TAUNTON, Mass., Oct. 22, 2010 — -- With a Republican opponent coming uncomfortably close in the polls, Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank has dipped into his own savings to fund his re-election fight, one of the toughest races he's faced in 30 years in the House.
Frank gave $200,000 to his campaign from his personal retirement savings, a move he said would sting if he didn't think he'd get it back.
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"I believe I'll get that back; these are loans," said Frank. "But at the last minute, we got this flood of right-wing money coming in, and I don't intend to be intimidated by it."
Frank's opponent is a previously unknown 35-year-old ex-Marine named Sean Bielat. He's been able to out-raise Frank this month thanks to help from national conservatives like Sarah Palin, who touted Bielat on her Facebook page.
"The climate is certainly in our favor," Bielat said. "We have got momentum. The money is coming in."
For decades, Frank has enjoyed a firm grip on his Massachusetts seat, but the powerful House member faces rising voter discontent.
"There's a lot of anxiety, and he has become a symbol for them as part of the problem," said Frank Phillips, State House bureau chief for the Boston Globe.
Outside of his own race, Frank certainly is not bullish on the Democrats' prospect of retaining control of the House. He wouldn't give a prediction today when asked about Democrats' odds.
"If it was me, I wouldn't ask people questions when I knew I wasn't going to get an objective answer," Frank said.
With his national profile as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank has been a frequent target of commentators like Glenn Beck and some in the Tea Party movement.
"The Tea Party has said I'm their no. 1 target," Frank said. "I decided I was not going to let the Tea Party and the right wing win."
The latest polling shows that Frank still has a 12-point lead over Bielat, but he's been working hard for those votes. In addition to the loan, Frank has been campaigning so much that he's nearly lost his voice, sounding raspy today while speaking to ABC News.
Frank thinks his response should be a model for other Democrats facing tough challengers.
"I regret very much, frankly, the failure of some of my Democratic colleagues to fight back," Frank said.