Michele Bachmann's career in politics
May 29th, 2013
12:48 PM ET
11 months ago

Bachmann's legacy: What a difference a few years can make

Washington (CNN) - Two years ago, Rep. Michele Bachmann rode the tea party wave and GOP opposition to Obamacare all the way to front-runner status in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

The next two years, however, didn't play out so well.

Her presidential campaign soon faltered. She almost lost a close bid for re-election last year. And then she came under an ethics cloud as investigators looked into her campaign spending.

But none of that, she said, were reasons why the four-term congresswoman from Minnesota announced Wednesday that she won't run for re-election in 2014.

Bachmann, known for her incendiary comments and misstatements, has had a knack for finding the spotlight, be it good or bad. But a dearth of legislative accomplishments has many people asking what her legacy will be and how will history treat her.

"Rep. Bachmann will always be known as an the outspoken opponent to Obamacare who helped ignite the tea party movement in Washington. At the same time, she will also be known for making over the top statements that sometimes took the Republican party establishment off message for her own benefit," says GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, who was senior adviser to former House Speaker Denny Hastert and to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

Republican strategist and CNN contributor Kevin Madden says Bachmann definitely made an impression.

"Legacy is usually more associated with a Sam Rayburn or Joseph Cannon, but Bachmann has certainly left an impression. She cut a new media profile in a digital age, which helped her develop a national following in a way many other rank-and-file members of Congress can't."

"Certainly when folks look back at the tea-party and its impact on national politics, Michele Bachmann's work with organizing that caucus will be remembered," adds Madden, who was a senior aide to Mitt Romney in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns and previously was press secretary to then-House Majority Leader John Boehner.

In a video announcing her decision, Bachmann said that concerns about her re-election next year were not an issue.

"Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected to Congress," she declared.

But Bachmann underperformed last year, winning re-election by less than 5,000 votes in a district that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney easily carried. Her opponent last year, Democrat Jim Graves, has already announced that he would challenge her again in 2014, national Democrats were already targeting her, and Bachmann had already begun running re-election ads earlier this month, more than a year and a half before the next election.

And while Bachmann faces investigations both inside and out of Congress into her alleged improper transfer of presidential campaign funds, she said "rest assured, this decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff."

So what was Bachmann's impact?

When it comes to the 2012 race for the White House, her entry helped knock fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty, the state's former governor, out of the race. After Bachmann came out on top in the much-watched Ames, Iowa straw poll in August 2011, Pawlenty folded his campaign.

But her best day in her presidential bid was immediately eclipsed by the announcement the same day by Texas Gov. Rick Perry that he was jumping into GOP field. Bachmann was soon overshadowed by Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum and called it quits after a sixth place finish in the Iowa caucuses in January 2012.

Bachmann will also be known for her ties to the tea party movement. She was one of the founders and leaders of the House tea party caucus and in 2011 gave the first tea party response to the president's state of the union address.

But her success with grassroots conservatives outside the Beltway was not matched with much legislative success on Capitol Hill. And Bachmann wasn't a real player in the House GOP conference, which she often criticized. But House Republican leaders were hesitant to criticize her because her popularity with the tea party movement. And House Speaker John Boehner named her to the high profile Intelligence committee early in 2011, an appointment she often touted on the presidential campaign trail.

While Bachmann announced she won't run for re-election, she's still around on Capitol Hill for the next year and a half, and congressional Democrats will continue to use her as a punching bag.

"Michele Bachmann's tea party brand of extremism and obstruction have infected the entire Republican Congress, and her influence shows no signs of waning," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee press secretary Emily Bittner. "This Republican Congress will continue to turn off Americans of all political stripes because they're using the Bachmann playbook: put politics before solutions."

As for what's next, Bachmann isn't ruling anything out, even a return to politics.

"There is no future option or opportunity, be it directly in the political area or otherwise, that I won't be giving serious consideration if it can help save and protect our great nation for future generations," she said in her video.

CNN Senior Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this story


Filed under: Congress • Michele Bachmann • Minnesota
soundoff (421 Responses)
  1. steve851

    No one did more to undermine the Tea Party with her big government social issues. A statist if there ever was one. She was the antithesis of Tea Party, but people are low information so she got away with her ridiculous rhetoric that she was Tea Party. Good riddance.

    May 30, 2013 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  2. snowdogg

    Her legacy? Giving great "corn dog" of course!

    May 30, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  3. Cooper

    Bachmann's legacy? With enough money, even stupid people can be elected to Congress.

    May 30, 2013 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  4. Carl from up the street

    " incendiary comments and misstatements" = LIES
    "over the top statements" = LIES

    C'mon CNN, call them they were - LIES. Outright and blatant LIES. There's no other way around it.

    Bachmann will be remembered for being the lying, homosexual-hating bigot loser idiot that she is.

    May 30, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  5. KieranH

    Her legacy? Performing like an annoying twit.....

    May 30, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  6. Just a thought

    The shiny idiot thing that attracts all the knuckle draggers supporting the GOP/Tea Clown Party. If we didn't have such a large number of idiots in this country, these people would never see the light of day.

    May 30, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  7. Parfin Woodell

    Cruella DeVille
    Cruella DeVille
    if she doesn't bite you
    nobody will.

    May 30, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  8. jeff

    Replace her name with "Paul Wellstone" and all these comments are still just as true!

    May 30, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  9. george

    And now a word on Michele Bachmann from a far left liberal.

    "Michele Bachmann's tea party brand of extremism and obstruction have infected the entire Republican Congress, and her influence shows no signs of waning," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee press secretary Emily Bittner.

    May 30, 2013 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  10. marty in MA

    ignore her

    May 30, 2013 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  11. Bitteroldman

    Textbook definition of irony: Bachmann as a member of the House Intelligence committee

    May 30, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  12. sally

    She is looney and the people who voted for her are looney. You get the government your vote for or don't vote for if you are too sorry to get out and vote!

    May 30, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  13. Stephen

    Next stop, Playboy.

    May 30, 2013 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  14. Ding Dong The Wi tch is G one

    I she doesn't move to kansas as a house could fall on her there..... All the Dorothy's of the World are now cheering that that this Totto looking mon ster is gone. I am sure that Saturday Night Live will miss her as much as Palin. I only hope that Faux news has a spot for her to keep the republicans happy to hear Du m and Dummer..... (Thats this lady and Sarah Palin of course)

    May 30, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  15. Renee G

    Good riddance !!! ignorance is her legacy

    May 30, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  16. D ing D ong The W i tch is G one

    I she doesn't move to kansas as a house could fall on her there..... All the Dorothy's of the World are now cheering that that this To tto looking mon ster is gone. I am sure that Saturday Night Live will miss her as much as Pa lin. I only hope that Fa ux ne ws has a spot for her to keep the rep ublicans happy to hear Du m and Du mmer..... (Thats this lady and Sa rah Pali n of course)

    May 30, 2013 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  17. CYA Later...

    Wow you will be missed by SNL. I am sure the other comedy show of fiction Faux News is ready to hire. :-0

    May 30, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  18. cmcle

    A legacy of lunacy!

    May 30, 2013 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  19. Dan Ari

    She was a self-serving fool. See: politician

    May 30, 2013 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  20. DemsRdim

    Ah, the the ramblings of the boorish and idiotic leftists, statists, and mentally incompetent. It should sadden all REAL Americans they let morons like this vote!

    May 30, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  21. steve

    People replying to this location yesterday were indicating they felt people were being disrespectful towards Representative. Bachman in some fashion when indicating they were happy to see her go, and that she was a blight on the U.S., etc. Well, I am *not* here in anyway to say anything directly negative about Representative Bachman. Rather, I will report a brief article I heard this morning on NPR in which they had asked a political expert what her legacy would be. The woman they asked indicated that Representative Bachman would not be known for any particular legislation she created, but that she would be remembered instead for criticizing President Barack Obama, and causing headaches for the Republican party. If this is the legacy that Michelle Bachman leaves, do the comments sound as derogatory by others? Perhaps not as much. There are derogatory uses that could be reduced, no question about this. But, to be remembered this way is not a very positive legacy to leave. :/

    May 30, 2013 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
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