ineffectiveness have left Minnesota families hurting. The race is tight because people are ready for a change and they want to be represented by a common sense businessman, rather than a wannabe celebrity."
The Bachmann campaign did not respond to calls and emails asking for comment.
Last month, another political handicapper, the Rothenberg Political Report moved the 6th from "safe Republican" to "Republican favored."