Michelle Bachman is the GOP nominee for the open Crongressional seat in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. (Volunteer via the web site here; donate here.) The district leans Republican and was held by Mark Kennedy --now the GOP's nominee for the United States Senate-- against a stiff challenge from Patty Wetterling two years ago. Kennedy polled 30,000 more votes than Wetterling out of cast 377,000. In the off-year contest of 2002, Kennedy trounced his DFL opponent by 64,000, with an Independent candidate also polling 21,000+ votes.
Kennedy was outspent in 2002 by more than $300,000. Two years ago Kennedy spent about $700,000 more than Wetterling.
Clearly Wetterling brings both strengths and weaknesses to the race. The strength is in her bio, described by the Almanac of American Politics as "a former math teacher and soccer mom and a political newcomer who raised nearly $2 million [in 2004] based on her previous activity as a national advocate for missing children, including creation of the Wetterling Foundation; her 11-year-old son Jacob was abducted in 1989 and was never found." The weakness is the same for any candidate who has already been beaten soundly once: It is difficult to persuade voters to reverse a decision they have already rendered. Plus, the Democratic turn-out operation is simply far behind that of the Tim Paelnty-led GOP.
To have beaten Bachman would have required a near perfect race from Wetterling, but she has stumbled repeatedly, and most recently by an embrace of advertising tactics that leave even veteran media critics condeming her approach. Wetterling grabbed for the Foley gold ring and found out too late that deception is ruinous in the internet age.
Foley resigned on Friday. On Tuesday Wetterling released a campaign ad that included this flatly fraudulent charge:
“It shocks the conscience. Congressional leaders have admitted to covering up the predatory behavior of a congressman who used the internet to molest children.”
When I read this excerpt of the ad to Howard Kurtz, media critic for the Washington Post, I asked him if it was fair: