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Interview with Jim Graves: why we can beat Michele Bachmann, this year

by Bill Prendergast on July 20, 2012

This is the second part of MPP’s interview with Michele Bachmann opponent Jim Graves, conducted last week. Graves answers questions about the latest polling, the chances of defeating Bachmann this fall–and he explains why the funding necessary to beat Bachmann will pay off this time.

MPP: According to MPR today (July 12, 2012), Rep. Bachmann raised $579,000 last quarter and has $642,000 in the bank. In the last quarter you raised $412 thousand dollars this last quarter and so far you’ve put $250 thousand dollars of your own money into the race. You’ve got a thousand new contributors. How much money will it take to defeat Michele Bachmann this fall?

GRAVES: I think it’s going to take north of three million dollars. I think it’s going to be a very doable task. We’re going to raise enough funds to get the message out. But at the end of the day, the message is more powerful than the amount of money you raise. And my message through earned media, like talking to you today and being on the street corners and going to meetings in the round and in the parks and meeting everybody I possibly can in the district– I think my message is going to get out there and it’s going resonate. So we’re going to try to raise about three million. If we’re short or if we’re long, either way we’re going to get that message out there.

MPP: Some Dem activists seem to resent the fact that so much money (local and an incredible amount of national money) goes into Sixth District contests to try to defeat Michele Bachmann, a conservative running in a conservative district. These activists complain that money sent to candidates running against Bachmann is wasted in an uphill battle, and the contributions could make a more positive difference if they were sent to other election contests where odds of Dem victory are better. Please comment on that argument.
GRAVES: Sure. First and foremost, this race is not only doable, it’s ours to lose. The people of the Sixth District may be conservative by some matrixes, but they’re reasonable, honorable, good people. And when they hear my message, it resonates. The polling indicates that. We’ve done polling, we know that the people are receptive to our message and we know that this place is very, very winnable.

In the past–I can’t totally go back into great detail on every candidate previous– but I would just like to pop back for one second to the last presidential cycle and take a look at Elwyn Tinklenberg. Elwyn Tinklenberg ran against Michele Bachmann, who probably had more positive ratings at that time than than she does now, according to our polling. He ran a race, lost by three percentage points, forty three and a half per cent to forty six and half per cent that Michele Bachmann garnered. There was an Independence Party fellow by the name of Bob Anderson that took in ten point one per cent of the electorate. So what we look at is we say: okay, if you don’t have an Independence Party and it’s one on one–how would Elwyn have done? He probably would have won that race.

But more importantly, what we look at is: what happened during that election cycle? He did not have a person that’s the most popular politician in the state of Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, running alongside, in the parades, at the fundraising activities, and basically on policy–which I have. So we have a very very positive candidate running this cycle that’s going to obviously give us updraft. Number two, we’re going to have a good turnout. And number three, most importantly–it’s a one-on-one race against Michele Bachmann and the DFL endorsed candidate, which is Jim Graves.

The other thing I might add is: I have DNA and I have the background and I come from the district and I’ve raised my family in the district. I went to school in the district. I created thousands, literally thousands of jobs in the district. I am a businessperson who came from the district and lives in the district. No one else has done that, that’s ever run against her.

MPP: At the end of June, a Greenberg Rosner poll indicated that support for Bachmann in the 6th district was waning. But the polling company tends to work for Dem candidates and liberal causes–and now redistricting has removed some centrist and swing voters from the congressional district. So how significant is the polling, can explain what it proves and why the race is now viable because of that polling?

GRAVES:  Well, the polling just reinforces that the race is doable and viable. It didn’t really change anything, it just told us exactly what we felt was accurate.

First and foremost, the Greenberg organization is a very honorable and also a very empirical polling agency. So whether Democrats hire them or Republicans, the data is basically significant, the sampling was accurate, and the results are interpreted appropriately. It’s a scientific study, it isn’t something we have any input on. That’s number one.

Number two is what the polling indicated to us very clearly is that the people– though they are perceived as being conservative–they are extremely independent minded, the largest independent group of people in the state of Minnesota in any given district. The district has been changed somewhat.We’ve taken Stillwater out of the Sixth district and added Carver County.

We found through the polling what we thought we would find, because we met with the people down in the Carver County area.They’re very independent folks. They look at issues, issue by issue, fact by fact, and make their decision. Those people are very, very open to the right candidate. So we’ve found the polling very clearly demonstrated that not only is the district open minded, it’s a very moderate, independent type of district that will go with the candidate and not necessarily with the party.

And you’ll see that when you go back to 2006. You had basically a newcomer in the business which is Amy Klobuchar at the time. She had been basically head of a county legal area. She ran and in the Sixth District against a two time incumbent Republican she won by five point one per cent of the electorate in 2006, which in election parlance would be a landslide.

So even in 2006 we see that the district–though it’s changed somewhat, we don’t think significantly, they’re saying anywhere from one to two percent maybe more red than it was before. We think it’s more independent than it was before. And we think it’s very, very good and the polling indicated that.

It doesn’t make any difference because of the polling, if you follow the proper and scientific approach like Greenberg does. They’re not jeopardizing their reputation by skewing the data. The data speaks for itself.

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