Bachmann in demand, opponents criticize her travelsby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Rep. Michele Bachmann has only been a member of Congress for three and a half years, but in that short time she's become a national hero among many conservatives and a lightening rod for bitter condemnation among many liberals.
Bachmann is wellknown outside Minnesota because she is a frequent guest on conservative radio and TV programs.
"Cable TV is what I think of when I think of Michele Bachmann," said Tim Sahd, who edits an online Washington political news publication called House Race Hotline.
Sahd says Bachmann has become one of the most polarizing members of Congress, and that's why she's in such high demand.
"It's not usual for a member of the House to be on speed dial of many bookers and cable news operations, and in that sense Michele Bachmann stands out," Sahd said. "She would be on top of most cable news bookers looking for a polarizing guest."
And it's not just media appearances. Bachmann is also a sought after speaker by conservative organizations.
Early last month she was in St. Louis addressing the Constitutional Coalition.
Two weeks later, Bachmann found herself at the podium of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
Already in 2010 Bachmann has made stops in North Dakota, Missouri, California, Ohio and Tennessee. A week ago she was speaking in Cincinnati where
Alex Triantafilou, who heads up the local Republican Party, says Bachmann was a huge hit.
"I think Republicans and conservatives are starved for the kind of charisma frankly that President Obama brought to the Democratic Party and despite our strong disagreements with the president on almost every issue, we recognize his political strength and his being articulate and all the various things that he brings," Triantafilou said. "And I think with Rep. Bachmann, many conservatives see something very similar."
Triantafilou says his organization paid Bachmann's travel and lodging expenses, but didn't pay her a fee for speaking. Instead, they urged Cincinnati Republicans to donate to Bachmann's campaign.
Bachmann's opponents accuse her of neglecting her Minnesota constituents in favor of courting conservatives around the country.
State Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, who is competing to run against Bachmann this fall, said the congresswoman is a "crusader for herself."
"She's off pursuing the celebrity status as opposed to actually doing the job," Clark said.
Fellow Democract Maureen Reed, who also hopes to run against Bachmann, says the congresswoman is not focused on her home turf.
"We need a congresswoman in this district who will pay attention to this district rather than be around the rest of the country attending to other issues," Reed said.
Bachmann calls Clark and Reed's criticism "curious." She said that on most weekends she can be found in her Minnesota district meeting with her constituents. As for her numerous appearances outside of Minnesota, Bachmann said her outreach benefits her constituents, and that they appreciate her efforts.
"I'm a national representative and so I'm speaking on national issues of impact to people in the 6th District," Bachmann said. "That means that it impacts everyone in the United States, so they are very grateful for the work that I'm doing here."
Political analysts say Bachmann's high profile is helping her raise campaign cash, but that it's also bringing in money for her opponents.
According to the Federal Election Commission, through the end of last year, Bachmann had raised more than $1.5 million for her 2010 campaign. Clark and Reed had each raised about $600,000.
- Morning Edition, 03/05/2010, 6:20 a.m.