Sixth District voters returned conservative U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann to the House of Representatives by the slimmest of margins on Tuesday night, when she beat her Democratic opponent by a mere 4,200 votes.
The Associated Press called the race just before 4:00 a.m., when there were just half a dozen 6th District precincts left to report. For a while, it appeared possible that the race was headed for an automatic recount, but Bachmann eventually won by 1.2 percent (with 98 percent of the vote in), more than the .5 percent margin needed for a recount, but well less than her normal, more comfortable victories.
Update: 10:15 — Graves called Bachmann and conceded the race Wednesday morning, according to his campaign..
“The people spoke and Michele won the election,” Graves told Minnesota Public Radio. “We came pretty close. We knew this would be an uphill battle going in.”
By most accounts Bachmann underperformed in the red 6th District, a conservative district that tends to favor Republicans by 8 points. Public polls gave her a lead in the mid-single digits, though the Graves campaign at one point circulated internal numbers showing him within two points.
She outraised and outspent Graves dramatically and is one of the most visible members of Congress in the country. Graves got a late boost from former President Bill Clinton, but Bachmann advisers went into Election Night predicting a smooth victory.
It was anything but. As Tuesday night dragged on, and the Associated Press began calling one Minnesota U.S. House race after another, Bachmann’s lead was rarely more than a few percent. At one point, Graves held a slim lead, but precincts from more conservative areas of the district had yet to report. By early morning, Bachmann’s lead had grown, the AP called the race, and Bachmann claimed victory.
“It has truly been an honor and a privilege to represent the people of Minnesota’s 6th District in Congress,” Bachmann said in a statement, “and I am humbled that they have placed their trust in me for another term.”
Graves could have asked for a recount, but since the margin was greater than .5 percent, he would have needed to pay for it himself. Asked by MPR if he would consider running for office again in the future, he said he’d “never say never,” but, “after running a marathon you don’t think about running another the next day.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.