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Tea Party travails: Bachmann drops out of national convention

ALSO: Pawlenty raises money, but not his national profile; a Duluth news anchor makes a surprising decision; praise for a backup goalie.

It’s pretty hard to start a new political party in America — just look at the Tea Party. They have a groundswell of popular support, and enough funding that the movement is regularly accused of being AstroTurf rather than grass roots. (A Google search pairing the words Tea Party and AstroTurfing produces hundreds of stories.) Despite this, a forthcoming national convention located in Tennessee has lost two of its speakers over concerns about how proceeds from the convention are to be used.

Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press gives the rundown: The convention has lost Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and Minnesota’s own Michele Bachmann; the loss of the latter is especially surprising, given that Bachmann can fairly be described as both a cheerleader for and a rising star in the Tea Party.

So why, Congresswoman Bachmann, why? The Pioneer Press’ Jason Hoppin tells us that Bachmann has sent her regrets, but felt unable to attend because of ethical questions. The convention is a spendy affair, with tickets costing half a grand (“It’s above our pay grade,” complains one local Tea Partier who will not be attending) and a speaker’s fee of $100,000 going to keynote speaker Sarah Palin. This has drawn criticism from conservatives nationwide and, as Hoppin points out, the Tennessee convention is seen as being a splinter from the main movement. Tough as it is to get something like this started, what with internecine squabbles such as this, the Tea Party retains a lot of popular support: According to Hoppin, in a “Rasmussen Reports poll released last month, 36 percent of respondents said they would back a Democratic candidate, 23 percent a Tea Party candidate and 18 percent a Republican.”

While Bachmann is still ostensibly a Republican, it should be interesting to see where her loyalties lie in the next election, which is already under way, in the sense that she already has opponents. The latest is State Sen. Tarryl Clark, who has been intimating that she will try to unseat Bachmann since the summer, and now, as MPR’s Tim Pugmire
 reports, has made it official. Why does she think she has a chance against Bachmann? Clark says, “Washington isn’t working for Minnesota families, and neither is Michele Bachmann.”

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Speaking of campaigns: While Pawlenty has yet to make his intentions to run against Barack Obama public, he is nonetheless campaigning against the president, and so, as can be expected, he fired off a retort to Obama’s State of the Union address just moment’s after Obama had completed it. Interestingly, as The Atlantic’s politics blog points out, Pawlenty made it sound like he mostly agrees with Obama, at least in terms of what must be addressed: “I agree with President Obama that education, health care and the deficit are critical challenges for our country. Our nation’s debt is a growing crisis that puts the country’s security at risk.” Of course, Pawlenty disagrees with how Obama plans to address these issues. Once Pawlenty actually makes his candidacy public, it will be interesting to see how he responds to questions on the subject of education (where, as governor, he has functionally slashed funding), health care (ditto) and the deficit (which has swollen dramatically under Pawlenty). In fairness to Pawlenty, according to him, these cutbacks have saved the state some $250 million, according to the AP, and this is probably true, as it’s pretty expensive to educate children and tend to the sick.

Pawlenty isn’t just campaigning — he’s also raising funds.  According to the Star Tribune, Pawlenty’s PAC has managed to raise more than $1.2 million in contributions, which Pawlenty is going to use in competitive races throughout the country. You’d think that sort of thing would provide a little boost for Pawlenty as a potential presidential candidate, and perhaps it will, but, as Polinaut points out, a recent Newsmax-Zogby poll doesn’t have him very high on the radar; he comes in behind Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, and way behind Sarah Palin — Pawlenty was only selected by 4.9 percent of the respondents, while Palin grabbed a whopping 22.2 percent of those polled. One suspects Pawlenty might be happy never to hear the name Sarah Palin again.

Another local politician has a few words for Obama after the State of the Union, but it turned out the words were obscenities and weren’t hers: Rep. Betty McCollum’s website was hacked Wednesday night, according to the AP and the Star Tribune, and a rather nasty message about Obama was left. She wasn’t alone in this either: 49 other House members’ sites were likewise defaced. According to Politico, the hackers were apparently from Brazil, and there was a time when we could have joked that somebody in the White House would be surprised by this, saying, “Brazilian hackers! That’s one-sixth of the world’s population!” We’re pretty sure Obama knows where Brazil is, though, so that joke is kind of a dud now.

Sometimes it seems impossible to be surprised by television news. In fact, the endlessly sardonic Charlie Brooker recently offered a mildly foul-mouthed tutorial on making a newscast that went over big at WCCO Thursday, according to Jason DeRusha (somebody here at Daily Glean may have been responsible for passing that along). But if the form of presenting television news has gotten cliched enough to be parodied, the people who actually present the stories are still capable of surprising. Case in point: 29-year-old Julie Pearce, a weekend anchor at KBJR-TV in Duluth. Pearce is also a registered nurse, and the Associated Press is reporting that Pearce has left her station to join a medical crisis response team. Her timing seems especially keen, because the AP is also reporting that Haitian hospitals are starting to run out of medical supplies.

Michael Russo of the Star Tribune finds a hero in Thursday’s Minnesota Wild game, in which the team beat the Colorado Avalanche, and that hero is backup goalie Josh Harding. The story quotes teammate Martin Havlat: “Our goalie was amazing, battling the whole night.”