Voters who want to protect the future of Minnesota’s Independence Party should do everything they can to make sure that Michele Bachmann is not elected to Congress.
Here’s why: if Michele Bachmann is elected to Congress this fall, she can keep that seat as long as she wants to, and the Independence Party is through as a political force in the 6th District—and possibly in other districts as well.
If Patty Wetterling wins this year and performs poorly in Congress during the next two years, she will not be re-elected. The support she would enjoy in Republican-trending 6th District would be inherently weaker than the support that Bachmann would enjoy. Wetterling would be vulnerable in the next election two years from now, because the number of people in the 6th District that would constitute her “liberal base” is comparatively small. If Wetterling wins, the Independence Party stays alive in the 6th District and gets another chance to influence policy there over the next two years and to play “kingmaker” at the next election.
Not so, if Bachmann wins. Christian fundamentalist voters in the 6th District are devoted to Bachmann and will vote with her lock-step during the next election cycle, no matter how she performs for the district. Bear in mind that Bachmann was re-elected to the State Senate DESPITE her poor legislative performance for her home district of Stillwater. The support of her conservative Christian base would be there for her regardless of her performance in Congress.
And unlike Wetterling, Bachmann’s core support comes from outside the district. Bachmann is being promoted by national lobbies pushing a Christian fundamentalist agenda. In Congress, Bachmann would continue to enjoy that support—which would translate into a significant fundraising advantage and hours of free air time donated by evangelical broadcast outlets over the next two years to support her agenda and re-election. Wetterling, if elected, would enjoy no such advantages.
Bachmann’s fundraising advantage as an incumbent congresswoman also spells doom for the Independence Party in the 6th District. Nationally, there is a 5.2 to 1 fundraising advantage for incumbents over challengers.1 For example, Heather Wilson, an incumbent Republican representative from New Mexico, has taken in $33,000 a week in the 2006 election cycle – $2.8 million between January 1, 2005 through September 15, 2006. 2
Bachmann has already taken in $1.2 million (as of August 23). That comes out to about $16,000 a week since she declared her candidacy in February 2005. 3
Based on that, it's reasonable to expect Bachmann will take in at least $20,000 a week --and that doesn't factor in the outside spending, free media and the flood of post-Labor Day election year cash. This would constitute a formidable re-election war chest that would make Bachmann virtually unbeatable during the next election cycle.
If Bachmann is elected and performs poorly for the district, voters will resent the IP. The IP will gain an unenviable reputation as a political irrelevancy and liability—“spoilers and splitters” who helped special interests outside the district by putting a right-wing theocrat in office—“virtually forever.”
If an IP candidate inadvertently helps Bachmann get into office (by shaving Wetterling vote totals) they are actually diminishing their own influence in the district—since Bachmann is a special-interest politician who will pay them no heed and since her political position, once elected, will be virtually unassailable.
ISSUE : Bachmann & The Independence Party