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. M

    She lied to get ahead and never provided any legislation other than the retaining old fashioned bulb – is this the rise you are takling about. This is the perfect example of the stupidity of the current GOP and I hope it continues with another equally competant GOP Candidate..

    May 29, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  2. ReggieMoto

    Palin's gone...check! Bachmann's gone...check! Pelosi has to be next!

    Aren't there any intelligent women available to take their places?

    May 29, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  3. Thinkergal

    She can help "save and protect this great nation..." by going rapidly into oblivion.

    May 29, 2013 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  4. RP

    I am a liberal. That said, I will donate money to a "Palin, Bachmann" or vice versa ticket.
    I would go as far as accepting this as irrefutable proof to the existance of a good, generous, loving God.

    May 29, 2013 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  5. skytag

    If Republicans have any sense they'll let Bachmann fade into the past even faster than George Bush. This woman is nuts, a pathological liar, and an embarrassment to the Republican party.

    May 29, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  6. BFC

    I expect to see her on FOX, or as a well-paid lobbyist in Washington, or both.

    May 29, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  7. Hail, Hail! The Queen O' The Crazy Is Forfeiting Her Crown!

    Can you stop using the term "Dumb Broad" please? Dumb Broads everywhere are getting incensed by the comparison.

    May 29, 2013 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  8. KevininPHX

    Finally. Bachmann does something to contribute to the good of the country. Good riddance!!!

    May 29, 2013 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  9. brian

    She was just a brazen loud mouth. For some reason the news media like such people.

    May 29, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  10. Jack Be Humble

    I wish her a lucrative post-congressional life as a public speaker, straightener of gays, Focks News Analyst, and eventually a lobbyist. I am glad for Minnesota that this little lost lamb is finding her way home.

    May 29, 2013 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  11. A Linoge

    Michele Bachmann is hot! ...said the blind, deaf guy.

    May 29, 2013 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  12. Mona

    Will miracles never cease? Woo-hoo! Now for sure, for sure, there is absolutely no conceit in her family, for she truly
    has it all! All those brazen statements she's made, I won't miss them, will you?

    May 29, 2013 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  13. Walrus Mustache

    This woman is a hater whack-job.
    good-bye and please never come back!

    May 29, 2013 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  14. Alan

    Just like with Obama being an alderman then Senator for 178 days with NOT ONE ONCE of experience, people like Bachman, Palin are given legitimacy by the news organization like CNN. For a fact, this country was stripped of a golden opportunity for a true leader like Hillary (any woman who can stand by her husband like she did, later serve the great state of NY, then have the class to serve effectively as Sec of State – although the dysfunctional Congress can't even agree to pay the countries bills let alone fund embassy security properly) was stripped away by the likes of:

    1. Howard "Yee haw" Dean former Democratic Party fund leader
    2, Harry "In Search light" Reid
    3. Nancy "No Nuts" Pelosi
    4. and CNN

    jammed Obama down this countries throats....people like Bachman (Turner Overdrive) were given a voice when they should have been shown the political door. "Using America" has got to cease, please – the world is laughing at our homeless, and pitting us because of our Dysfunctional Politicians like Bachmann

    May 29, 2013 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  15. Greenspam

    First Palin, now Bachman... is GOP anti-women?

    May 29, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  16. David

    Most people agree she is a moran

    May 29, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  17. garwin1

    She didn't leave a legacy, she left a stain.

    May 29, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  18. BO

    Joe Biden makes Bachmann look like a stateswoman.

    May 29, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  19. Rick S.

    Now you all know she is going to be able to walk right into a multi-million dollar contract with Fox News.

    May 29, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    She is just goofy.

    May 29, 2013 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  21. Steve R

    As a Democrat, I am disappointed with her decision. She could always be counted on to say something that helped us. Still plenty of nuts on the GOP tree. Just one less.

    May 29, 2013 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  22. squeeky

    I was hoping to read some of her fabulous foot fungus statements. How about how you can become ret@rded with vaccines, you can cure the ghey away, or how about the famous "government spent its wad by April 26.” bahaha there are many, many more.

    May 29, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  23. Dave The Rave

    The 6th District of Minnesota will have one less idiot. I cannot remember anything positive or thoughtful that came from her lips in the entire time she spoke. However, the one person that will really suffer from her departure will be Jon Stewart. She was just too easy to ridicule.

    May 29, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  24. ssmith

    Another tea partier quits on her followers. Palin, Demint, now Bachman. In two years time, people won't even be able to recall her name. Helen Chenoweth anyone?

    May 29, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  25. Bob

    Since she already started running campaign ads, this was obviously not planned. That means some major scandal is about to come out. So what will it be? Misuse of public election funds? Scamming the government with her phony "pray the gay away" clinic? Congressional votes for kickbacks? Abuse charges from one her prop foster kids? Husband finally coming out of the closet? Come on, CNN! There's obviously something more to this. Start digging.

    May 29, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
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