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Voters Unsure About Bachmann's Dual Citizenship


One Congressional Republican who consistently opposes the president has made some unexpected headlines. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann made a failed presidential run this year. She's a go-to Republican for conservative radio and television programs. And as it turns out, the proudly American Bachmann is also a full-fledged citizen of Switzerland. Mark Zdechlik of Minnesota Public Radio explains.

MARK ZDECHLIK, BYLINE: A large America flag waves high above the Forest Lake Minnesota American Legion. Inside, over the lunch hour, a TV is blaring news that the member of Congress who represents this area is a full-blown Swiss citizen.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Here's an interesting story we found about Representative Michele Bachmann. She now has dual citizenship...

ZDECHLIK: When asked what they think about Bachmann's dual Swiss-U.S. citizenship, legion patrons produce puzzled looks.

RICHARD MCKERNON: Why would she?

ZDECHLIK: Richard McKernon lives in Forest Lake and says he's voted for Bachmann in previous elections. When pressed, McKernon makes it clear the news Bachmann is as much a Swiss citizen as an American, it doesn't faze him.

MCKERNON: What has it got to do with me living here in the United States? Nothing. If she wants to hold that citizenship, more power to her.

ZDECHLIK: But Dawn Person, who says she too has voted for Bachmann, disagrees. She's not happy to hear about Bachmann's dual citizenship and indicates it could cost Bachmann her support.

DAWN PERSON: You should have one citizenship only and then you should just concentrate on where you are and what your, you know, whole political thing is.

ZDECHLIK: A Swiss TV station broke the story of Bachmann's Swiss citizenship Tuesday. Tracking down Bachmann in front of her congressional office as several visiting members of the Swiss Parliament looked on, the European reporter told Bachmann she could now run for office in Switzerland.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: Well, as you can see, there's a lot of competition behind me that I would have to run against and it would be very stiff because they're very good.

ZDECHLIK: A spokesman for the Swiss embassy in Washington says Michele Bachmann has technically been a Swiss citizen since the day she married her husband Marcus in the late 1970s. Marcus' parents were Swiss-born. But the spokesman says the Bachmanns applied to be registered as Swiss citizens in February. That application was approved in March.

Bachmann opponents often accuse her of neglecting her Minnesota constituents in favor of national political ambitions. Her Democratic challenger, Jim Graves, issued a brief statement calling news of Bachmann's dual-citizenship a distraction. Graves also noted that he and his family are proud to be Americans.

While Bachmann joked about the competition she might face running for office in Switzerland, Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier says the story could be problematic for Bachmann's reelection effort in Minnesota.

STEVEN SCHIER: These are not the sort of questions a congressional candidate should be fielding.

ZDECHLIK: Bachmann was largely absent from Minnesota during her GOP presidential campaign, and redistricting left Bachmann's home several miles out of the congressional district she's running for reelection in.

SCHIER: Her opponents will try to make it into a narrative indicating that Michele Bachmann is out of touch with the people of the 6th District because she doesn't live in the district and has now claimed citizenship in another country.

ZDECHLIK: In the U.S., Bachmann has been an outspoken opponent of government-mandated health insurance and same-sex marriage. But as a Swiss citizen, will she oppose that country's health insurance mandate or its relatively new law giving registered same-sex partners the same legal rights and protections as married heterosexual couples?

For NPR News, I'm Mark Zdechlik in St. Paul.


GREENE: The Swiss national anthem on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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