Dem Challenger: I'll take down Michele Bachmann
Meet the woman who insists she can take down Michele Bachmann.
Dem State Senator Tarryl Clark says she's planning a campaign against Bachmann that will turn her national notoriety against her: Bachmann has spent so much time making extreme statements and cultivating her national profile with speeches at Tea Party and GOP rallies that she's lost touch with her constituents.
"Michele seems to be more focused on creating headlines and controversy than on doing things for the people of this district," Clark told me in an interview just now. "She has been out there making outrageous claims that don't bear up under scrutiny. She's been off promoting herself."
Is Bachmann vulnerable? Republicans scoff at the idea. They point out that Clark is way too liberal for Bachmann's Catholic, socially conservative, heavily Republican district and that Bachmann defeated a more moderate challenger two years ago -- in a landslide Dem year. Bachmann's national Tea Party celebrity means she'll raise huge sums for the race.
But Clark insists voters are in a far different place today than two years ago, because of the economy and rising frustration with incumbents.
"People are struggling," Clark says, citing the district's high unemployment rates. Clark will paint Bachmann as a tool of special interests, arguing that she's taken huge sums from "Big Oil, Wall Street and insurance companies" while she's "going around the contry promoting herself and her personal agenda."
Clark faces an uphill climb. Minnesota Senator Al Franken only got a third of the vote in Bachmann's district last year. But Clark insists the district's residents are not party-line voters.
"It's a district that votes for a person over a party," Clark says, pointing out that Dem Senator Amy Klobuchar has won there. "I can tell you that I've won with independents and Republicans and Democrats."
Clark is striking a moderate posture: She says Obama's health plan has "flaws" and wasn't willing to say she backed the American Power Act, the energy reform bill working its way though the Senate, calling instead for "common sense" efforts to take on polluters.
Clark brushed off the notion that Bachmann's national profile would give her a lopsided financial advantage. "Because people are struggling so much in the district, we've been outraising Michele with small donors," Clark says. "I'm confident we're going to have he resources we need to win."
The DCCC has moved Clark into their "red to blue" program, arguing that they do view Bachmann as vulnerable. But it remains to be seen whether the DCCC will invest any real cash in the race, which would indicate that they genuinely view the race as winnable.
Republicans view this as highly unlikely. But it's not completely outside the realm of possibility that this could emerge as a semi-contested race. As steep a climb as it is, it's clear that in Clark, Dems have themselves a serious challenger.
June 16, 2010; 12:42 PM ET
Categories: 2010 elections , House Dems
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