Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Minnesota 6th – Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) is seeking a 3rd term
Primary: August 10, 2010
Location: Northern and eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities
Days until Election Day: 49
In 2008, Rep. Michele Bachmann spent the fall flirting with one-term status. Last year, her fellow congressional Republicans considered her vulnerable enough to include on their list of most threatened House incumbents. And heading into this summer, her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Tarryl Clark, had raised more than $2 million to take her on.
So why does the Bachmann race now seem to be slipping off the radar? A far better national environment for Republicans helps. So does her valuable status as one of the Tea Party's favorite Republicans (she recently founded the congressional Tea Party caucus). But most of all, Bachmann fortune's have risen thanks in part to a fundraising haul that's nearly double her opponent's.
Bachmann may hold no formal leadership role in her party or on congressional committees. But she boasts a national following and grassroots network that far outstrips many of those who do. And her fundraising results this year have been better than many of the GOP's top presidential contenders.
Granted, Bachmann is fighting on favorable terrain. Minnesota's 6th congressional district, which went for John McCain over Barack Obama by 8 points in 2008, is the state's most conservative. It stretches in a suburban C around the Twin Cities, grabbing more rural areas at both ends. George W. Bush carried the district by 10 points during his first presidential bid, and did even better - 57 percent to 42 percent - four years later.
Still, last time around, Bachmann's tough talk made for a tight race in the home stretch; 2008 Democratic challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg jumped on late controversial comments by the incumbent, and reaped the national fundraising rewards. But Bachmann had built up a fundraising firewall that proved difficult to overcome, and despite an unexpectedly strong showing by third-party candidate Bob Anderson, she eked out a win with just 46 percent of the vote.
Clark, the Democratic nominee, was elected to the state senate in 2005, where she soon rose to the position of assistant majority leader. Her main opponent for the nomination, physician Maureen Reed, dropped out of the race in June to focus party efforts on defeated Bachmann, yet Reed remained on the August 10 primary ballot and still received 31 percent of the vote against Clark.
Anderson, the Independence Party nominee who received 10 percent of the vote against Bachmann in 2008, will appear on the ballot again in November.
Democrats have tried to use some of her headline-grabbing statements this term to line their campaign coffers – her suggestion that President Obama wanted to put young people in "re-education camps"; that the administration's economic program was equivalent to (variously) Marxism and slavery; that Americans should avoid filling out their Census forms completely. But as Bachmann's rhetoric has grown hotter, so have her own fundraising results: More than $4 million at the start of the summer, with a reported $2 million plus since.
The two-term congresswoman has increasingly turned her sights national, taking time in the midst of her re-election bid this summer to launch MICHELEPAC, and make appearances at Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally and other key conservative gatherings. And she's talked up possible legislative priorities in a GOP-controlled Congress. The race isn't over, but Michele Bachmann's already looking past November.