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Assessing Bachmann-Graves debates: How they differ on the issues

The candidates debated three times in the last week. Here’s what they had to say.

DLF challenger Jim Graves and Rep. Michele Bachmann from their first debate on Oct. 30 in St. Cloud.

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“I certainly do stand by those letters because what we know is that terrorism continues to remain a very real threat in the United States,” she said. “The Muslim Brotherhood is a violent organization and there is a spill-over effect between these various violent militia groups.”

Graves, as he did over the summer, criticized the statement.

“There is nothing more important in this country than [for] the federal government to protect its people,” he said. “But we don’t need to polarize, we don’t need to antagonize, we don’t need to throw mud, especially when it’s uncalled for.”

The Bachmann and Graves campaigns have noticeably different expectations for Tuesday night. Chase Kroll, Bachmann’s campaign manager, said straight up: “I think we’re going to win, I think it’s going to be a solid victory.”

Bachmann’s people are right to be confident: Public polling generally gives Bachmann a good-sized lead in the race. Bachmann has outspent Graves, by his count, by 12-to-1, and nearly every voter in the district knows who she is. And after redistricting, the 6th District is the most Republican-leaning district in the state.

For his part, Graves said his campaign has some benchmarks it needs to hit to pull an upset victory:

  • Two weeks ago, internal polls showed 68 percent name ID for Graves. After the debates, Graves said he thinks that number will jump to about 80 percent on Election Day, which is around where the campaign wants it.
  • Graves wants to pull about 7 or 8 percent of Republicans, and touts the endorsement of former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson (who has long been endorsing Democratic candidates and causes).
  • And Graves disputes the public polls as undercounting voters who don’t use landline telephones — he polls well with younger voters, who tend to use only wireless phones, and he’s working to build turnout among those voters, appearing in St. Cloud last weekend with high-profile surrogates (including former President Bill Clinton on Sunday night).

 “The best-case scenario is the people would elect me,” Graves said in a Saturday interview. “If the people decide otherwise, I respect that as well.”