After Muslim Brotherhood controversy, Democrats see an opening against Bachmann

Rep. Michele Bachmann

“It’s fodder for Graves to use in the campaign to try and get her negatives high, and he should,” Tinklenberg’s former spokesman, John Wodele, said. “But, you know, it’s July 20 and I’m on my way up to the lake and so is every other Minnesotan. People just aren’t paying that much attention.”

Part of Graves’ messaging

Wodele is, of course, right: this race is not going to be decided by a week-long controversy during the doldrums of summer. But Graves said Bachmann’s Muslim Brotherhood flap is certain to play into one of his campaign’s overriding messages: that Bachmann’s years in D.C. have turned her into a celebrity, and she’s more interested in nurturing that image than working on behalf of the 6th District.

“It brings out her weakness, which is making flippant comments that are inflammatory and baseless,” Graves said in an interview. “I think it’s going to have an impact from the perspective that it reinforces all those things.”

Timing is key

Whether the flap has done enough damage for Graves to make a serious impact depends on how well he uses it going forward, Wodele said.

He doubts the campaign is going to get the traction out of this that Tinklenberg did in 2008, mostly for timing reasons. Bachmann’s MSNBC appearance came in October, just weeks before Election Day when the electorate was paying acute attention to politics. At the time, Bachmann’s national profile was comparatively low, but as her remarks went viral, Democrats rallied around her opponent, late in the game, to try and knock her out of her seat.

Now, with Minnesota airwaves quiet of political advertising and campaigns more interested in stockpiling for the fall than engaging their opponents, there just isn’t the opportunity for Graves to use the controversy to make the case against Bachmann.

“I think it will be difficult but not impossible for the Graves campaign to be able take the kind of advantage that the Tinklenberg campaign did,” Wodele said. “It’s not comparable, because of timing. Timing is everything in politics.”

But Anna Richey, Tinklenberg’s campaign manager, said the timing makes it even more important for Graves to strike now, before the Muslim Brotherhood spat falls out of voters’ memory. She said she’d go on the air with ads right now and stay there until Election Day (assuming Graves pours more of his personal wealth into the campaign), appealing to national groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to put the race on their radar.

“[The DCCC wants] to pick districts where there’s a possibly for a pick-up, but we have to take a stance against the absolute antithesis to our party values,” Richey said. “They’ve given her opportunities over and over again by coming in too late and too small.”

Still a safe seat

To be sure, Bachmann still has the advantage in this race. The 6th Congressional District is still solidly Republican, and an uphill battle for any candidate with a “D” after his name. In fact, after redistricting lopped off the eastern suburbs of St. Paul and extended the district further into the opulent western metro, it’s become more of a Republican base, and holds a Partisan Voter Index rating of R+8.

But Bachmann has never been especially strong there, at least under the old lines. She won her three elections with 50.1 (2006), 46.4 (2008) and 52.5 (2010) percent of the vote. But the district gave John McCain 53 percent of the vote in 2008; George W. Bush won it with 57 percent in 2004.

Bachmann has a massive fundraising lead over Graves ($1.7 million to $404,000) and can raise more by snapping her fingers. The Muslim Brotherhood accusations — and, more potently, the blowback from the media and the political establishment — will help rally Bachmann’s base around her.

The Cook Political Report lists the district as lean Republican in November, and its House editor, David Wasserman, said Bachmann still has edge over Graves, but warned:

“The more she dabbles toward Joe McCarthy, the more we’re starting to pay attention,” Wasserman said. “Most voters have made up their minds about Michele Bachmann, but voters have shown a willingness in the past to vote against her.”

No IP candidate

Jim Graves
Jim Graves

Graves said his campaign has advantages Tinklenberg’s didn’t have: he’ll be running down-ticket from popular U.S. Senate incumbent Amy Klobuchar, and, more importantly, there is no Independence Party candidate in the race.

(State Sen. Tarryl Clark, who challenged Bachmann in 2010, faced much stronger headwinds than Tinklenberg, by way of the historic Republican wave that would come to define that election.)

Independent candidate Bob Anderson took 10 percent of the vote in 2008, despite the IP’s endorsement of Tinklenberg. With no independent on the ballot this year, both Graves and the IP’s chairman see an opening for a Democrat with a self-professed moderate streak — as long as the district’s voters have had enough of Bachmann.

“Do I think [the controversy] is going to sway the race?” IP chair Mark Jenkins said. “This by itself, I don’t think so … I think what’s going to sway the race is how her opponent responds to it, as well as how her campaign responds to the criticism.”

Graves has something else Tinklenberg and Clark (and any Bachmann opponent, really) didn’t: the admonishment of her peers in the Republican Party. Within the last week, party patriarchs like John McCain and John Boehner condemned Bachmann’s Muslim Brotherhood comments. Former presidential campaign advisers followed suit, as did the top Republican on the Select Committee for Intelligence, on which Bachmann sits. The task for Graves is to makw the criticism seem worthwhile to voters, while managing to focus on the bigger, more pertinent issues facing the country this fall, namely the economy. 

“I think it’s dangerous for Mr. Graves. You don’t want to focus on this because it isn’t what the election should be about. At the same time you don’t want to completely ignore it,” Jenkins said. “I think it’s a big deal that she’s more engaged with the extremist wing of her party and not the voters in her district.”

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Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 07/23/2012 - 09:57 am.

    Go ahead, Mr. Graves

    Show the people where your loyalties lie.

    Joe McCarthy was right too.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/23/2012 - 12:00 pm.


      I am breaking my new promise not to rise to Mr. Tester’s bait, but I cannot let this one go by.

      Mr. Tester, yours is not the only correct way for Americans to think. Those who disagree with you are not “disloyal.” There are legitimate differences of political opinion. Acknowledge those differences: in a free society, it is recognized that reasonable people may differ. Tarring anyone who contradicts you with the label of “disloyalty” is, to put it bluntly, anti-American and little short of totalitarianism. It’s the kind of thing that has turned North Korea into a shining beacon of liberty.

      Incidentally, Joe McCarthy was not “right.” There may have been Soviet infiltration of the government, but he no more knew that than I know what color socks you’re wearing. I may guess correctly, but that doesn’t mean I was right. Joe McCarthy was a shameless opportunist who exploited America’s fear of communism for publicity (as noted by his widow, shortly after his death).

    • Submitted by Robert Lilly on 07/23/2012 - 12:25 pm.

      Broken Clocks

      Are right too, sometimes.

    • Submitted by Tim Walker on 07/23/2012 - 12:55 pm.

      No, Joe was not right …

      … and nothing that is published on the WND can convince me — or any other rational person — otherwise.

      Plus, Mr. Graves’ loyalties are to the nation as a whole, and to his potential constituents in the 6th District.

      To imply otherwise is to engage in the disgusting tactics that the slimy Joe McCarthy used.

      (Were the MinnPost moderators asleep this morning, or what?)

    • Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 07/23/2012 - 01:31 pm.

      One McCarthy+One Bachmann=Two Bullies

      No Mr. Tester, he was not. Sen. McCarthy was a bully who took advantage of the “Red Scare” that infested his time. Rep. Bachmann is also a bully who is taking advantage of the “Muslim Scare” that infects our times. There was no excuse for tolerating Sen. McCarthy ravings then and there is no excuse for tolerating Rep. Bachmann’s ravings today.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/23/2012 - 10:14 am.

    Just a small quible

    Bachmann doesn’t play fast and loose with facts, she makes stuff up and lies, and then she makes more stuff up and lies some more.

  3. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 07/23/2012 - 10:54 am.

    no change

    I don’t see where this would change anyone’s mind. People don’t vote for her because she tells a truth based on facts or because she is honest or intelligent or anything like that. So this isn’t new news. If someone thinks Joe McCarthy was right they aren’t about to change there vote just because she makes stuff up.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/23/2012 - 03:26 pm.

    No WND up my sleeve…

    Joe McCarthy was right, gentlemen. Not 100%, but remarkably close.

    Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight against America’s Enemies. M. Stanton Evans

    This volume is the product of 6 years research, and contains the records released by the Russian Federation after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Facts are often awkward, and we are all free to ignore them, but there they are.

    As Mr. Evans himself said:

    “I don’t think that the way to correct a spin from the left is to try to impart a spin from the right…. information flow distorted from the right would be just as much a disservice as distortion from the left. What we really should be after… is accurate information. And I don’t see what any conservative or anybody else for that matter has to fear from accurate information.”

    And good luck with that “opening” you see against Rep. Bachmann.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/23/2012 - 08:38 pm.

      There he goes again…

      Mr. Swift –

      It is getting a little tiresome to see you continue to cherry pick what is actually readily available information to make a judgment about whether McCarthy was right – “not 100% but remarkably close.”

      To have you cite M. Stanton Evans diatribe about McCarthy is pretty pathetic. I invite the readers of these comments to do a little investigation of this pathetic piece of propaganda.

      To give but one example, see the review of in Kirkus Reviews from which I quote:

      “BLACKLISTED BY HISTORY (reviewed on September 15, 2007)

      A revisionist biography of Joseph McCarthy and the red-baiting movement he spawned.”


      “A detailed account of McCarthy and of the CPUSA marred by ideological blinders. For true believers only.”


      There is plenty more where that came from, but I have to sadly conclude, that you are really not worth the trouble. You seem to make up your mind on matters and then go on Google to find something/anything to support your point of view.

      The Moon is Made of Green Cheese

      • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/28/2012 - 02:04 pm.

        At least he’s providing cites now . . . . .

        rather than just crying “It’s true because I say it’s true!” and then running off.

        Providing cites gives others the opportunity to evaluate the validity of the framework the claimed position has been based on (which the posters in this thread are doing a nice job of).

        Reading all of this also has the potential of illustrating an important principle for the benefit of people who follow along but may not post. That is, that cites and supporting studies – while critical to any fact-based discussion – still do not automatically constitute the “be all and end all” to what is “truth”.

        The cites being utilized must have integrity for the position being claimed to have integrity. Also – as you have pointed out – it is possible to find “cites” for practically any position one wishes to shore up.

        So perhaps the next time one of them reads a comment that supports itself by saying “Peer-reviewed studies prove . . . . . . ” they might remember a thread such as this one and realize that responsibility to provide supporting cites is important, but that it by no means constitutes the conclusion of the discussion or a claim of “victory”.

        That’s why I don’t find it tiresome at all that he’s providing cites. He’s providing lots of education by doing so.

        Of course, the education he’s providing may not be precisely that which he had in mind . . . . . . . .

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/23/2012 - 04:32 pm.

    More awkward facts

    Decoding Soviet Espionage in America


    “By 1948 the accumulating evidence from other decoded Venona cables showed that the Soviets had recruited spies in virtually every major American government agency of military or diplomatic importance. American authorities learned that since 1942 the United States had been the target of a Soviet espionage onslaught involving dozens of professional Soviet intelligence officers and hundreds of Americans, many of whom were members of the American Communist party (CPUSA). The deciphered cables of the Venona Project identify 349 citizens, immigrants, and permanent residents of the United States who had had a covert relationship with Soviet intelligence agencies”

    “The deciphered Venona messages also showed that a disturbing number of high-ranking U.S. government officials consciously maintained a clandestine relationship with Soviet intelligence agencies and had passed extraordinarily sensitive information to the Soviet Union that had seriously damaged American interests.”

    “With the advent of the Cold War, however, the spies clearly identified in the Venona decryptions were the least of the problem. Coplon, Rosenberg, Greenglass, Fuchs, Soble, and Soblen were prosecuted, and the rest were eased out of the government or otherwise neutralized as threats to national security. But that still left a security nightmare. Of the 349 Americans the deciphered Venona cables revealed as having covert ties to Soviet intelligence agencies, less than half could be identified by their real names and nearly two hundred remained hidden behind cover names. American officials assumed that some of the latter surely were still working in sensitive positions.”

    McCarthy knew what he was talking about, but was unable to use the Venona information because it was classified.

    “Unfortunately, the success of government secrecy in this case has seriously distorted our understanding of post-World War II history. Hundreds of books and thousands of essays on McCarthyism, the federal loyalty security program, Soviet espionage, American communism, and the early Cold War have perpetuated many myths that have given Americans a warped view of the nation’s history in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The information that these messages reveal substantially revises the basis for understanding the early history of the Cold War and of America’s concern with Soviet espionage and Communist subversion.”

    McCarthy was substantially right.

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 07/23/2012 - 10:48 pm.

      Klehr, Haynes and Weinstein haven’t proved anything

      with their so-called research. This paragraph is complete hyperbole unsupported by any facts:

      “Unfortunately, the success of government secrecy in this case has seriously distorted our understanding of post-World War II history. Hundreds of books and thousands of essays on McCarthyism, the federal loyalty security program, Soviet espionage, American communism, and the early Cold War have perpetuated many myths that have given Americans a warped view of the nation’s history in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The information that these messages reveal substantially revises the basis for understanding the early history of the Cold War and of America’s concern with Soviet espionage and Communist subversion.”

      If anything, the McCarthy era warped this country’s view of the “threat” from the Left, by linking anyone who expressed progressive ideas or criticized the reactionary government in thsi country with being a traitor. McCarthy was the worst of a bad lot including J. Edgar Hoover, Pat McCarran, Eastman, Nixon, Mundt to name a few of the”red baiters” who hyped the nonexistent threat of Soviet subversion into schools, universities and the government to limit free speech, expression and thought. They created and perpetuated the blacklist that kept thousands from pursuing their livelihood because of the smears caused by these people and their allies. It’s disgraceful that ignorant people continue to parrot these lies long after the Cold War ended.

  6. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 07/23/2012 - 04:37 pm.

    Ad hominem thread report

    Tim Walker wrote:

    “Were the MinnPost moderators asleep this morning, or what?”

    Jim Bernstein wrote:

    “…there is no excuse for tolerating Rep. Bachmann’s ravings today.”

    Paul Udstrand wrote:

    “Bachmann doesn’t play fast and loose with facts, she makes stuff up and lies, and then she makes more stuff up and lies some more.”

    Bill Schlezter wrote:

    “People don’t vote for her because she tells a truth based on facts or because she is honest or intelligent or anything like that.”

  7. Submitted by Joe Musich on 07/23/2012 - 04:40 pm.

    right allright

    Way way way right of center. That’s the only right worth talking about here. How does that statement go about facts and opinions and rights ?

  8. Submitted by Richard Parker on 07/23/2012 - 05:03 pm.

    I have in my hands a list…

    This may be Michele Bachmann’s “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” moment. Kind of takes my breath away to see Messrs. Tester and Swift sticking up for the long-discredited Joe McCarthy.

  9. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 07/23/2012 - 06:58 pm.

    Accurate information. . .

    I haven’t heard about Evans’ book but I have read books by Allen Weinstein, John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. They claim Soviet archives contain such records of Soviet infiltration in the US Gov’t but this documentation is anything but accurate or reliable. I’ll be convinced Soviet archives can be trusted as reliable evidence to pillory any American, alive or dead, when it’s also proved that Stalin did not conduct show trials or airbrush photographs and records to eliminate all memory of hi opponents.

    Perhaps you’d like to share some names of the “traitors” who McCarthy was “right” about.

  10. Submitted by Matt Brillhart on 07/23/2012 - 07:23 pm.

    Bachmann’s chances this Nov.

    After closely watching the past three elections in the 6th, and hearing from real residents on both sides of the political divide, I have come to this conclusion: Michele Bachmann will not lose in the 6th because Republicans/conservatives decide to vote for the other guy. She will lose when enough Republicans can no longer stomach voting for her. The 6th District is redder than ever this year. The lack of an IP candidate definitely helps Jim Graves, but isn’t enough. It’s going to take a large quantity of 6th District voters simply abstaining from voting in that race. This former 6th District resident hopes that is precisely what happens. So does my lifelong conservative father, who will not be voting for Ms. Bachmann this year.

  11. Submitted by Walt Cygan on 07/23/2012 - 07:30 pm.

    Of course…

    There were Soviet agents in the government in the 1950’s. There is no doubt about that. If that is the measure of McCarthy’s right-ness, then I would acknowledge that in some cases, he was right.

    Where he was wrong, where he was devastatingly wrong was in how he acted as judge, jury, and executioner in destroying guilty and not guilty alike. I think conservative and liberal alike would value the rule of law. If someone like McCarthy or Bachmann uses their personal platform to intimidate or in McCarthy’s case destroy people based on innuendo and vague associations, that is wrong and dangerous.

    Mr. Tester, what if someone denounced you as a supporter of an unpopular ideology for which you could be fired or worse? Wouldn’t you want a chance to defend yourself? The McCarthys and Bachmanns want to substitute their judgement for proof. If a liberal did the same type of thing to identify (or ask questions about) perceived “enemies”, I’d bet you would have a few things to say about that.

    Finally, one member of the GOP congressional delegation has put himself on the record, however long it may have taken him. Thanks Rep. Paulsen.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/24/2012 - 08:56 am.

      I agree Walt

      McCarthy took his brief claim to fame to excess; if one knows of his history it was not surprising that he did so.

      But that does not in and of itself change the fact that history has proven him right in his assertions and accusations.

      I’m not making the same claim of Rep. Bachmann, by the way; I don’t have enough information to judge one way or the other, and although I’d love to pin Rep. Ellison’s ears back with anectodal evidence (of which there is an abundence), I don’t see the profit in it.

      My point is that controversial personalities making controversial statements on controversial subjects often take a long time to resolve themselves.

  12. Submitted by Curt Carlson on 07/23/2012 - 08:17 pm.

    M.Stanton Evans

    “I didn’t much care for Joseph McCarthy’s ends, but I always admired his methods.” That should tell us all we need to know about M. Stanton Evans and his take on Joe McCarthy.

    Like McCarthy, Bachmann spreads baseless innuendo, attempts to create the need to disprove negatives, and attempts to destroy people by using smear tactics. Despicable, immoral, dishonest, cowardly. Her (and McCarthy’s) defenders are likewise.

  13. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 07/27/2012 - 04:28 pm.

    The 6th District

    Most of the people I know in the 6th District, and I live in the 6th District are done with Bachmann. In the last few years she has been on a down hill slide and with her latest pronouncement, she has hit the bottom. She used to be responsive and do things for our district, but in the past couple of years getting a response out of her has been like pulling teeth, and I can’t think of one thing she has done for the district. She has been more interested in her own political stardom and the 6th be dammed. I voted for her in the past, but no more.

  14. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 07/27/2012 - 05:15 pm.


    I grew up in the McCarthy era, only 60 miles from his hometown of Shawano, WI. If you go to that area you will find he and his memory have been swept clean. The problem with McCarthy was that he he didn’t care who he stepped on to achieve his goal and his goal was to become president. He and his cronies destroyed peoples lives, he was a man without a conscience and didn’t care who he hurt or destroyed, as long as helped towards his goals. Fortunately he didn’t succeed, although one of younger followers did and that was Richard Nixon.

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