"This Race is Red Hot" says this morning's Minneapolis Star Tribune front page story, which reports on the recent campaign finance reports on our Sixth District Congressional Race. DFL State Senator Tarry Clark raised about $ 0.9 million just since April and Republican incumbent U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann raised about $ 1.7 million. These are record amounts for either candidate, any party, and any U.S. House race in Minnesota history. I will add that much of Clark's total is due to Bachmann's status as a national bogeywoman hated by the Democratic Party. Tarryl Clark, or a Clark Tarryl, either would be raising about the same amount of money.
For who is Tarryl Clark? Yes, an attorney as is Bachmann, but politically just a community activist until five years ago when she won a 2005 special election into the Minnesota Senate, winning re-election in 2006. That election returned the Minnesota House to DFL control, who fielded a brand new leadership team in both chambers. Clark leapfrogged many others to suddenly become the Assistant Majority Leader in the Senate. But after a few "not ready for prime time" gaffes her first year in that position, we've seen relatively little of her since.
So why is Tarryl Clark the nominee? For one thing, this isn't a state-wide race, meaning candidates must live in the Sixth Congressional District (CD), where the DFL does not rule like in CD4 or CD5. It's her or Elwyn Tinklenberg - or another outsider like Patty Wetterling (2006) or Ashwin Madia (2008). But as those two elections have shown, the nominee is not the marquee. They will run against Bachmann, not for Clark. They're not likely to succeed, but as today's fundraising totals show, they still generate a lot of cash and a lot of volunteer energy that no doubt will spill over into other races.
So what is Tarryl Clark? Cannon fodder perhaps, but more importantly, a blank slate where Democrats everywhere in and out of CD6 can write their positions. Whatever they are, Michele Bachmann as a principled conservative will likely be against them and Clark's short record likely won't say otherwise. Again, this brings out the money and the volunteers that lifts other campaigns as well. If Clark loses as expected, well, it was expected. But if our outspoken incumbent should have an E-85 moment giving Clark the victory, Bachmann's head will be on the DFL trophy wall.
So how will Tarryl Clark campaign? Against Bachmann, viciously so, again. We've already seen our first example, the Michele Bachmann loves BP ads. But it will get worse, much worse. Four years ago I bemoaned how "Saint" Patti Wetterling so surprisingly ran what I considered the most outrageous campaign I'd seen. Wetterling herself went on camera and openly, obviously lied. Bad as that was, Madia's campaign set an even lower mark two years later, to the point where even the Star Tribune and others in the normally compliant media had to wince and cry foul.
Buckle up. The people that gave all that money Clark has raised will want some mud and blood in return. Tarryl doesn't seem anywhere near strong enough to step out in front of this "Dump Bachmann" (and worse) mob and focus on issues. Besides, her positions are Obama's positions and Kelliher's positions and they're not going to play well. Hope and Change is over and out this year.