'Anti-American' comments hurt Minn. rep's campaign
By Martiga Lohn
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann spent months building her profile through appearances on "Larry King Live" and other TV talk shows. It took only a few minutes of airtime, and one disparaging remark about Barack Obama, to undo it.
After saying on MSNBC's "Hardball" that Obama "may have anti-American views," Bachmann found herself fending off criticism from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Worse, Bachmann's comment uncorked a gusher of donations to her opponent, transforming a race she had been favored to win into one more worry spot for Republicans.
Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg said his campaign brought in $740,000 in less than 72 hours, an amount he could only have imagined before Bachmann's remarks. It took the former state transportation commissioner a year to raise $1 million before that, and Bachmann started the campaign's critical final month with almost four times as much cash as he had.
Before Friday's "Hardball" aired, Bachmann was favored to win a second term despite being one of Minnesota's most polarizing political figures. Democrats despise Bachmann, who gained prominence by pushing a gay marriage ban while a state legislator. In the past year, she has become a regular on cable talk shows, pressing conservative views on oil drilling and other issues and vocally opposing the financial bailout.
National Democrats, sensing opportunity, announced Monday they would pour $1 million into TV ads in the district, which lies on a corridor from the Twin Cities northwest to St. Cloud.
Bachmann did not respond to a request for an interview Monday. But on Sunday, she told WCCO-TV in Minneapolis that her comments about Obama had been misread.
"I feel his views are concerning, and I'm calling on the media to investigate them," Bachmann told the station. "I'm not saying that his views are anti-American."
But video of the interview is easy to find online - and eagerly being forwarded by Democrats.
"She said what she said and her meaning could not be more clear," said state Democratic Party Chairman Brian Melendez. Bachmann lacks the temperament to serve in Congress, Melendez said.
A spokeswoman for Bachmann, Michelle Marston, said the campaign is bracing for an onslaught of attacks. Marston said Bachmann's campaign may increase its own ad-buys to counter the new money behind Tinklenberg.
"We expect that the $2 million that they want to spend now is all going to be negative," Marston said. "We have tried to run a very positive campaign."
Powell, as he endorsed Obama on Sunday, called Bachmann's remarks "nonsense" and used them as an example of negative political rhetoric that should end.
Pelosi chimed in Monday while campaigning for a Minnesota Democrat running in a different district. Bachmann's comments reflect poorly on her, Pelosi said.
"It dishonors the position that she holds and discredits her as a person," Pelosi said.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, said it was inappropriate to suggest that Obama has anti-American views, but he offered some sympathy for Bachmann's plight.
"If you do a lot of interviews, eventually you're going to say something that you wish you would have said differently," Pawlenty said at an unrelated news conference at the state Capitol. "It's just the nature of talking all day. Some words are going to come out of your mouth that you could have said better."
The comments also prompted Republican Aubrey Immelman, who lost to Bachmann in the primary, to say he would wage a write-in campaign.