Michele Bachmann rose quickly in the GOP presidential primary only to find that her campaign ran out of steam about the same time 2011 was coming to an end. And now she faces a challenge to retain the House seat that bolted her into the national spotlight. She also knows that evangelicals will play a key role if she wins another two-year term.
First elected to Congress in 2006 having served a few years in the Minnesota State Senate, Bachmann seems like a shoo-in for reelection to her House seat. After all, she represents a suburban district in the Twin Cities made up of more than 50 percent Republican voters. She's also sitting on a stockpile of cash and is known by virtually everyone in her adopted state.
But recent poll numbers suggest she may be in trouble.
"Everyone knows who Michele Bachmann is and conservatives love her," a well-known evangelical leader said of the Minnesota Congresswoman. "The problem is I think more people despise her as adore her."
Bachmann is facing a challenge from someone who is an incumbent's worst nightmare – a wealthy businessman who has truckloads of Tea Party sound bites and gaffes from months on the national campaign trail.
Hotel magnate Jim Graves has lent his campaign over $500,000 and is working tirelessly at convincing voters of Minnesota's 6th Congressional District that because Bachmann spent so much time campaigning for the White House, that she is out of touch with her district.
"Unfortunately, Michele Bachmann's gotten distracted by her own celebrity," a Graves campaign ad says. "It's cost Minnesota."
Graves is also finding ample opportunity to bring up the fact that Bachmann touted her Iowa roots during the several months she spent campaigning in Iowa, where she won the Iowa State Fair straw poll in August 2011.
Although Bachmann is slightly ahead of Graves, 51 to 45 percent, in a poll released last week by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, this isn't the first time she has faced stiff opposition. In 2008, she held off her Democratic challenger 46 to 43 percent after she said that then Sen. Barack Obama "may have anti-American views" when he was running for president.
But Bachmann and her husband are no strangers to controversy. During the GOP presidential primary for president, her therapist husband Marcus came under attack after a therapist in one of his offices told a patient with a hidden camera that homosexuals could be cured by reparative therapy.
One issue Graves is hitting the nationally known Bachmann over is the number of votes she missed while campaigning for the White House. But at the same time he senses her evangelical base – especially nationally – is strong and willing to do anything to keep her in office. Case in point, Bachmann has raised more than $12 million from conservatives all over the country, compared to the $2 million or so Graves has taken in, including the money he's contributed to the campaign.
However, Iowa Rep. Steve King, who is also a Tea Party favorite, recently told Politico that he has spoken with Bachmann and that she realizes she needs to work hard to win her seat.
"She's in a competitive race," said King in the interview. "My sense is she'll be alright. But she's in a test with a self-funded multimillionaire running against her."
At a recent campaign rally that featured supporters in Revolutionary War costumes, Bachmann spoke to her crowd as a popular singer to her audience.
"I'm Michele Bachmann, and I was running for president of the United States. Now I am running to be the next member of Congress from the 6th Congressional District, and I'm telling you one thing: You get your money's worth when you send me to Washington, D.C.," she said to wild applause.