Bachmann (or Pawlenty) v. Klobuchar in 2012? A small technical point

A small technical point that I’ve been meaning to make but inspired today by the staggering new fund-raising totals that Michele Bachmann reported today. (Hat tip to Derek Wallbank’s post of early this a.m.)

A candidate who raises funds in one campaign for federal office and doesn’t spend them all can legally transfer those funds for use in a campaign for a different federal office, even in another cycle.

Bachmann, whom polls and pundits suggest is not in serious danger of losing her House seat this year, is still hauling in campaign cash at a stupefying pace. If, at any point, Bachmann decided that she could afford to slow down on the spending side and coast to reelection (and even if she didn’t decide that), she could probably end the 2010 cycle with millions in her campaign coffers.

Legally, she could:

  • distribute the money to one of the Republican Party committees for distribution to other candidates, or give it directly in small amounts to other Republican candidates for federal office (she already has a federal PAC that she uses to support conservative Repubs, but she can’t put leftover campaign funds in there) (p.s. this first option is not going to happen);
  • use it as a start to her campaign chest for a 2012 reelection campaign to the House;
  • use it to run for president in 2012 (there’s been talk, although personally I don’t take it seriously, and even if she did, her 2010 campaign finance leftovers would be a small number in the context of a national race);
  • use it to run against Amy Klobuchar for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Klobuchar’s seat is up in 2012. From this huge distance in time, she looks good for reelection, considering her high approval ratings. There’s no obvious Republican challenger, but there will be.

If the DFL ends up controlling both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office next year, they will be in almost total control of the redrawing of the map of Minnesota’s congressional and — although there will be competing agendas — it’s reasonable to assume that one of the party’s top priorities where the U.S. House map is concerned will be to put Bachmann in a district that will be much tougher for her than the current 6th District. It won’t be hard to do, considering that Bachmann lives in Washington County (Stillwater), one of the counties in her current district that she lost in her races so far.

Bachmann is the single best-known Minnesota Republican at present. Past conventional wisdom has been that she is too conservative to make a good statewide candidate in blue-leaning Minnesota, but the blueness of Minnesota is oft-overstated and very far right Senate candidates appear to be doing well in similar states this year. (See my post of this morning about Wisconsin.)

Anyway, long story short, if Bachmann decides to take on Klobuchar in 2012, she will probably start out with considerable cash already on hand, and a proven ability — far beyond that of most House members — to tap a big national donor base for more.

By the way, another person who might benefit from the same federal-race-to-federal-race technicality would be Tim Pawlenty. In the context of presidential candidates, he has not established himself as a great fund-raiser. We’ll see after he officially enters the race. And he will presumably spend whatever he raises to actually run for president. But if he were to bomb out early in Iowa and New Hampshire and had a few million in his campaign treasury, he could conceivably switch to the 2012 Minnesota Senate race and take the money with him. Remember, he wanted to run for Senate in 2002 until he got that famous call from Dick Cheney.

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Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/01/2010 - 02:15 pm.

    If Bachmann is Speaker of the House, which is a possibility, I doubt if she’d be interested in the senate.

  2. Submitted by Mike Owens on 10/01/2010 - 03:50 pm.

    “It won’t be hard to do, considering that Bachmann lives in Washington County (Stillwater), one of the counties in her current district that she lost in her races so far.”

    An additional technical point to consider: While it would be a political faux pas, to my knowledge there is no legal requirement for Bachmann to live in the district she represents.

    Per the U.S. Constitution: “No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.”

  3. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 10/01/2010 - 05:27 pm.

    I would LOVE it if Michele Bachmann would run against Sen. Klobuchar during a presidential election year. Klobuchar would clean her hiney so bad Bachmann may never run for anything again. I would guess the Minnespolis and Saint Paul voter percentages would be over 75 percent for Klobuchar and in swing towns like Rochester, Mankato and Saint Cloud, they would see upwards of 60 percent for Klobuchar. The only people who would vote for Bachmann would be hard-core Republican and some of the people in her own weird district.

    Bring it on!

  4. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/01/2010 - 05:59 pm.

    The GOP establishment will never allow for her to be speaker. You can take that to the bank..

  5. Submitted by John Harlander on 10/01/2010 - 07:16 pm.

    Responding to Mr. Powers: I don’t think you can blame St Cloud for Bachmann’s success. If I recall correctly Bachmann didn’t carry the city of St Cloud in either 2006 or 2008. I also point out that Tarryl Clark, Bachmann’s Democratic challenger, is currently representing St Cloud in the State Senate.

  6. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/01/2010 - 07:23 pm.

    “I would LOVE it if Michele Bachmann would run against Sen. Klobuchar during a presidential election year.”

    The last person I heard saying something to that effect was former Bill Luther Chief of Staff Ted Thompson, DFL candidate for State Senate District 56, on primary night, when Bachmann upset Gary Laidig.

  7. Submitted by David Willard on 10/01/2010 - 07:24 pm.

    Bachmann would be a powerful voice for all the people who actual have values anymore beyond rich people feeling guilt and citizens who feel government intervention is the only way to happiness.

  8. Submitted by Derek Reise on 10/01/2010 - 07:46 pm.

    Another small technical point. I thought we learned that Pawlenty orchestrated the Dick Cheney phone call himself after deciding to switch gears and run for governor instead.

    On Bachmann, it’s conceivable she would run for Senate, but I don’t think she could be competative against Klobuchar in a presidential year. Yes, Minnesota’s Democratic leanings are overstated, but Bachmann turns off a lot of independents (and Republicans). Her current district is perfect for her. I wonder if redistricting changes it much whether she’d be able to hold on to it. A statewide contest seems to be beyond her, despite her notoriety and money making abilities.

  9. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/01/2010 - 08:09 pm.

    Hmmm. Michele Bachmann as Speaker of the House, and third in line to the Presidency.

    That is truly a mind-boggling scenario.

    Since, like Garrison Keillor, I regard her as an embarrassment to Minnesota and Congress, not to mention the nation, it’s not a prospect I’d be happy to see, so I certainly hope Richard Schulze knows whereof he speaks.

    Beyond that, the implications of this piece are, in the long run (meaning after I’m dead) even more frightening. Being able to “roll over” campaign money has its uses, I’m sure and to politicians of both (every?) party, but by allowing the stockpiling of dollars, we really DO set, light and freshly-paint the stage for oligarchy.

    Now that corporations are legally “persons,” and are already busily trying to manipulate the laws so that their contributions can remain anonymous, the amount of money that could be accumulated could/would be staggering, and among its effects would be a guarantee that no ordinary citizen would ever again hold national public office – unless s/he was irretrievably “in the pocket” of big donors. The chances that media outlets, whatever their medium, would turn down multimillion-dollar political ad campaigns are zero, so whoever can afford the most TV time, cell phone and web spots, full-page ads in the newspaper (assuming newspapers are still being published), and radio time will be able to drown out the message of whoever it is that’s opposing them. There might be the appearance of a democratic process, but it will have no meaningful substance.

    For practical purposes, democracy is, or soon will be, dead for most elected offices or positions with statewide or national significance. True “conservatives,” who seem essentially opposed to the Enlightenment themes of reason, tolerance, and some minimal concern for one’s fellow humans, will have achieved their goal of “small government” by dragging us back to the 16th century, with all that that implies politically, religiously, socially and economically.

  10. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/01/2010 - 09:07 pm.

    The only people who vote for Klobuchar are hard-core democrats and people who think they’re voting for her old man.

    The “GOP establishment” may find itself out-voted when they call the roll.

  11. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/01/2010 - 10:43 pm.

    Tim Pawlenty has burned his bridges in Minnesota because of his ambitious presidential aspirations. In the future, he will not be electable as dog catcher, let alone senator. I predict that Pawlenty will serve out his career as a DC lobbyist, perhaps in partnership with the Norm. There he can take home wheelbarrows full of money, which is apparently what he thinks he deserves.

    Michelle Bachmann a legitimate Senatorial candidate? Against Amy Klobuchar? Ms. Bachmann should thank her lucky stars that she lives in an oddly carved out district where a lot of screwballs apparently live. If she ever tries to run for state-wide office, she will do even worse than Emmer.

    Has the ink-stained wretch accidentally rubbed his eyes and become blind?

  12. Submitted by Patrick Wells on 10/02/2010 - 12:09 am.

    Amy is a nice person. I voted for Amy. I am 66 years old. I am a U of M political science grad.

    Even though Amy is a nice person, I feel that Amy has no moxie. Amy plays it safe … no controversial stands. Amy is no Hubert Humphery or Al Franken. She is not a strong defender of the middle class.

    Amy’s reticence is hard to explain, given the fact that she was a prosecutor.

    Michele Bachmann is a bad choice.

    How do we tell Amy that we expect her to stand up for the middle class. Where is the moxie? The times call for courage, not reticence.

    Amy should stand up and do something important. For example, Amy should say that banks should be stopped from foreclosures without proper documentation. Amy should propose campaign finance reform to reverse the Citizens United case. Amy should just stand up for one of the many middle class causes needing attention.

  13. Submitted by Helen Kivnick & Gary Gardner on 10/02/2010 - 10:01 am.

    What’s the scenario if Klobuchar is Obama’s running mate in 2012?

  14. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/02/2010 - 03:15 pm.

    Speaker of the House usually goes with seniority; not to a self-described ‘freshman congressman’ (in her second term).

  15. Submitted by William Pappas on 10/02/2010 - 06:02 pm.

    You are so right on Bill Gleason. Pawlenty’s approval rating is, after he has essentially thrown Minnesota to the dogs and seems to care even less, approaching 20%. There has been every reason for him to take an active role in righting the ship but his presidential aspirations have him AWOL and playing Tea Party politics by rejecting badly needed federal money on a number of fronts. Obviously Minnesota is way down his list of priorities. I guarantee you Minnesotans won’t forget that when the going got tough, Pawlenty disappeared. State wide, Minnesota does not want a Tea Party governor and that’s where Pawlenty is casting his lot, displaying a pandering political transformation that is dramatic in its disregard for Minnesota’s interests.

  16. Submitted by andy on 10/02/2010 - 07:23 pm.

    “Hmmm. Michele Bachmann as Speaker of the House, and third in line to the Presidency.

    That is truly a mind-boggling scenario.”

    Yeah, as in Caligula getting his horse a seat in the Senate bad, to use a historical example

    What I don’t get how someone like Bachmann can get re- elected. She does not legislate, she only waves the wingnut banner. At some point even the people back in the district must realize she just doesn’t bring any value…

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