Blunder May Cost Rep. Bachmann Minnesota Race

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Freshman Rep. Michele Bachmann seemed to be on a sure path for reelection. But the Minnesota Republican made headlines by suggesting Barack Obama and other members of Congress may be anti-American. Since then, her election prospects have taken a sharp turn for the worse.


Next we're going to report on a Republican member of Congress who until recently seemed at a safe race. Then Michele Bachmann suggested Barack Obama and other lawmakers may be anti-American. And now she's in trouble against a Democratic challenger named Elwyn Tinklenberg. NPR's David Welna has more.

DAVID WELNA: Things started heading downhill for Michele Bachmann soon after she said on MSNBC's "Hardball" that she was very concerned Barack Obama, quote, may have anti-American views. To that she added this.

Representative MICHELE BACHMANN (Republican, Minnesota): I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out are they pro-America or anti-America. I think people would love to see an expose like that.

Mr. LAWRENCE JACOB (Director, Political Studies University of Minnesota): Michele Bachmann has shot herself in the foot.

WELNA: Lawrence Jacob is director of political studies at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute, which did a poll after Bachmann's remarks. It found she's now trailing her opponent by two percentage points and that a fifth of her Republican base said they were now less likely to vote for her.

Mr. JACOB: They combine that with the fact that the Democrat, Elwyn Tinklenberg, who was begging for money and not getting much all of a sudden like money from heaven had a million or more dollars dropped in his lap and is now up running some pretty tough ads about her.

WELNA: Bachmann responded to the drop in support for her with a TV ad that sought to reassure her constituents.

Representative BACHMANN: I may not always get my words right, but I know that my heart is right. Because my heart is for you, for your children, and for the blessings of liberty to remain for our great country.

WELNA: Yesterday on Minnesota Public Radio, in her first debate with Tinklenberg since the controversy began, Bachmann refused to say whether she still thought the media should investigate anti-Americanism.

Representative BACHMANN: That is not an issue that's been a part of the campaign and it's not part of the campaign and it's not what people are interested in. If they were that's something we'd be talking about, but that isn't what people have been asking me about.

WELNA: Democratic challenger Tinklenberg disagreed.

Mr. ELWYN TINKLENBERG (Minnesota Candidate for Congress): The idea that this is not an issue in the campaign is simply not credible. I mean it's what's given this campaign a national interest.

WELNA: Bill Nelson agrees. He's the former Republican mayor of Ham Lake, a city in the heart of Bachmann's congressional district. Nelson says Bachmann has done Tinklenberg an enormous favor.

Mr. BILL NELSON (Former Republican Mayor, Ham Lake City): He got a big boost here, you know and her mistake was to go on that program, you know, once it's said it's said you can't take the words back.

WELNA: At the Ham Lake golf course, I find two middle-aged women differing on Bachmann's remarks. Judie Rohm is a Democrat who voted for Bachmann two years ago but won't this year. Her friend Patty, who did not give her last name, is a Republican who still backs Bachmann. Rohm, the Democrat, speaks first.

Ms. JUDIE ROHM: How many other things is she thinking if she said that out loud. I mean you don't do that to another delegate.

PATTY: She thought - she said anti-American, you thought that was so bad?

Ms. ROHM: I thought that was horrible. I really thought that was horrible on her part. You don't think so?

PATTY: No, because I know, that isn't what she said. I watched the interview, that isn't what she said.

Ms. ROHM: I did too, and she did say that.

WELNA: Both women say they'll help settle Michele Bachmann's fate at the polls on Tuesday. David Welna, NPR News, St. Paul, Minnesota.

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