Election 2008

Ron Edmonds/AP
Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota

Bachmann Ekes Out Win Amid "Anti-American" Controversy

November 05, 2008 10:15 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, whose remarks about Obama’s “anti-American views” buoyed the campaign of Democratic challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg, held on to her seat with a narrow projected margin.

Bachmann Wins Despite "Hardball" Flap

At around 12:30 a.m. CST, Democratic challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg conceded his race for the seat in Minnesota's 6th Congressional to Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann at his campaign party. With some 86 percent of precincts reporting, Bachmann had 47 percent of the vote over Tinklenberg's 44 percent.

Bob Anderson, the Independence Party candidate for the seat, was polling at 10 percent of the vote, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State's office.

Tinklenberg, the former mayor of Blaine, Minn. and the former Minnesota state Transportation Commissioner, said that he was counting on votes from largely suburban Washington County and from in and around the college town of St. Cloud to pull ahead of the incumbent, whom he sought to characterize in the race as an "extremist."

Soon after Tinklenberg made his concession speech at his campaign headquarters in Ramsey, an outer-ring suburb, Bachmann took to the podium at the GOP's state headquarters in Bloomington, a large suburb home to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America.

"One thing we learned in this race is that the people in this district are very concerned about the issues. They're concerned about the economy, concerned about the bailout, concerned about where we're going to go with the future of our country," Bachmann said in her victory speech.

While campaigning, she touted her "no" vote to the $700 billion financial rescue package and push to drill for oil in restricted areas in a bid to lower the price of gas.
"Those two issues people appreciated," Bachmann was quoted as saying by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

But nationwide, many were not so appreciative of comments Bachmann made on Chris Matthews' news program "Hardball."

Background: ‘Hardball’ Appearance Causes Problems for Incumbent Bachmann

In less than a week, a quiet Minnesota race became one of the most talked about in the country, after Bachmann made statements on the Oct. 17 edition of the show “Hardball with Chris Matthews” suggesting that Barack Obama holds “anti-American” views.

Between Oct. 17 and 23, Tinklenberg had raised $1.3 million and drawn many new volunteers, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Bachmann’s interview has turned the race into one of the country’s most intensely watched. It also unleashed an online backlash against Bachmann, who many local political observers assumed would easily win reelection,” said the paper.

The National Republican Congressional Committee soon cancelled television ads for Bachmann that were supposed to start running next week, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune reported. “A Republican source confirmed Wednesday that the NRCC is pulling its funding out of the Sixth District race,” the Star-Tribune said.

But David Wasserman, a political analyst, said at the time that it’s not necessarily over for Bachmann, who has “one final path to victory: to portray her political opponents as East Coast elitists, including Chris Matthews, but also contributors to Tinklenberg’s campaign over the past 72 hours,” the Star-Tribune quoted him as saying.

Wasserman also didn’t think the ad cancellation meant the GOP sees Bachmann as a lost cause.

Key Players: Michele Bachmann and Elwyn Tinklenberg

Michele Bachmann (1956–)

Michele Bachmann was born Michele Amble in Waterloo, Iowa, and grew up in the Minneapolis suburb Anoka in a Democrat-leaning family, a political tradition she carried with her to college at Winona State University in southeastern Minnesota, where she worked on the campaign for President Jimmy Carter and attended his inauguration. But along with future husband Marcus Bachmann, she began to fall away from the Democratic Party during this time, largely due to his lack of a strong stance against Roe vs. Wade.

Soon after Carter ascended to the presidency, the future Michele Bachmann began to campaign strongly against abortion, praying and protesting in front of abortion clinics. Michele and Marcus married in 1978, after which they moved to Tulsa, Okla., so she could attend law school at Oral Roberts University. She went on to earn an L.L.M. from William and Mary, leading into her position as a tax litigator for the U.S. Treasury Department in St. Paul, Minn.

She left her government position to be a homemaker. But her political career was just getting underway. She became a vocal advocate of introducing intelligent design into public schools and lobbied hard with other parents in the Stillwater area, in the Twin Cities suburbs near the Wisconsin border. She first won political office in 2000 with a seat in the Minn. State Senate. 

A key Bachmann policy drive turned out to be a push for a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. The debate grew so heated that Bachmann asked about extra security and her lesbian stepsister came to a legislative hearing.

She won her congressional seat in 2006 over Democratic candidate Patty Wetterling, a child safety advocate and mother of Jacob Wetterling, the victim of a 1990 child abduction.

Her 2007 voting record earned her a perfect score of 100 out of 100 from the American Conservative Union. Liberal group Americans for Democratic Action gave her a zero rating. 
Elwyn Tinklenberg (1950–)

Elwyn Tinklenberg, also known as "El," grew up in the farming community of Pease, Minn. He went to college at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and seminary at Northwestern University. From 1977 to 1986, he served as a minister in the United Methodist church in Blaine, Minn., a northern suburb of Minneapolis, where he also served on the city council and as mayor from 1987 to 1996.

Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed Tinklenberg as Transportation Commissioner, serving from 1999 to 2002.

In 2006, Tinklenberg campaigned unsuccessfully against Patty Wetterling to run on the Democratic ticket for Minnesota's 6th congressional district, a race that eventually went to the Republican Michele Bachmann.

Historical Context: Political foot-in-mouth disease

Candidates have a long history of jeopardizing or ending their campaigns with unfortunate statements. In the recent past, Va. Sen. George Allen’s loss to Jim Webb in 2006 was largely attributed to an incident in which Allen called a Webb campaign staffer who was filming him “Macaca,” which was interpreted as an ethnic slur.

Pennsylvania is a place where political gaffes seem to frequently occur. A Politically Uncorrected column in April quoted a 2006 Time magazine article: “Pennsylvania actually has a rich tradition of politicians and their handlers putting their foot in their mouths during a crucial moment of a political campaign.”

Politically Uncorrected, written by political analyst G. Terry Madonna, chronicled some of the Keystone State incidents, including that of Dick Thornburgh, a former governor. Thornburgh’s campaign manager called him, “the salvation of this sorry-ass state.” Pennsylvanians apparently disagreed, and he lost the race.

Calling Gov. Robert P. Casey a “red-necked Irishman” ensured defeat for Barbara Hafer, Madonna wrote.

Political observers of the 1976 presidential race marked the second televised debate as the “turning point” for Jimmy Carter, who would eventually win, according to CNN.

Specifically in that debate, Pres. Gerald Ford, in a follow up question about Soviet domination in Eastern Europe, said, “I don’t believe … that the Yugoslavians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don’t believe that the Romanians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don’t believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. Each of these countries is independent, autonomous, it has its own territorial integrity, and the United States does not concede that those countries are under the domination of the Soviet Union.”

Carter replied that he wanted Ford to convince Americans of Eastern European descent “that those countries don’t live under the domination and supervision of the Soviet Union behind the Iron Curtain.”

Sen. Trent Lott stepped down
in 2002 from leading the U.S. Senate after remarks he made at the late Sen. Strom Thurmond’s birthday party. Thurmond, who eventually accepted the Civil Rights movement, had run for president in 1948 and opposed integration, CNN reported.

At the party, Lott said Mississippi was one of the few states Thurmond won, and that, “We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years either.”

Today, the Internet has made things even more difficult for candidates who slip up when speaking. Campaigns routinely film their rivals at different appearances, according to MSNBC. YouTube is a convenient place for posting embarrassing videos.

Democratic consultant Jenny Backus told MSNBC: “In the olden days, this wasn’t an issue because if you said something that could be problematic, you just denied that you said it. These days, it’s too easy to have cold, hard proof.”

Related Topic: Campaign gaffes

Read more about famous gaffes presidential candidates and others have made through the years, including Howard Dean’s scream, former Vice President Dan Quayle’s questionable spelling and the meaning of “Dukakis in the tank.”

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