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Friday, October 24, 2008

How Netroots has Changed Politics and Michele Bachmann Has Destroyed Herself

Michele Bachmann appeared last week on Chris Matthews show as many have time and time before. And really, she said nothing that extraordinary. In fact, what she said has been said time and time before by many Republicans in many different ways. Most years, they get away with it. They even win using the tactic of divide and conquor. Of labeling Democrats and liberals as un-American and traitors and America-haters. But this is not business as usual. And this year, those tactics do not work.

And so Michele Bachmann a Republican Congresswoman from Minnesota has taken a race that was labeled by most as a safe Republican race in a strong Republican district, and now she is in the fight of her life.

It all started on October 18, 2008.

Most years, most of the time, I do not like Chris Matthews. He calls his show "Hardball" but frankly he is not one who consistently asks tough questions. But something about the tone of this election has gotten into his craw and he is pressing his questions with deadly accuracy.

What started out as a simple exchange on William Ayers, turned into a game changer for Michele Bachmann. Somehow the subject turned to the question about anti-Americanism, something that seemed more ripe for the McCarthy era in the 1950s with the red scare than something in 2008 during an economic crisis. But there she was talking about it. And there Chris Matthews was pressing her to tell him how many Congress people are in that anti-American crowd.

Finally she said it:
"What I would say -- what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that."
Again, normally, this type of thing would have gone unnoticed and unpunished. But the world is different in 2008.

On reason it is different is the world of Netroots. And the liberal blogs took this story and ran. With netroots organizations and fundraising ability, they were able to raise over $750,000 for Michele Bachmann's opponent in just three days.

Wednesday, the Minnesota Star Tribune announced Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg had raised $1.3 million by Wednesday--less than a week after Rep. Bachmann's comments.
"Bachmann's comments during her 14-minute appearance ignited a firestorm in the liberal blogosphere and proved to be manna from heaven for her opponent, Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg. By Wednesday, his campaign had raised an additional $1.3 million -- and, as the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza pointed out at the Fix (2), the Sixth District race had dramatically changed."
How much has it changed?

Yesterday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune in addition to national sources report that the NRCC pulled about $50,000 worth of ads for Michele Bachmann.
"The national fundraising committee for GOP congressional candidates has canceled its Twin Cities TV advertising for Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is using the flap over her comments about Barack Obama to raise money on her own."
Meanwhile CQ Politics, one of the more respected analysts of Congressional races has changed their rating on this district from Republican Favored to Leans Republican.
"But for political drama, we just can't top Minnesota's 6th District, which is suddenly hosting one of the nation's hottest races -- because of highly controversial partisan remarks made by Michele Bachmann, the district's freshman Republican incumbent.

Although Democrats had long branded Bachmann as a conservative hard-liner, and recruited a relatively centrist challenger in former state transportation secretary Elwyn Tinklenberg, the incumbent nonetheless looked to be cruising to a relatively easy victory in her Republican-leaning district -- that is, until she dropped her "anti-A" bomb, stating on national television that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and unnamed members of Congress might have "anti-American views." The huge flap that ensued has made Bachmann a much more visible target for Democratic activists nationwide, who in turn have poured money into Tinklenberg's campaign to fuel a late-campaign blitz.

Because of the overall conservative tone in her district, CQ Politics still considers Bachmann a slight favorite for re-election, but will be watching further developments very closely."
This is not just a story about Michele Bachmann, it is a story about the power of the left's netroots. The ability to capture people's attention, to seize on gaffe's and misstatements and to funnel huge amounts of money into races like these is frankly unprecedented and really unmatched by Republicans.

The political climate has indeed favored Democrats in both 2006 and 2008. However, the ability of netroots to largely bridge the gap in fundraising has been huge.

And no one has utilized this any better than Barack Obama. Utilizing the web, they have raised money on a level no one has ever dreamed of before. When it is all over, we will be talking about $750 million--that's three-quarters of a billion dollars.

How do they do it? They bombard their supporters with emails in part. They have a network now of over 3.1 million donors. This last month they raised $180 million mostly by small donors of less than $200 and an average of $86 per person. This month they are said to have already raised $133 million. That puts them at a huge advantage down the stretch.

Republicans are crying foul at this--the destruction of the public financing system. That's really funny in a lot of ways. Some are using this as proof the media are biased toward Democrats, after all where's the outrage.

What I do not think Republicans get is that there is a vast different between this type of fundraising and the huge amounts of money that Bush raised from oil interests, tobacco interests, defense interests, and other monied interests. The outrage is not the amount of money, it is the source of the money. Because of where Obama is getting his money from, who is he going to be beholden to? Ah that's right, the people who gave him largely small donations. I know people who give him $25 or $35 every few weeks. It adds up over the course of a year. But it is a series of small donations from average citizens.

That is not something to be outraged about, it is something to celebrate.

The mobilization of people through netroots has really taken off this year and it has the potential to really change politics over the long term.

As for Michele Bachmann, she doesn't seem to get it:
"Chris Matthews did what Chris Matthews is paid big bucks to do: Twist my words and set them up for full-fledged distortion when his next guest came on... And, when the liberal blogs got hold of little clips of my appearance, the spin machine really kicked into overdrive. ... They're motivated entirely by their hatred of me and my conservative beliefs."
I do not know how Chris Matthews twisted your words since we have you have on tape Congresswoman, but I know one thing, you handed this to the liberal blogs and they willingly obliged by flaying you.

---David M. Greenwald reporting