Bachmann Overcomes "Anti-American" Gaffe to Win Re-election to Congress

The Minnesota Republican had been a shoo-in, until an ill-considered remark on a TV news show.

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Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota overcame her own game of "Hardball" last night—and fought nationwide voting trends—by holding onto her House seat. Barely.

By all estimates, it shouldn't have been a tough election. Bachmann won the 2006 election by an 8 point margin. Her district—which stretches from St. Cloud, southeast to the Wisconsin border, but excludes the city of St. Paul—voted for George W. Bush in double digits—twice. And Bachmann faced off with little-known Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg, 58, a former mayor and state transportation commissioner.

But in a mid-October television appearance on MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews, Bachmann remarked that Barack Obama "may have anti-American views" and that the media should examine Congress to determine which members are "pro-America or anti-America." Pundits lambasted her for McCarthyism; many voters were infuriated. Her campaign quickly went from cakewalk to catastrophe. In the 10 days after the Hardball interview, her opponent raised $8.1 million from donors nationwide after taking a year to raise $1 million.

Bachmann fought back. In an open letter on her website, she blamed the flap on a "spin machine in serious overdrive." And she pushed her stances on several issues close to conservative hearts—her fight against earmarks, her push for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and her fury with the $700 billion bailout.

"Her views are in line with the people in the district," says Michelle Marston, Bachmann's spokesperson. "She has an agenda that's theirs."

Ultimately, voters agreed. But they didn't forgive her easily. She won by a slender 3 points.