Palin to stump for U.S. Rep. Bachmann

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Before the nation met Sarah Palin, Minnesota’s Michele Bachmann was already emerging as a Republican dynamo in similar fashion: Both are feisty TV darlings who readily jab opponents and whip backers into a fervor — all with a wink and disarming smile.

“They’re really the new faces of the Republican right,” said Joe Peschek, a political analyst at St. Paul’s Hamline University. “They’re relatively young and mothers of large families, they’re both telegenic, and they both seem to take a delight in taunting their opponents.”

And now they’re teaming up, with Palin making a much-hyped campaign stop Wednesday in Minneapolis to kick off Bachmann’s re-election bid. Bachmann is using the 2008 vice presidential nominee’s star power to drum up support — and money — ahead of a tough, big-dollar fight from Democrats gunning for her seat in Congress.

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“This will jump start things as we look to impact the agenda in Washington and the election this fall,” said Gina Countryman, Bachmann’s campaign manager.

It also fits into the opposition theme of two Democrats vying to face Bachmann — state Sen. Tarryl Clark and Dr. Maureen Reed. They say the incumbent is focused too much on grabbing attention and not enough on constituent work.

Bachmann has been a cable news fixture. In a weeklong span in March alone, she appeared on five Fox News shows, picking apart the new federal health law and slamming other Democratic initiatives as steps toward socialism.

Both Palin, 46, and Bachmann, 54, have a knack for riling Democrats. Palin has been laser-like in her criticism of President Obama, while Bachmann has thrown more wide-ranging verbal punches — at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and more-faceless entities like the U.S. Census, which she said is too personal in its questions.

Bachmann struck a nerve in Minnesota when she recommended giving only cursory information on the census. Her state is on the cusp of losing a congressional seat based on the national head count and critics feared her stance would hurt participation. More recently, though, she joined all but one of her colleagues in Congress in supporting a resolution urging Americans to fill out the form.

The Bachmann-and-Palin combo is a huge draw. The Minnesota GOP distributed more than 10,000 tickets to a Minneapolis Convention Center rally, with tickets available only for those who pledge to volunteer for six or more hours of campaign work this year. The duo will appear at a $500-a-plate dinner fundraiser in Minneapolis. People who donate $10,000 get to take a picture with the two.

Democrats are also trying to benefit from the Republican star power. Rep. Keith Ellison, whose district borders Bachmann’s, sent an e-mail blast Monday seeking money to “help me counter Bachmann and Palin’s lies.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a potential Palin rival if both run for president in 2012, will be there, too.

“She draws an enormous amount of attention,” Pawlenty said of Palin. “So she can bring focus to candidates, to issues, to policy positions and rev up supporters and generate money, enthusiasm and volunteers. There’s a lot of stuff she can bring.”

Campaign manager Countryman said Bachmann and Palin have a “common bond” and that they talk occasionally on the phone.

Bachmann has been in tough fights before, winning 2006 and 2008 races against well-funded foes. She draws mention as a potential U.S. Senate candidate in 2012.

The political trade-up could be enticing for Bachmann if Minnesota drops from eight to seven House seats.

Democrats boast sizable majorities in the Legislature and hope to land the governor’s office this fall to cement an advantage in redrawing Minnesota political maps. Bachmann’s district — a mix of suburbs, rural areas and the central Minnesota city of St. Cloud — is a tempting target for Democrats who haven’t been able to oust her at the ballot box.