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. David G

    She made "Lucy Ricardo" look like a Rocket Scientist"...

    May 29, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  2. allens

    truly ignorant. the country thanks her for her decision

    May 29, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    If you don't have a reason to vote you have a reason now ......all that energy wasted to generate hate... hope she enroll in a history class to learn something!

    May 29, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  4. Pam

    She brought forth all the idiocy, bigotry and insane views of the GOP. She didn't even pretend to be a decent person. She's a lunatic and because she is the tea baggers darling, that says everything about the tea baggers. I hope she goes to prison.

    May 29, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  5. gahh

    Look for Bachmann on Fox News. Maybe they'll put her, and Palin on the same warped show, to see who lies the best.

    May 29, 2013 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  6. Chris

    Only in the Twilight Zone does Michelle Bachmann have a legacy.

    Wait, are we in the Twilight Zone??

    May 29, 2013 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  7. Liberalism RequiresTyranny

    Not one single reference to any of her actual words. Only liberal after liberal sharing their hate.

    As expected. Hate is all y'all have. Enjoy the world you're creating!

    May 29, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  8. EP

    Another Fox commentator in waiting.. I guess she is destined to replace Sarah Palin that was fired earlier this year, apparently for not being crazy enough…

    May 29, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  9. TheOneAndOnly

    It's kind of ironic since CNN always likes to put her in the forefront.

    May 29, 2013 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  10. GOP = Greed Over People

    The twit's biggest legacy, is her belief that if "she read it on the Internet" it must be true!

    She just kept slurpin' up the Drudge sludge, and repeating it as fact.

    Well, maybe this fool did leave a legacy, ignore Drudge?

    May 29, 2013 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  11. number_55

    she sure made stupid a lot more popular ...

    May 29, 2013 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  12. TM

    Her "legacy" should be a cautionary tale. She spent her brief time in the political spotlight being arrogantly ignorant at the top of her lungs. Reckless stupidity only goes so far.

    May 29, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  13. Mattrue

    She is just another tea bagger with an agenda. If she is allowed to run by the GOP, it will only drag down the republican party, deeper into the negative votes, that we are already in now. The worst decision the GOP had made was to affiliate themselves with the tea party and the drug addicted Rush Limbaugh. I live in south Florida and anyone who listens to the Rush Limbaugh, tea bagger, so called drug head conservative show, is pushed away side by the social groups. They have gone to far to the right and are the cause of socialist power grabbing politicians. We have found throughout history the farther to the right that you become, the farther to the left society will go. We have already lost most of the true conservatives to the independent moderate party and thats where the votes are today. The republican party is a lost cause of nut case morons that make no sense.

    May 29, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  14. neal

    get people like that..out of the republican party and it MIGHT be half way decent once again.

    May 29, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  15. Knudlr

    Her legacy??? LIes. lies, lies and more lies- She is the queen of Miss leading!!!! When she is gone she will be largely forgotten- and when remembered she will be "the baffoon from MN"

    May 29, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  16. Reader II

    The "Death Panels" she spouted about are actually "Living Wills"......she is an idiot. The ACA encourages physicians to talk about "living wills" with their patients. Not requiring them....simply talking to patients about them. Yeah Michelle....I think we should spend billions of dollars on breathing machines and feeding tubes, especially for those that don't want them.

    May 29, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  17. Twit Bomney

    It was all a stupid shtick to gain attention for herself. It was/is persona that she marketed to the idiots of the country. Who could be that insane? If Colbert's character was a female, it would have been Bachmann's twin.

    May 29, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  18. Telimbo

    Old crazy eyes to retire.... yawn.

    May 29, 2013 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  19. noly972

    If she really wants to do something for the US, she should resign from the House, now.

    May 29, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  20. judith

    A legacy of ridiculous statements and a hateful, venal attitude toward her fellow Americans.

    May 29, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  21. Alexis

    The legacy of duh...

    May 29, 2013 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  22. GOP = Greed Over People

    Appears her legacy in Congress is the same as in life, collect $250,000 in farm subsidies for not planting crops, accept Medicaid payments to Marcus' "conversion" practice for not converting homosexuals to heterosexuals, and accepting $174,000 per year in Congress and not having one accomplishment for all those taxpayer dollars!

    That sounds harsh, so, in the interest of fairness, she does wear a smaller sized Jimmie Choo, than her husband!

    There, now, that was "fair and balanced".

    May 29, 2013 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  23. CronoT


    "This dumb broad doesn't deserve a headline CNN. Idiots like this don't deserve any attention at all. Yet here you are, giving her a front page. Really CNN?"

    There's a reason why the purchase of the track "Ding Dong The Witch is Dead" on iTunes jumped several hundred percent in the UK the week Margaret Thatcher died. Was it right? No, it was rather mean-spirited, but she had left such a toxic environment behind her that people cheered her passing.

    May 29, 2013 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  24. reasonablebe

    a) none; or b) someone who loves to insist she knows and she knows what is best for others or everyone despite having no idea of what she speaks or c) a person who relishes and believes she really can make things up, insist the matters are factually correct and talk herself into believing it to-- kind of like a magic fairy; or d) nuts with a nice smile.

    May 29, 2013 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  25. zandhcats

    Her legacy is only one word: stupidly!

    May 29, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
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