Tarryl Clark wins DFL endorsement to run against Michele Bachmann. Can she win?


Democrat Tarryl Clark, currently the Assistant Majority Leader in the DFL-controlled state Senate, won her party's endorsement on Saturday to run for Congress against two-term GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann. She beat Maureen Reed 62-37 percent on the first ballot.

"Washington isn't working for Minnesota families, and neither is Michele Bachmann," Clark said in a statement after the balloting. "I'm ready to do the work and be the advocate the people of the Sixth District deserve."

Looking ahead, Reed intends to run in the DFL state primary election on Aug. 10 -- keeping her focus on Bachmann, not Clark, according to her campaign's spokesman, Trevor Willet.

It was a sentiment echoed by DFL chair Brian Melendez: "For far too long, the people of the sixth district have had an absent, ineffective representative in Congress,: Minnesota DFL Chair Brian Melendez said.

Bachmann is known nationally as much for her penchant for playing fast and loose with the facts as she is for being a darling of online and cable news outlets in right field. Fox News has been especially happy to give her an open microphone. Whether her media image matches the reality of her district remains to be seen. District 6 is not exactly safe ground.

She was first elected in 2006, beating Democrat Patty Wetterling 50-42 percent with 8 percent going to Independence Party candidate John Binkowski. It was a tough race, but a big campaign war chest, support from the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, and stump appearances with Karl Rove and Dick Cheney helped her carry the day.

But in 2008, she barely won re-election. Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg was able to capitalize, literally and figuratively, on Bachmann's McCarthy-like warnings about Barack Obama being anti-American. And he was aided by what Smart Politics calls a Democratic wave bubbling up in her district.

In the end, she won by a narrow margin of 46.4 to 43.4 percent, with independent Pat Anderson pulling 10 percent. It was the 5th narrowest margin of victory of any of the 178 Republicans elected into office that November. And Smart Politics ranks the 6th as the 11th most competitive district in the entire country over the last four election cycles.

A poll in late December found that, while she enjoyed support in her district, her constituents also said she paid more attention to burnishing her national rep than paying attention to issues at home. Clark and Reed both made an issue of Bachmann's travels, complete with interactive onlie maps that track the congresswoman's appearances around the country.

Bachmann expects a big financial and moral boost to her campaign on April 7, when Sarah Palin will appear at a fundraiser on her behalf. Clark has already mocked the event, at whch donors can pony up $10,000 for a photo op with the women.

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