May 29th, 2013
12:48 PM ET
9 years 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. Rudy NYC

    Her legacy will be short and simple. "Sarah Palin Wannabe"

    May 29, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  2. just askin

    when she's gone, who's gonna take on the job of yankin' the chains of all the lefties???

    May 29, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  3. Duke

    In glorious 4 part harmony, with Backing by the nearest orchestra... Ding Dong, the witch is dead the witch is dead, Ding Dong, the wicked witch is deaaaaaaad!!!!

    May 29, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  4. rs

    No one (and especially the GOP) should feel bad about Ms. Bachmann's decision. She represented the very worst of the GOP. The fact-free, tinfoil hat craziness that seems to represent a sizeable portion of the GOP's base- the very behavior that is rapidly making the GOP unelectable.
    It says legions about how bad off the GOP is that people like Bachmann and Palin (never mind the Issas, Cruzs and Ryans and others still in their club) ever represented what should have been main stream America.
    Make no mistake, these sorts of folks are the worst form of anti-Americans out there, and we need to remember come election time, that the GOP wanted us to vote for these nuts.

    May 29, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  5. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Her legacy should make an extremely short book...

    May 29, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  6. bill

    Just like Sara, she will make more money out of government, her books will soon be out. All things come to an end, she will fade away just like Sara.

    May 29, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  7. Sniffit

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

    That's because you can't win a campaign for POTUS without talking.

    May 29, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. Michael

    Good, now she can go to where she belongs, the asylum or jail. MN will have a hard time finding as big a whack-job as Bachmann to replace her, TX already got Ted Cruz.

    May 29, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    "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.

    Resigning is the best thing she can do for the country. Simple-minded extremism is what's hurting this nation the most.

    May 29, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Bachmann's legacy: FACTUALLY CHALLENGED

    May 29, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  11. Bretfox

    Just because you didn't win the most powerful position in the world is no reason to pack up your toys and go home. The fun was just beginning. Get back in their gal and give em some more hell. We need you.

    May 29, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  12. Bretfox

    Just because you didn't win the most powerful position in the world is no reason to pack up your toys and go home. The fun was just beginning. Get back in there gal and kick some you know what. We need you.

    May 29, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  13. good riddance

    Good riddance to a phycho, out to lunch and dinner(missed breakfast too)member of congress. She is the poster child for crazy radical republican members of congress that are holding the country back by doing nothing but obstructing.

    May 29, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  14. The Elephant in the Room

    Bachmann`s lelacy will be that she was CONSTANTLY a "truth-challenged", factually erroneous, bigmouth who drank her own bath-water and though it tasted good!

    Her legacy will be that she was the death knell for the "Tea Party Republicans" to ever have a chance at being taken seriously. Finally, after "I`m not a Witch" [O`Donnell] and "Don`t Retreat . . . Reload" [Palin], Michelle Bachmann marks the last IDIOT that women will tolerate sullying their gender in the field of politics. The trilogy is complete.

    May 29, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  15. swej

    People will remember her if at all her for being wrong most of the time.

    May 29, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. ST

    What goes up always comes down. She reached at a level of being one of the GOP contenders in 2012, BUT the Center of Gravity has brought her down. What I can only say is: Ciao Sg. Bachmann, you were here and there is nothing good to be recorded about your presence.

    May 29, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. Marie MD

    Does her vision of she had to marry Marcus count? Hiding in the bushes at a gay rally? Her family receiving farm subsidies from the government ($250,000) while trying to keep others from doing so? "Praying" that Obamacare fails while leaving congress with a hefty pension and medical insurance for life for doing absolutely nothing, zero, zip, nada?
    Receiving money from Medicare for that pray away "christian" clinic of her husband's that he refuses to use?
    Her Muslim/ eogherhood attack, with no facts to back it up, against Huma Abedin? Global warming is a hoax? Carbon dioxide is natural and not harmful? The $1.4B Obama gets in perks and excess? If we cared we would cure Alzheimer's in ten years? Deal with the debt by taking everyone,, including most tea trolls if you look at who has time to waste against the same government who,pays your monthly quota, , off Social Security?
    I could go on and on but I wouldn't want to offend god because she talks to him all the time! What I will miss most is making fun of her and her lunacy.

    May 29, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  18. Thomas

    Time's woman of century ?

    Michele Bachmann / Anita Bryant

    Girls without brains !

    May 29, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  19. BLKmanWHOvotes

    M. Bachmann's legacy one of WDC biggest LIERS.

    May 29, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  20. Panam47

    Great, hope more Repubs follow her out the door and help their country get something done for a change.

    May 29, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  21. BCW

    Wow, she is saying good-bye to the "Gangster Government". I am sure FOXnews will love to have her as their contributor and pay her big money just like Palin. Her new tell-all book must include plenty of governemnt conspiracy and scandles from Mars.

    May 29, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  22. Larry

    There is a god and she is Democrat!

    May 29, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. GOP witch hunt is not over yet

    This just in : Fox News reports Bachmann has already taken a job in Mexico, it involves a donkey.

    May 29, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. PJ

    She is going to make lots of money curing gays and making them straight.

    May 29, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  25. bill

    may she rest in peace. who will we have to invent facts, now that she is leaving? i would say she saw the writing on the wall and decided to leave before she got defeated by someone reasonable, logical and fact-based.

    May 29, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
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