By Mark Sommerhauser, St. Cloud Times, Minn.
June 15–As U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann told a national audience she’ll run for president, she hit pause on her plans to seek re-election to Congress.
That shows Bachmann, R-Stillwater, is serious about reaching the White House, political analysts say.
But it doesn’t mean Bachmann can’t resume her congressional campaign if she doesn’t win her party’s presidential nod.
Bachmann announced Monday night during a debate of Republican presidential hopefuls in New Hampshire that she’d filed papers to seek the presidency.
A new post also appeared Monday night on Bachmann’s official Facebook page. It said Bachmann has “suspended her congressional campaign and is no longer actively seeking re-election in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District,” which includes St. Cloud.
Bachmann’s suspension of her congressional campaign has symbolic and practical value for her presidential bid, said Eric Ostermeier, who authors the Smart Politics blog and is a research associate for the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
But Ostermeier said Bachmann has ample time to change her mind. Minnesota’s deadline for congressional candidates to file for office is June 5, 2012.
Still, Bachmann’s decision to suspend her congressional campaign shows she means business in seeking the presidency, Ostermeier said.
“This is an important sign that she’s in it to win,” Ostermeier said.
Bachmann’s suspension of her House campaign should give her greater flexibility with campaign funds, Ostermeier said.
The move should permit Bachmann to transfer money from her congressional campaign chest to her presidential campaign, Ostermeier said. He pointed to Federal Election Commission guidelines that authorize such transfers — with certain restrictions — after a candidate affirms they are not actively seeking election to two federal offices during the same election cycle.
The state’s political calendar would make it easy for Bachmann to shift gears.
Republican presidential caucuses or primaries in key early states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada would happen well before the June 5 deadline. Only the Republican National Convention, scheduled for August 2012, would come afterward.
Jim Knoblach is a former St. Cloud legislator and congressional candidate who now serves as co-chair for the Senate District 15 Republicans.
Knoblach says the timeline allows Bachmann to test the waters in several presidential primaries, then potentially opt to re-enter the congressional fray.
“She certainly would have the ability to go through a few primaries and see what happens,” Knoblach said. “People feel like Michele has the lock on the (congressional) nomination. I don’t think that people would be challenging her.”
No one knows exactly what shape Minnesota’s congressional districts will take in 2012. That’s a key fact that is complicating the congressional picture.
The lack of clarity is because state leaders haven’t reached agreement on how to redraw political boundaries as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process.
Whatever happens, the 6th District’s borders are sure to change. All districts must be equal in population when redistricting is completed, and the 6th District — the state’s fastest-growing congressional district — needs to shed more than 90,000 residents during redistricting, based on 2010 census results.
Tony Sutton, chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, said Tuesday that he expects the 6th District race to clear up by late March or early April. Sutton said now is too early to speculate on potential congressional candidates.
Knoblach agreed, adding that he hasn’t heard from Republicans expressing interest in running in the 6th Congressional District.
That could change in coming months if Bachmann’s campaign gathers steam, Knoblach added.
“If it looks like her campaign is really taking off later this fall,” Knoblach said, “you might see more people expressing interest.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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