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Bachmann race tied

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann talks to constituents Wednesday in Stillwater. A controversy over things she said about presidential candidate Barack Obama did not come up. She has been in the national news the past few days after implying that the Democratic candidate is un-American. staff photo by Andy Blenkenship

ST. PAUL - Michele Bachmann learned a lesson: Watch what you say on national television.

In the week since she hinted - or expressly said, depending on your point of view - that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama may hold anti-American views, she went from a comfortable lead in her U.S. House re-election race to a statistical dead heat.

To change that, the 6th Congressional District congresswoman planned to launch a new television commercial apologizing for the incident.

A Minnesota Public Radio-University of Minnesota poll shows Democrat El Tinklenberg received support of 45 percent of the voters, while Bachmann got 43. A SurveyUSA poll gave Tinklenberg a 47-44 lead. Both are within the polls' margin of error, making the race a virtual tie.

"The contest is volatile; these numbers freeze-frame a pendulum that may not have yet have swung its full arc," a SurveyUSA analysis reported.

National campaign watchers had expected Bachmann to easily win a second term, but many now consider the race a toss-up.

Nearly 40 percent of 6th district voters told MPR-university pollsters that they are less likely to support Bachmann because of her Oct. 17 comments on MSNBC. She blamed "Hardball" host Chris Matthews for trapping her into saying Obama may be anti-American.

Bachmann called on the press to investigate all members of Congress to find which ones are anti-American. Democrats and some Republicans condemned her comments.

Tinklenberg received $1.45 million in the week following Bachmann's comments, more than he had received in several weeks of fund-raising.

The National Republican Congressional Committee withdrew money from the Bachmann and another race, a move the campaign group claimed was not related to the MSNBC comments. But most observers say otherwise.

"It appears that the NRCC is abandoning social conservative candidates and the issues for which they stand, particularly if they are championed by some of the most promising female legislators in the Congress," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrote, Congressional Quarterly reports. "This is no time to cut and run from a fight."

The GOP committee's spokeswoman said Bachmann is in a better position than others to defend her job.

"There are more paths to victory for Republican candidates than we have money to fund. Some candidates, like Congresswoman Bachmann, are sitting on more than $1 million cash on hand in districts that President Bush won in 2004 by double digits," Karen Hanretty said.

Obama moving up

Democrat Barack Obama is increasing his lead in Minnesota.

Rasmussen Reports indicates Democrat Obama leads Republican presidential candidate John McCain 56 percent to 41 percent in Minnesota, in what had been thought to be a tight race. Two weeks ago the same poll showed the Democrat leading by 7 points.

The big Obama advantage comes in his 54-42 support from independent voters. The two were nearly tied among them two weeks ago.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.