By Danielle Ryan, Tribune Washington Bureau –
WASHINGTON — Rep. Michele Bachmann has raised nearly $4.5 million between July and September to fund what is turning out to be her toughest re-election campaign yet.
The fundraising haul leaves Bachmann with about $3.5 million in cash on hand at her disposal for the final weeks of the campaign — although reports filed with the Federal Election Commission Monday show that she still owes about $607,000 from her failed presidential campaign.
Bachmann’s Democratic opponent, hotel executive Jim Graves, announced Monday that his campaign pulled in more than $1 million from 12,000 individual donors during the third quarter, his best fundraising period yet — including $270,000 that came out of his own pocket. FEC reports show that Graves is left with about $600,000 in the bank for the last three weeks of campaigning.
Adam Graves, Jim Graves’ son and campaign manager, released a statement following the announcement of Bachmann’s third-quarter fundraising, accusing her of spending too much time “promoting her celebrity” and fundraising out of state.
“But no amount of money will cover up her six years of putting her own interests above those of the people she is supposed to serve,” he added.
Chase Kroll, campaign manager for the Bachmann campaign, said the fundraising effort is “a shield” against “a ruthlessly liberal millionaire opponent who isn’t afraid to spend his substantial wealth on lies and false attacks.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Monday morning that Graves has been added to its “Red to Blue” program — a list of 53 GOP incumbents that the Democrats believe they can beat in November.
Graves’ addition to the list means that he will now receive fundraising and communications assistance from the DCCC.
But the move by the DCCC may not give reason for Graves to be too optimistic. This is not the first time Bachmann’s challengers have been placed on the DCCC’s Red to Blue list. Bachmann’s 2008 opponent, Elwyn Tinklenberg, a former mayor of Blaine, Minn., was added to the program after his campaign reported raising more than $1 million in the third quarter.
In 2010, challenger Tarryl Clark also was added to the Red to Blue program, but failed to oust Bachmann, who shattered records that year by raising more money than any other member of Congress.
But, citing Bachmann’s recent low favorability ratings, the Graves campaign said Tuesday that this year will be different.
“In previous cycles her favorability was above 50 percent, but entering this election cycle it had dropped to just 35 percent,” Adam Graves said.
In a fundraising email Monday, Bachmann noted Graves’ addition to the Red to Blue list, using the news to make another appeal to her supporters.
“We cannot let the DCCC undo all of the great work we have done for this campaign,” she said.
In recent weeks, the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report has moved Bachmann’s seat from “safe Republican” to “Republican favored” in its House race ratings.
Nathan Gonzales, an analyst for the Rothenberg Political Report said Monday that Graves’ addition to the Red to Blue program is more of “a way to get attention” than it is to help the Graves campaign out financially. Graves, a wealthy businessman, was always going to have “plenty of money,” Gonzales said.
Graves’ personal wealth is a factor that Bachmann has been keen to exploit through a barrage of fundraising emails in recent weeks.
“You see, my wealthy opponent is on pace to spend millions on TV to defeat me. You already know he is worth up to $111 million dollars — so spending millions is nothing to him,” Bachmann said in an Oct. 11 email after previously announcing a goal of raising $500,000 in a 48-hour period.
As a polarizing figure, Gonzales said: “Whoever runs against her (Bachmann) is going to get at least 45 percent of the vote. It’s making that jump from 45 percent to 50 or 51 percent that’s the challenge.”
Three weeks out, Gonzales said that despite some good signs for Graves, Bachmann is still “more likely to win.”
An internal poll released by the Graves campaign in September showed Bachmann leading by only 2 points, but a new poll released Monday by KSTP-TV and SurveyUSA indicates that Graves has some catching up to do.
The poll, which included 598 respondents and was conducted Oct. 9-11, shows Bachmann leading Graves 50-41, with 9 percent of respondents undecided.