Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


What about Bob? Michele Bachmann owes re-election to third-party unknown

Rep. Michele Bachmann addresses supporters Tuesday night after pulling out victory in the three-way 6th District race.
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Rep. Michele Bachmann addresses supporters Tuesday night after pulling out victory in the three-way 6th District race.

Before she heads back to Washington, D.C., to begin her second term, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann surely will send Bob Anderson a huge thank-you note.

Despite her efforts to beat herself, Bachmann was able to defeat DFL challenger El Tinklenberg in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District.

The difference-maker? Bob Anderson.

Anderson – who had no money and only one issue (health insurance coverage for mental health problems) – managed to get 10 percent of the vote running as the Independence Party candidate. 

Funny thing, though. Anderson really wasn’t the IP’s candidate. Tinklenberg was. In fact, the IP hierarchy – such as it is – is  offended by Anderson, who is seen as a gadfly.

But when the IPs endorsed Tinklenberg, Anderson grabbed a golden opportunity. He ran, unopposed, in the primary as the IP representative. He won the IP spot on Tuesday’s ballot and, coupled with that comfortable Minnesota name, managed to win thousands of independent votes.

Bob Anderson
Bob Anderson

Ah, only in Minnesota’s 6th could a guy named Bob do so much with so little. He proudly accepted no money from anyone, saying in a recent conversation, “That way I don’t owe anybody anything.”

It could also be that nobody offered to give him anything. No matter, Anderson said he spent less than $200 on his campaign, which begs the question: If he’d spent $300, could he have won 15 percent of the 6th District vote?

From the beginning of the campaign, Tinklenberg had believed that winning over independent voters was the key to taking out Bachmann.

Of course, that was before Bachmann appeared on “Hardball” and nearly took herself out by questioning the American-ism of President-elect Barack Obama and her House colleagues. Bachmann’s red, white and blue outburst gave Tinklenberg the money he needed to attempt to mount a last-minute campaign.

Because of her frequent outrageous moments, it’s too easy for too many to underestimate Bachmann the pol.

She has her own machine, built around members of evangelical churches so popular in the district. She also has the support of traditional conservative friends, such as the National Rifle Association and anti-tax organizations.

Meantime, for the first several months of his campaign, Tinklenberg, a moderate DFLer, floundered. Until the closing days of the campaign, he received NO support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Until Bachmann struck out on “Hardball,” the Tinklenberg campaign was little more than a few billboards along district highways.

But because of her flubs, because of his IP support, because of his deep roots in the district, Tinklenberg had high hopes on the night before the election.

“We were talking,” said John Wodele, Tinklenberg’s friend and adviser, “and I said, ‘If she’s ever going to be beaten, this is the year.’ “

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com. 

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Aaron Klemz on 11/05/2008 - 10:32 am.

    It looks like Anderson tapped into voters disaffected with Bachmann, but unwilling to vote for a DFL’r. Given that nobody probably knew much, if anything, about Anderson, votes for him can be attributed to protest votes against both parties. Given the political psychographics of the 6th, that seems about right. The flood of money to Tinklenberg from outside the district may have also caused resentment.

  2. Submitted by Kelly O'Brien on 11/05/2008 - 01:14 pm.

    This race, along with the US Senate race and the three-way house race in Edina, are perfect examples of why we need to use Instant Runoff Voting on a state-wide level. We have too many elected officials who won with more people against them than for them. More info can be found at

  3. Submitted by Fred H. Olson on 11/06/2008 - 10:33 am.

    Yes, a perfect example where Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) would give much greater confidence that the will of the people was being served.

    Of course there is no way of knowing what the outcome would be if the 10% had the option of listing a second choice but it is clearly possible that the outcome would have been different. In the Senate race too.

    Adopting IRV will inevitably take time, to gain experience, to develop hardware and procedures, to move those “up” from local
    elections to State and Federal elections, to build political will but I urge all deliberate speed.

    I see no logical reason that it should be a partisan issue (other than ‘my opponent is for it therefore I’m opposed’) assuming we all support democracy.

    Fred H. Olson

Leave a Reply