Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon recently penned that three pending ethics investigations surrounding Congresswoman Bachmann could doom her in the next election. At least this is the hope of the Democrats and many other observers. Of course this is an interesting thesis but Democrats are too quick to assume that she is as vulnerable as they think.
No doubt Bachmann has a close scare last year against newcomer Jim Graves. Perhaps had he received more money and better support earlier from the DCCC maybe he would have won. Running again in 2014 Graves brings many advantages in terms of name recognition and better campaign skills. and the ethics accusations surrounding Bachmann add additional cogency to his campaign.
But one should not forget that 2012 was a unique year that will not repeat itself in 2014. Nationally 2012 was a presidential year with higher turnout. It featured an incumbent president running against a weak Republican. Romney was especially weak in MN, having done badly here in the caucuses. Minnesota’s turnout was approximately 75% and it also featured Senator Klobuchar running for reelection. On the ballot were two controversial constitutional amendments (a ban on same-sex marriage and a Voter ID Amendment) that strongly drove DFL turnout and backlashed against Republicans in Minnesota. None of this will exist in 2014.
In 2014 there will be a governor’s race and Senator Franken is up again. Both may draw Democratic attention and away from Bachmann. Moreover, Democrats nationally will be battling to hold on to the US Senate whereas there seems little chance to regain the House. These factors may divert money and resources away from a Bachman race. Furthermore, some believe Representative John Klein is also vulnerable and that race too may divert resources and attention.
Second, midterm elections generally do not favor the President’s party and in Minnesota and across the country expect a significant downturn in turnout. Constitutional amendments will not be on the ballot either. Overall, expect there to be voter turnout in the mid 50s and not 70s in 2014, with such turnout favoring a more Republican voting block.
Moreover, Bachmann will not be unprepared this time. She has way more in her campaign war chest now than Graves and she has already launched ads attacking Graves. Her fundraising skills are still excellent with a terrific network of supporters across the country. While Bachmann did not use it well in 2012, her district is not about plus 6 or 7 GOP, again giving her a real advantage in her district, again especially in the off-year elections. In 2012 Bachmann’s congressional campaign suffered from her presidential adventures, including spending most of her first year of her term in Iowa. This will not occur this time.
Finally, for many years her district has been forgiving and even embraced her often controversial and fact-challenged statements and there is no reason to think that they may discount them again in 2014.
Overall, Bachmann may be vulnerable in 2014 and perhaps the patience of her constituents is running out. Her opponents have gotten it wrong in the last two election cycles against her, overestimating her weakness in 2010 and underestimating it in 2012. Being burned twice is a note for caution.
Perhaps also the ethics issues will hurt her, but it is also possible by November, 2014 the story has run its course and Bachmann can again assert that it is a liberal media that is driving the attacks. Democrats have mis-estimated her political skills and they again may do they to their misfortune in 2014. Much like Mark Twain once declaring that news of his death were greatly exaggerated, so too might be news of Michele Bachmann's political career.