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Graves could face a tougher test with Bachmann off the ballot

WASHINGTON — “Having Michele Bachmann in the race is better than not having her in the race,” said Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin.

Possible challengers, left to right, top row: State Rep. Tim Sanders, state Rep. Matt Dean, state Rep. David FitzSimmons, state Rep. Peggy Scott, state Sen. Michelle Fischbach, state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer. Bottom row: St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah, former state Rep. Phil Krinkie, former state Rep. Jim Knoblach, former state Rep. and gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, former U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hegseth.
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Jim Graves
MinnPost photo by Jana FreibandJim Graves

Graves said in an interview that he’s not too concerned about what facing a new Republican challenger will mean for his campaign’s viability. He noted there were always voters who would set out to vote for anyone but Bachmann, but said, “I look at it as doing the same thing that we did before, trying to get that message out, what we stand for, that business background, our skill set to bring people together and hopefully create opportunities for compromise.”

In some ways her exit helps Graves

In fact, he said Bachmann’s retirement could help him in a way, which is true. He seemingly has the Democratic establishment behind him at this point, and since the Republicans have to pick a candidate, Graves has time to quietly sit on the sidelines and raise cash while his would-be opponents battle back and forth. He’s run before and he should have high name recognition in the district, plus his internal polls (which, since they’re paid for by the candidate, should always been eyed cautiously) show him with high personal favorability numbers.

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“Without Bachmann, he’s going to go without the major reason why voters consider him in the first place,” Wasserman said. “If Republicans nominate a candidate in the mold of Erik Paulsen or John Kline, the race would instantly be over. … If Republicans nominate in a candidate in the mold of Michele Bachmann, it’s still a race worth keeping an eye on.”

Who will run?

There was a mad scramble today to compile a roster of potential Republican candidates in the 6th, and a national Republican strategist pitched an abbreviated list (from which one can strike a few names, including state Rep. Dave FitzSimmons, who has said he’s not interested in running).

Names to watch include a host of state lawmakers, including state Reps. Mary Kiffmeyer and Matt Dean, both of whom told MinnPost writer Cyndy Brucato that they’re considering runs. State Sen. Michelle Benson said she’ll look into running, but will have to consult with her family before making a final decision.

Minnesota GOP operative and former Bachmann aide Andy Parrish told MinnPost’s Eric Black that he’s watching three would-be candidates particularly closely: former gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who said in an email that he’s looking at a run, state Rep. Peggy Scott, who’s a close, ideologically, to Bachmann, and former Rep. Phil Krinkie, who chairs the Minnesota Taxpayer’s League and challenged Bachmann for the 6th District GOP nomination in 2006. Krinkie told MinnPost he’ll considering running.

Former GOP Senate candidate Pete Hegseth also said he’d look into a campaign, though he would need to discuss it with his family.

Other potential candidates include state Sen. Michelle Fischbach, Rep. Tim Sanders, Anoka County Commissioner and former GOP Lt. Gov. candidate Rhonda Sivarajah, former Rep. Tim Knoblach and St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis.