WASHINGTON -- Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) barely held onto her seat in the 2012 election, defeating Democrat Jim Graves by just over 1 percent of the vote in one of the closest House races of the cycle. Now, mere months into Bachmann's new term, Graves is seeking a rematch in 2014 -- and this time he's confident Minnesota voters have reached a tipping point with the embattled congresswoman, whose antics have drawn criticism from members of her own party.
"People are tired of her antagonistic, propagating gridlock," Graves said in an interview with The Huffington Post Friday, a day after he announced his plans to challenge Bachmann again. "A lot of people come up to me and say we're kind of embarrassed by our representation in Washington."
The hotel executive came within 4,300 votes of ousting Bachmann from Congress last November, a result he partially attributed to joining the race too late in the game. Bachmann also outspent Graves by a 12-to-1 margin in one of the cycle's most expensive congressional campaigns.
Since then, Bachmann has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Her failed 2012 presidential campaign is at the center of an ethics investigation. Conservatives slammed her for questioning President Barack Obama's personal expenses, and comments she made about Obamacare killing people were also scrutinized.
Graves said Bachmann's propensity to make such "outrageous statements" underscores why his campaign has a better shot securing her departure in 2014. "They're sick of the showmanship," he said, adding that Bachmann likes to create headlines rather than legislate.
Bachmann campaign spokesman Dan Kotman hit back. "It's 19 months away from the election, and Jim Graves is already stooping to personal attacks and slinging mud -- how sad and desperate. No amount of multimillion-dollar smear campaigns can hide the fact that Jim Graves is out of touch with the 6th District because he supports the Obama-Pelosi agenda of higher taxes and runaway government spending," Kotman said Friday.
The Republican Party of Minnesota released a statement Thursday after Graves announced his campaign: "Democrat Jim Graves said during the last campaign 'If we've ever had a chance to defeat Bachmann, this is it.' Congresswoman Bachmann prevailed in 2012 and she will again in 2014."
Graves said he plans to focus on job creation, drawing on his own experience as a businessman and hotel founder. He was reluctant to pinpoint precise issues where Bachmann could be vulnerable, but offered up one vote that might come back to haunt her.
Earlier this year, Bachmann voted against the Violence Against Women Act -- the only member of Minnesota's congressional delegation to do so.
"She votes against women's interests and continuously voted on the wrong side of the issue," Graves said, noting that hard-right tactics might work for fundraising but won't play well with voters.
"You alienate yourself from your own people," he said. "If you're an island, how are you going to get things done for your district?"
CORRECTION: 10:26 p.m. -- An earlier version of this article contained a transcription error that misquoted Jim Graves as characterizing Bachmann's gridlock as "paganistic." Graves actually used the word "antagonistic." The error has been corrected.