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Bachmann campaign gets mixed reception at fair

From Gary Tuchman and Ismael Estrada, CNN
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Inside the Bachmann campaign
  • Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is a heroine and a villain to constituents
  • The adoration and anger at state fair are a sign that the political season is in full swing
  • Bachmann's challenger says her opponent plays out of the "Karl Rove playbook"

St. Paul, Minnesota (CNN) -- It's 3 p.m. on a busy weekday afternoon at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul.

Deep in the crowd of people enjoying buckets of chocolate chip cookies and fried corn dogs is two-term Rep. Michele Bachmann. The mother of five and foster parent to 23 others runs past fair-goers including parents pushing strollers to get to her next spot on conservative radio.

"We need to move quickly!" shouts one of her staff members. "We're on in two minutes!"

As she and her staff move briskly through the crowd, people shout both encouragement and insults at Bachmann. The Republican lawmaker has become a heroine and villain to voters in her 6th District because of controversial statements about the Obama administration, gay rights and taxes.

The adoration and anger in the air are a sign that the political season is in full swing, and every politician here understands the importance of getting out and talking to voters at the fair.

Bachmann tweets about the large crowds watching and listening to her while she's on with conservative radio host Michael Medved. Outside the booth, people cheer her charge that President Obama ran as a center-right candidate but has governed from the left. Others roll their eyes and shout at her while she's behind the glass.

Bachmann carefully selects her interviews, agreeing only to the outlets her camp considers friendly. A Fox News camera crew who conducted a lengthy sit-down interview with Bachmann follows her. CNN's request for a sit-down interview was denied.

This is not a surprise, says radio talk show host Jason Lewis, on whose show Bachmann has been a guest for years.

"You don't need the gatekeepers anymore. The word is going to get out there," he said. "This is no longer the Walter Cronkite era. It's not like if you don't talk to the New York Times or CBS, you will be stifled. It's not the case anymore."

Bachmann put the fair at center stage this year with a political ad attacking her opponent in the general election, state Sen. Tarryl Clark. The ad says Clark voted to increase taxes on beer, corn dogs and fried bacon at the state fair.

Clark calls the claim a complete exaggeration. She says she voted to give voters in Minnesota the right to decide themselves whether they wanted tax increases, but she did not vote to increase their taxes.

"She has her own way of doing things, which is out of the Karl Rove playbook, and I've never seen her do anything else," said Clark, who was also campaigning at the fair. "She's a bright woman. She's doing everything she's doing on purpose."

As Bachmann finishes her radio interview, one of her staffers attempts unsuccessfully to prevent CNN's cameras from following her to her next stop at the public fair. Eventually, CNN is granted a question to which Bachmann answers her strategy for this race is simple: Work hard to let the voters know what she has done while in office.

"I don't take it for granted," Bachmann says before she runs to her next appointment. "I don't take any election for granted."