It’s something we’ve seen before: a politician who gains national fame as a presidential candidate but then faces some harsh music back at home.
Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D., lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential race – eight years later McGovern lost his bid for a fourth Senate term. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut ran for president in 2004 and just two years later lost a Democratic primary for his Senate seat before winning re-election as an Independent. Just four years after dropping out of the 2008 presidential race, eight-term Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio lost his seat during the Democratic primary after redistricting put him in a member on member contest against Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.
Today, it’s Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s, R-Minn., turn.
The Tea Party favorite and former presidential candidate is facing a tough re-election challenge less than a year after finishing last in the Iowa Republican Caucus. Bachmann’s district leans Republican. Minnesota’s sixth district voted for President George W. Bush in 2004 and Sen. John McCain in 2008 and Bachmann won her most recent contest by double digits. Redistricting has made it even more red in 2012.
Despite those formidable odds, Democrats say they’re optimistic about taking over this district. The race remains close partly because Bachmann’s democratic opponent, businessman and hotel owner Jim Graves, has managed to characterize Bachmann as abandoning her district in favor of headlines, more focused on her run for the White House than representing her district.
“I definitely think people feel left out here, she hasn’t been in the district, she hasn’t been on the floor in Congress, she just hasn’t been representing the people. She hasn’t been the voice for the people,” Graves told NBC’s Luke Russert in a recent interview.
In their first debate, Jim Graves continued his attacks, forcing Bachmann to respond.
“People need to know, that in this district, that I am focused. I’m here. I’m part of this district,” Bachmann. “I’ve been here for 44 years and I’ve delivered for this district.”
Beyond the accusations of abandoning her district, Bachmann’s trouble may also be related to some of her more controversial statements.
Most recently, she accused fellow Minnesota Congressman and the only Muslim member of Congress Keith Ellison of being associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Bachmann also suggested that longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. That prompted condemnation from both sides of aisle, including House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. John McCain.
Although the Bachmann campaign remains confident that she’ll win a fourth term, the fact that she hasn’t locked up the race with just a few days to go before the election is a surprise.