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Posted at 8:07 AM ET, 12/20/2010

Michele Bachmann for Senate?

By Chris Cillizza

1. Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann isn't ruling out a run for Senate, and the state Republican Party chairman is building her up as a potential candidate.

Bachmann's office, in a statement released to The Hill, said Bachmann has no designs on a challenge to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), but that she's not ruling anything out either.

Bachmann spokesman Doug Sachtleben said Bachmann is focused on her current job but that "nothing's off the table for the future."

Most of the Bachmann-for-Senate talk has emanated from her extremely strong fundraising during her 2010 House campaign. She was the top fundraiser among House candidates last cycle, bringing in more than $13 million -- a sum that was more than Klobuchar raised in her 2006 Senate campaign.

Meanwhile, state Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton said Bachmann would be a strong nominee. "I think she'd be a very powerful candidate and could definitely beat Amy Klobuchar," Sutton told The Hill. "She's certainly got the fundraising horsepower, the political organization skills, and she's a great spokesperson."

A survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling recently showed Klobuchar with a 15-point lead on Bachmann, but the same survey showed Bachmann was the overwhelming choice of the state's Republicans.

It remains to be seen whether Bachmann would be a viable contender against Klobuchar or a niche candidate without much ability to expand beyond her conservative base. Other tea party-aligned Republicans -- Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Joe Miller in Alaska -- like Bachmann struggled to win over general election voters in 2010.

"She represents the most conservative district in Minnesota and usually has some degree of difficulty holding it," said one Republican consultant familiar with the state's politics and granted anonymity to give a candid assessment. "She would struggle in much of the rest of the state, and that would be made worse in a presidential year."

The Bachmann question is also similar to the ongoing debate regarding former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and whether or not she could be a serious general election candidate in 2012.

2. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) continues to defend his long tenure as a lobbyist -- a central part of his resume and one that Barbour is trying to turn into an asset as he weighs a potential 2012 White House bid.

"The first thing a president's going to have to do when he takes his hand off the Bible is start lobbying," Barbour told the Weekly Standard. "He's going to need to lobby Congress. He's going to need to lobby the bureaucracy. He's going to need to lobby the governors. He's going to need to lobby our allies and our international competitors. And I'm a pretty good lobbyist."

Barbour has been doubling down on his lobbying experience ever since speculation that he might be a presidential contender first began mounting earlier this year.

But a Gallup poll released earlier this month highlights the uphill climb Barbour faces in trying to sell voters on his background.

When respondents were asked to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in a variety of careers, lobbyists came in dead last. Sixty-one percent of those polled described lobbyists' ethical standards as "low" or "very low," while only seven percent described them as "high" or "very high" and 29 percent said they were "average."

Lobbyists were viewed as even less ethical than used car salespeople (49 percent described their ethical standards as "low" or "very low") and members of Congress (57 percent "low" or "very low").

Those numbers don't preclude Barbour from seeking his party's nomination, of course; it just illustrates that he'll have his work cut out for him in wooing voters.

3. Former Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen released a statement on the DREAM Act this weekend, the latest evidence of his impending campaign in 2012 against Sen. Jim Webb (D).

"The so-called 'DREAM Act' being pushed by Washington liberals like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Leader Harry Reid, and Sens. Durbin and Kerry is a flawed piece of legislation that rewards illegal behavior with benefits paid for by taxpayers," Allen said. "It is unfortunate that Senator Jim Webb chose to put the political interests of his liberal colleagues before the valid concerns of Virginians."

Allen e-mailed a statement Saturday expressing his opposition to the bill, which provides a pathway to legal residency for illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. (The bill failed in the Senate.)

In releasing his statement, Allen also took aim for the second time in recent weeks at his potential opponent, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).

Allen is widely expected to seek Webb's seat, which the senator took from him in 2006. The bigger question is whether Webb will seek a second term in the Senate. He told the Post's Ben Pershing he would make a decision by earlier next year.

4. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin was missing in action when the Senate took two of its highest-profile votes on Saturday.

Manchin, who has been at odds with national Democrats several times since he was sworn in last month, was not present for votes on the DREAM Act and the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell".

A spokesperson for Manchin told the Charleston Gazette that the senator and his wife had "planned a holiday gathering over a year ago with all their children and grandchildren as they will not all be together on Christmas Day."

"While he regrets missing the votes, it was a family obligation that he just could not break," spokesperson Sara Payne Scarbro said. "However, he has been clear on where he stands on the issues."

Manchin did issue statements on Saturday making clear his opposition to both the DREAM Act and the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell"; his position on the latter bill made him the only Democrat to oppose repeal -- just as he was when the Senate voted on repeal last week.

The fact that Manchin was absent from the chamber while another Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), made it in to vote despite being recently diagnosed with prostate cancer doesn't bode well for Manchin's relationship with his caucus.

5. The "Morning Fix" is taking a holiday break to recharge our batteries.

We'll be back with all the news you need to know in the morning on Jan. 3. Have a great holiday!

PS -- Need a final Fix before you head off for the break? Tune in at 11 a.m. this morning for our latest feature: the Fix Weekly Face-Offs. Watch us breakdown matchups from the worlds of politics to pop culture -- on video no less!

By Chris Cillizza  | December 20, 2010; 8:07 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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