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Bachmann Scores Weakest Minnesota GOP US House Incumbent Primary Win in 50 Years

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The last time a Republican incumbent won a lower percentage of the vote in a Gopher State U.S. House primary was 1962 (Herman Carl Andersen)

MicheleBachmann15.jpgDespite seeking higher office earlier this year and receiving significant negative reaction from the media and GOP colleagues over the past month in connection with her request for an investigation of radical Muslims infiltrating the federal government, there was little doubt Michele Bachmann would easily walk away from Tuesday's GOP 6th congressional district primary with a victory.

And she did.

But despite winning by a comfortable margin, opposition to the three-term congresswoman was nonetheless at its highest level in generations for a Republican U.S. Representative from Minnesota.

A Smart Politics analysis finds Michele Bachmann's 80.4 percent primary vote total on Tuesday was the smallest vote percentage received by a Republican member of the U.S. House from the Gopher State since 1962 spanning 75 incumbent reelection bids.

Representative Bachmann faced two challengers en route to her 80.4 percent tally in the 6th CD primary: Stephen Thompson came in second with 12.8 percent and frequent Bachmann critic and opponent Aubrey Immelman received 6.9 percent.

The last time a Republican incumbent U.S. Representative from Minnesota fared worse than Bachmann on Tuesday was 50 years ago, when Herman Carl Andersen sought reelection to a 13th term.

Andersen had represented the state's 7th CD since the Election of 1938, when he won a narrow plurality victory over Farmer-Laborite incumbent Paul Kvale.

Over the next two decades Andersen had a long run of blow-out general election victories (1940, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1950, 1952) followed by some relatively competitive wins leading into the 1962 cycle (1948, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960).

Minnesota lost its ninth seat that year due to reapportionment and Andersen ran in the newly drawn 6th CD where he squared off against Minnesota State Representative Robert Odegard.

Odegard trounced Andersen in the primary with the 12-term incumbent losing by 27.4 points with just 36.3 percent of the vote.

The remaining five GOP incumbents (Al Quie in the 1st, Ancher Nelsen in the 2nd, Clark MacGregor in the 3rd, Walter Judd in the 4th, and Odin Langen in the 7th) easily won their primaries in 1962 with only one - Judd - facing a challenger.

Over the next 25 cycles since the Election of 1964 - which includes 75 Republican incumbents running for reelection - no Minnesota GOP U.S. Representative received a lower vote total than Bachmann's 80.4 percent on Tuesday.

In fact, most candidates never even faced a challenger, with 63 of these incumbents running unopposed during this span.

Of the remaining dozen who faced at least one primary opponent, only Bachmann failed to receive 85 percent of the vote - and she barely eclipsed 80 percent.

Overall, the average tally by these congressional incumbents facing primary challengers was 89.3 percent excluding Bachmann's 2012 performance.

Congresswoman Bachmann also owns the third lowest primary tally over the last 50 years with her 85.9 percent performance in the 2008 primary against fellow 2012 candidate Aubrey Immelman.

Of course, it is possible that some of Bachmann's depressed vote in 2008 and 2012 was not simply due to Republicans who disapproved of her job performance, but also independents and Democrats.

Still, Representative Bachmann is the only incumbent to inspire two fellow Republicans to run against her in a primary since the mid 1950s.

The last time a sitting GOP U.S. Representative from Minnesota faced two challengers at the primary stage was 1956 when 8-term incumbent Joseph O'Hara was opposed by Alf Swenson and Walter Muhlenhardt.

O'Hara received 69.9 percent of the vote with 22.7 percent for Swenson and 7.4 percent for Muhlenhardt.

Minnesota's other incumbents facing primary opponents Tuesday were Erik Paulsen in the 3rd CD (90.2 percent), Keith Ellison in the 5th (89.6 percent), John Kline in the 2nd (85.1 percent), and Betty McCollum in the 4th (84.2 percent).

Lowest Primary Vote Percentage for Republican Minnesota U.S. Representatives, 1964-2012

Year
Incumbent
District
Percent
2012
Michele Bachmann
6
80.4
2012
John Kline
2
85.1
2008
Michele Bachmann
6
85.9
2006
Gil Gutknecht
1
87.3
1982
Tom Hagedorn*
1
87.5
1982
Vin Weber*
2
88.4
1984
Bill Frenzel
3
89.6
2004
Jim Ramstad
3
89.9
2012
Erik Paulsen
3
90.2
1980
Bill Frenzel
3
91.4
1972
Bill Frenzel
3
93.1
1970
Odin Langen
7
93.9
2012
Chip Cravaack
8
Unopposed
2010
John Kline
2
Unopposed
2010
Erik Paulsen
3
Unopposed
2010
Michele Bachmann
6
Unopposed
2008
John Kline
2
Unopposed
2006
John Kline
2
Unopposed
2006
Jim Ramstad
3
Unopposed
2004
Gil Gutknecht
1
Unopposed
2004
John Kline
2
Unopposed
2004
Mark Kennedy
6
Unopposed
2002
Gil Gutknecht
1
Unopposed
2002
Jim Ramstad
3
Unopposed
2002
Mark Kennedy*
6
Unopposed
2000
Gil Gutknecht
1
Unopposed
2000
Jim Ramstad
3
Unopposed
1998
Gil Gutknecht
1
Unopposed
1998
Jim Ramstad
3
Unopposed
1996
Gil Gutknecht
1
Unopposed
1996
Jim Ramstad
3
Unopposed
1994
Jim Ramstad
3
Unopposed
1992
Jim Ramstad
3
Unopposed
1990
Vin Weber
2
Unopposed
1988
Vin Weber
2
Unopposed
1988
Bill Frenzel
3
Unopposed
1988
Arlan Stangleand
7
Unopposed
1986
Vin Weber
2
Unopposed
1986
Bill Frenzel
3
Unopposed
1986
Arlan Stangleand
7
Unopposed
1984
Vin Weber
2
Unopposed
1984
Arlan Stangleand
7
Unopposed
1982
Bill Frenzel
3
Unopposed
1982
Arlen Erdahl*
6
Unopposed
1982
Arlan Stangleand
7
Unopposed
1980
Arlen Erdahl
1
Unopposed
1980
Tom Hagedorn
2
Unopposed
1980
Arlan Stangleand
7
Unopposed
1978
Tom Hagedorn
2
Unopposed
1978
Bill Frenzel
3
Unopposed
1978
Arlan Stangleand
7
Unopposed
1976
Al Quie
1
Unopposed
1976
Tom Hagedorn
2
Unopposed
1976
Bill Frenzel
3
Unopposed
1974
Al Quie
1
Unopposed
1974
Bill Frenzel
3
Unopposed
1972
Al Quie
1
Unopposed
1972
Ancher Nelsen
2
Unopposed
1972
John Zwach
6
Unopposed
1970
Al Quie
1
Unopposed
1970
Ancher Nelsen
2
Unopposed
1970
John Zwach
6
Unopposed
1968
Al Quie
1
Unopposed
1968
Ancher Nelsen
2
Unopposed
1968
Clark MacGregor
3
Unopposed
1968
John Zwach
6
Unopposed
1968
Odin Langen
7
Unopposed
1966
Al Quie
1
Unopposed
1966
Ancher Nelsen
2
Unopposed
1966
Clark MacGregor
3
Unopposed
1966
Odin Langen
7
Unopposed
1964
Al Quie
1
Unopposed
1964
Ancher Nelsen
2
Unopposed
1964
Clark MacGregor
3
Unopposed
1964
Odin Langen
7
Unopposed
* Denotes an incumbent running in a new district. Table compiled by Smart Politics with data culled from Minnesota Legislative Manuals and the Minnesota Secretary of State.

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4 Comments


  • Thank you Dr. Ostermeier for the heavy lifting in culling the mounds of data from Minnesota Legislative Manuals and the Minnesota Secretary of State's archives, and for compiling this informative report.

    I never knew my 2008 primary election performance against Michele Bachmann ranked second -- now third, after the top-ranking joint effort by Stephen Thompson and myself this year -- in the annals of Republican incumbent primary challenges in the past 50 years.

  • Mr. Immelman prior to this election year you were number 1, John Kline's new record, as number 2, was also this election year.

  • Thanks for pointing that out Fred. And here I was, for four long years, completely ignorant of the fact that I actually accomplished something in the thumping I received from Bachmann in 2008!

    Incidentally, Dr. Ostermeier's report was picked up by Salon, which was good to see after his painstaking research to flesh out the Bachmann chapter in Minnesota's political history.

    http://www.salon.com/2012/08/16/could_bachmann_lose/


  • IMO, the more intriguing storyline is that Michele Bachmann actually received fewer votes in Anoka County than Tim Tingelstad did in his three-way race for a slot on the MN Supreme Court.

    I would suggest that hard-working folks at SmartPoltics take a look at the MN Supreme Court primary where Tingelstad won eleven counties (including Clearwater County where Tingelstad was the top vote getter for all races --- in fact, in the 11 counties that Tingelstad won, his vote total was no less than fourth including counties with competitive primary contests {like the 8th}.)
    When was the last time that an incumbent lost 11 counties ?
    Dan Griffith also performed well and will compete against MN Supreme Court Chief Justice Gilda in November.

  • Leave a comment


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