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. bankrupt1

    Strong points were exposing Merck and telling people that they should take note of how many congresspeople act in the best interest of foreign countries. Weak on gay rights.

    May 29, 2013 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  2. Truck

    The party of Nancy Pelosi going gaga.Minnesota elected Al Franken,the 60th vote on Oblammycare. For the funny side of Oblammycare click here,you'll laugh yourself sick.....

    May 29, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  3. roofle

    Good to know that misogyny is alive and well even in progressive circles. ^_^

    May 29, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  4. mogran

    She beats the heck out of the dem's Pelosi...they do everything thing except charge her with treason while they try to convince us Pelosi is genuine...hahaha...Bachmann has integrity, something Pelosi has NEVER had.

    May 29, 2013 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  5. IvotedforObama

    Being a complete and utter joke is her legacy.

    May 29, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  6. carloooos

    Her legacy...yet another nut case politician. And I say that with deep respect.

    May 29, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  7. Ron Umeri

    She is useless and a liar. She is leaving because she would lose if she ran again and is in hot water over the campaign scandal. Never offered anything positive.

    May 29, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  8. Ron

    The Republicans are probably breathing a bit easier, but may be holding their breaths to see what damage her next moves can cause.

    May 29, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  9. RickFromTexas

    Oh come on guys, maybe she just wants to spend more time with her family, you know, shut down a few rape pregnancies with her body.

    May 29, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  10. Kevin H

    Michelle Bachmann has consistently been a provocateur. When she couldn't find something genuine to talk about she made it up as she went along. The Tea Party loves that style of politics. Shoot from the hip, be a braggadocio and don't worry about any of the details. She's "enraged" about Benghazi – all the Republicans are enraged about Benghazi. Where were they during the budget appropriation cycle when fortifying the embassy might have been advisable? Where were they when the State Department needed more money for security? I'm sorry Bachmann and her ilk are all about finding the cause for issues when the cause is in their own backyard.

    May 29, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Well, she did say she's moving out of Minnesota because she's expecting some type of apocalypse there due to their marriage equality law...haha

    May 29, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  12. james Pfeiffer

    Bachmann is a perfect example of why the Republicans are, for the most part, marching on the wrong side of history. They are anti-middle and lower class, anti-gay, anti-public education, pro-big corporations, anti-environmental protection, dismissive of global warming, pro assault weapons without background checks, pro concealed carry, anti-family planning, anti-women, anti-equal pay for women, anti-union, anti-raising the minimum wage, pro vouchers for private schools while systematically taking away more and more funds from public education, anti-immigrant, nauseum...Oh yes, Bachmann will find a home via Fox news along with huge speaking fees spreading her silly, myopic fodder to the zeolots, the fearful and the haters.

    May 29, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  13. crgeary

    Dishonesty and hypocrisy and she claims to be a Christian. For a politician, that is probably a requirement.

    May 29, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  14. BD70

    By the way...she can leave the benefits behind.

    May 29, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  15. Bob

    Legacy – mobilizing far right wack-jobs into the tea party – she must be so proud.

    May 29, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  16. g

    She is a crackpot. that is her legacy

    May 29, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  17. OldMo

    I don't agree with everything MB said or did but as the soulless, traitorous puppets who head both parties race the US towards tyranny it's shocking that she's one of the people who are on the receiving end of such venom. Actually maybe it's not so shocking because you have to have a ton of immoral, ignorant, indoctrinated fools plodding through life in an almost narcoleptic state to get to where we are in society. Not enough people are capable of being woken up to stop what's coming our way.

    May 29, 2013 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  18. Dede42

    Nothing good, of that I am sure. Her "legacy," as it was put, amounts to her spouting off about things she has no knowledge or facts, Her district in Minnesota is the most teapublican of any. She is being investigated, again. Her only purpose in life appears to have been a strong desire to stir the pot. She has a long record of misstating the facts to suit her political agenda, and often down right lying about the facts. Her criticisms of President Obama have been her only way to attack the Democrats. If the teapublicans had won in 2012 she would be busy covering their derriere and pronouncing their good deeds in her view. And she would still be denouncing the Democrats. She is the modern day female equivalent to Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. I have nothing good to say about her and I live in her state. We have been wishing she would go away for years, and now it seems like it will come to pass after all. She is an embarrassment to the people of Minnesota. She took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and all she has down her entire time in office has been to shred it. Can you tell I will be happy when she is gone.

    May 29, 2013 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  19. Pander Bear

    Her legacy will be having promoted unabashed stupidity and willful ignorance to a prime public spot in the political dialogue. In that sense she was an apt spokesperson for the Tea Party.

    May 29, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  20. logicnothuff

    God bless Patriot Bachmann.

    May 29, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  21. droffilc

    WOW, that crazy broad is finally gone. I would be too with a record like that.........

    May 29, 2013 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  22. Margaret

    Her legacy is hatred of anything different, intolerance, and ignorance. It's alright to be stupid.

    May 29, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  23. Sam Adams

    Forrest Gump was right.

    May 29, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  24. sookie

    . i only hope we dont have to hear from her again. but her and annie oakley well get press time for the wrong reasons.

    May 29, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  25. baffledbyyourignorance

    She lives in a bubble with a bunch of other religious wackos. Stupid is as stupid does.

    May 29, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
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