Is the Bachmann-Graves race as close as the narrative suggests?

It’s always interesting to have the national media drop in on congressional districts in Minnesota to capture the sentiment of flyover country.

CNN today sent Wayne Drash to assess how things are going in Minnesota’s 6th District, where Michele Bachmann is being challenged by Jim Graves in the redrawn, and now more conservative, district.

Step one: Make the area seem nutty:

Jim Graves strolled down Main Street in his pressed shirt with French cuffs and skinny jeans, a dapper enigma in a land of flannels and Wranglers. He stuck out his hand to introduce himself to a ruffian in a wheelchair scooter.

The two talked politics before the stranger confessed he’s an anarchist who believes Americans should be allowed to kill three people a day. “That would take care of the idiots REALLLLLL fast,” the man said with a chuckle.

Check. Step two. Offer only the political polling that confirms the basis for the story in the first place.

Drash admits he doesn’t cover politics but offers this…

It’s impossible to know just how close the race is, though apparently it’s tightening. Two non-partisan political handicappers — the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report — have moved their ranking of the contest from likely Republican earlier this year to now lean Republican.

It’s really not that difficult to know how close the race is.

The Star Tribune poll just two days ago showed Bachmann with a 6 percentage point lead. A Survey USA poll showed a 9-percentage point lead for Bachmann.

But the CNN article notes only challenger Graves’ internal polling showing the difference between the two candidates is within a couple of points, but it had a high margin of error and internal polls are often unreliable. Why more independent polling was left out of the story we can only guess. It wasn’t hard to find out about them.

The national media is describing the race as Bachmann’s biggest challenge yet. They may be right, but at the moment it’s more media narrative than fact. True, Bachmann won the race in 2010 over Taryl Clark easily (by almost 13%), and far more moderate cities were in the district back then.

But her toughest yet? Not yet.

That would be 2008, when El Tinklenberg came just 12,000 votes from ending Bachmann’s political career, thanks in large part to a last minute Bachmann gaffe in which she questioned the patriotism of Barack Obama, in a district where some of the larger cities voted Obama. Those cities have now been banished to the 4th District.

The article notes that DFLers think the chances of knocking off Bachmann are better this year because there’s no third party candidate to siphon independent votes, but by ignoring the two independent polls, the fact that independents are nearly evenly split between Bachmann and Graves goes unstated.

The fact Bachmann is in a close race at all in a district that was tailor-made for a Republican does show a vulnerability not previously calculated. However, the polls also show that there aren’t many who haven’t already made up their mind in the race and both polls showed that even if all the few undecideds go with Bachmann’s challenger, it doesn’t put him over the top. That doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen, of course, but the extent of the challenge can’t be minimized for dramatic effect.

Drash on Twitter referred to his story as “a fun little story,” but here in flyover country, it’s a pretty serious sort of thing.