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.
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.