The Anderson Effect: Did Michele Bachmann win because people voted for a last name?


Dang. I’m guessing that most of Hennepin County is puzzled over the victory of Rep. Michele Bachmann over our favorite Hobbit, Elwyn Tinklenberg. The woman is delusional. But the lady clearly has some crafty church-ball skills in the political hard-court. She's the John Stockton of DC. But let's not turn into a scrambled Paul-Bot to explain her victory.

Now, one theory coming out of her victory is the role played by Independent Party candidate Bob Anderson. Some folks are giving him the Nader tag. But others, like Bob Collins, are going conspiracy theory on his ass and highlighting his surname, Anderson, as the culprit for the Bachmann victory.

Well, the problem here is people voting for a candidate based on the surname. I'm sure Bob Anderson is a nice guy and might even make a good congressman. And he no doubt deserves the -- I'd estimate -- 4-5% of the votes from those who probably knew about him. But it's highly, highly unlikely that 10% of the 6th District knew about him and, like I said, he didn't even get support from his own party. In a way, it's funny that for all the machinations around this race, it comes down to a third party candidate with the right last name. It ain't a pretty process, but it ain't dull, either.
(Note: this section was deleted off his blog. But still appears intact on Bob Anderson’s website)

So the surname Anderson is the reason Bachmann prevailed? That's good and clever, but also seems thin on logic.

We asked Kate Muson, Tinklenberg’s campaign manager about the last name theory. She thought about it for a bit, then thought better of it.

“No, I don’t think the name was a factor,” says Muson. “The Independent Party put out an email in support of El. But when people looked at their ballot, they saw another name by the Independent label.”

She’s getting at deeper hunch: that the ballot mislead voters. Instead of listing Tinklenberg as the DFL Candidate and Independent Party candidate, he was just listed under the DFL label. And Anderson got the nod of being listed as the Independent Party candidate even though the dude didn’t get the party's endorsement.

So it seems more likely that folks went with the Independent Party candidate rather than the Independent Party candidate’s last name. And the 3-4% increase in support for the Independent Party probably had more to do with Bachmann’s gaffe than the attraction of any last name, even one as sexy as Anderson.

UPDATE: The Strib's Nick Coleman weighs in. Has a decent take. One that relies on something more than specious historical evidence.