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Only a couple of weeks ago Michele Bachmann's grip on the Sixth Congressional District seemed shaky after she questioned the patriotism of Sen. Barack Obama and other members of Congress.

But the Republican incumbent had nothing to fear from the voters of rural Chatham Township in Wright County.

"I was damn proud of her," said Matt Schuveiller, 24, a heavy equipment operator. "I thought that was something that needed to be said. I don't think she should have apologized for that."

Bachmann didn't apologize. She went on to win reelection to Congress, defeating Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg 46 percent to 43 percent and proving again that she's hard to beat in the conservative district.

"It was a case of her suffering badly and then recovering really effectively," said Steven Smith, a political science professor at Washington University in St. Louis, an expert on congressional politics. He also is from the Sixth District.

Smith cited several keys to her victory:

• "Late money isn't as good as early money." About $1.9 million poured into Tinklenberg's campaign from people angered at Bachmann's comment on Oct. 17 that Obama "may have anti-American views." It bought him ads, but not time. "If he had earlier money it might have helped him gain some momentum."

• Bachmann responded to her predicament with ads accusing Tinklenberg of cronyism more than six years ago as state commissioner of transportation and of favoring higher taxes. "That tore him down," Smith said.

• Bachmann won support for her vote against the $700 billion financial rescue package. "A 'no' vote is always the safe vote in politics, because you can explain away your position in any way you want."

• Unendorsed Independence Party candidate Bob Anderson -- who won 10 percent of the vote -- undercut Tinklenberg's endorsement from that party. "There's no doubt that Anderson hurt Tinklenberg," Smith said.

Tinklenberg spokesman John Wodele agreed about Anderson's impact. "He got 5 percent more than we had hoped he would," Wodele said.

Tinklenberg won Stearns, Washington and Benton counties. Bachmann took Anoka, Sherburne and Wright. In Wright, she rolled up her biggest margin, 13 percentage points. In Chatham Township, she won 453 to 261.

Schuveiller thinks Bachmann's televised remarks on patriotism helped her win over others in his township, and her opposition to the financial rescue package "played particularly well in our areas. ... I thought they should just let Wall Street dump."

Bachmann critics may view her as a polarizing figure, but Schuveiller likes her style. "She's a real firecracker," he said.

Pat Doyle • 651-222-1210