There are few Houses races in the 2012 cycle with more uncertainty than Minnesota's 6th district. The Republican presidential primary and a redistricting stalemate have kept that campaign in second gear.
Rep. Michele Bachmann created a stir last summer when she suspended her Congressional re-election campaign while running for president.
There was a legal logic behind the Republican's decision — Minnesota law forbids a candidate from running for two different federal office nominations within the same major party. But as the tea party darling has slid in the presidential polls and the Congressional races are ramping up, there is "a lot of chatter" in the 6th about Bachmann's future, as one Minnesota Republican put it.
Redistricting "gives her more time" to consider re-election, should Bachmann not be her party's presidential nominee, a state Republican operative said. The political class back home will be "patient," he said.
"I don't think voters are bothered by her presidential campaign," the operative said. "There might be some consequences, but most people understand that it brings more good than bad to the district."
The big date on the electoral calendar is the 6th district convention on April 14. Candidates attend district conventions before the official primary and lobby for their local party's endorsement. The winner of the endorsement usually becomes the nominee.
It is theoretically feasible for a candidate to not participate in (or even lose) the convention and go on to win the primary.
But even then, the party is willing to accommodate Bachmann if she were to be involved in a protracted presidential primary. A candidate need not formally file ahead of the convention.
"There is a possibility of ... rescheduling the convention if there are extenuating circumstances," such as the incumbent running for president, 6th district Republican Party Chairman David FitzSimmons said.
While Minnesota Republicans echo that Bachmann has their full support should she run for re-election, contingency plans are being hatched. Both local and national GOP officials insist a strong bench is ready to go in the event Bachmann doesn't run, and they say some "are getting prepared" to jump into the race. But even as the preparations are being made, the tone is deferential. Last summer, when Bachmann suspended her Congressional campaign, several potential Republican candidates expressed initial interest in running. Former gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer said in June he would be "open" to considering a run if Bachmann bowed out.
Other Republicans in the wings are state House Majority Leader Matt Dean, state Rep. Chris DeLaForest and former state Rep. Phil Krinkie.
Six months later, Emmer told Roll Call that talking about his interest would be "disrespectful" and would not be "appropriate."