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Associated Press, Published October 18 2010

Bachmann success elusive for Democrats

ST. PAUL – Democrats across the country have had a hard time swallowing the rise of conservative Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann. Telegenic, outspoken and beloved by the tea party movement, Bachmann combines provocative statements with hard-right stances on taxes, spending and social issues.

In their third attempt to beat her, Minnesota’s Democrats may have their strongest candidate yet: Tarryl Clark, a seasoned, scrappy politician who might raise more money than any other U.S. House challenger this year.

Clark, 49, stamped herself as an up-and-comer by taking a leadership position in the state Senate in only her second term after years as a nonprofit lobbyist. She would be a formidable contender in almost any other race, but against Bachmann, she risks fading into the background.

Bachmann, 54, has the aura of a celebrity, with starring roles in the past year at major Washington rallies against the health care bill and taxes. Her growing national profile, cultivated with frequent appearances on conservative cable news shows, has helped her raise an astonishing $10 million this election cycle – much of it from outside the district.

Bachmann cemented her ties to tea party activists this summer by founding the House Tea Party Caucus, and she set up her own political action committee – a traditional tool for ambitious politicians that Bachmann already has used to spread money to 16 other congressional candidates. Her name briefly appeared this summer in a presidential straw poll planned by an influential group of social conservatives before Bachmann asked that it be removed.

Bachmann draws crowds back home, too, where her social and fiscal conservatism is a good match for the 6th District. It’s Minnesota’s most solidly Republican territory, a swath of northern Twin Cities suburbs that give way to farm fields and woods still used for snowmobiling and hunting all the way past St. Cloud.

Clark said Friday that she has raised nearly $4 million this election, an impressive sum in a House race. But in a year already trending Republican, most political observers rate the race as “likely Republican” or don’t even list it as competitive. A third candidate, Woodbury dental technician Bob Anderson of the Independence Party, also is in the race.

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