Michele Bachmann highlighted her Iowa roots until her presidential fortunes faded after the Hawkeye State's caucuses.
The three-term Minnesota Republican representative now appears to be putting a renewed emphasis on her adopted home state as her reelection bid gears up in one of Minnesota's newly revamped congressional districts.
On Monday, Bachmann was back at the Minnesota State Capitol, where she once served as a legislator. Appearing before a bank of TV cameras, she used her national profile to call attention to a deserving issue: accountability for how Medicaid dollars are spent in Minnesota and elsewhere.
Bachmann, who was often cloistered from reporters during her presidential campaign, also met with the Star Tribune Editorial Board on Tuesday -- her first meeting at the newspaper's editorial offices since 2008. Her visit came as a controversial project she's backed-- a new St. Croix River bridge -- made news.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton sent Bachmann a letter Tuesday establishing a deadline for the bridge -- March 15. The U.S. Senate has already passed a bridge funding bill pushed by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar. But if the House doesn't pass the legislation by mid-March, Dayton's letter said the state will be forced to "repurpose the funds now set aside for that project."
Bachmann then reaffirmed her strong support for the bridge, saying she'll champion it even though the span is outside her new district of choice. While Bachmann's high profile and personal charm make her a formidable political candidate, the bridge should be viewed as a key test.
The bill's House fate depends on Bachmann's leadership. She needs to prove that she can work across the aisle and carry a substantive bill across the political finish line.
That may be an especially difficult feat for Bachmann, whose ambitions and independent streak have sometimes alienated her party's leadership. Getting the bridge bill approved would help address those doubts.
Following through on the Medicaid issue would be valuable, too. Bachmann needs to prove she's a workhorse, not a show horse. Now's her chance.
Jill Burcum is a Star Tribune editorial writer.