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. Say what?

    Ugly is as ugly does, and Bachmann is the ugliest homophobe of all.

    May 29, 2013 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  2. Lizzy10

    Her legacy is that other whack jobs can get elected to high office. Wait, that's not true, many whack jobs were elected to high office before she came on the scene. She has no legacy.

    May 29, 2013 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  3. easson

    Her legacy?

    Ignorance and lying.

    May 29, 2013 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  4. Mattrue

    Maybe she can get hooked up with Alan West the traitor to the veterans administration. The looser actually thought he would be re-elected after signing a bill that would cut funding to military veterans. Tea baggers are a disgrace to the American people, to bad they are dragging the GOP and the republicans down into hell. I guess they will have a lot of company down there.

    May 29, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  5. Lee Downie

    A fraud.

    May 29, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  6. yogi

    Bachmann's legacy? None. She is the prime example of all that is wrong with the GOP, what a horrible politician. Hopefully more wil follow the exit doors at next year's elections, and in 2016, so we can finally go on with business in this country.

    May 29, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  7. A traveler

    Another forgettable airhead. Goodbye and please STAY GONE.

    May 29, 2013 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  8. Richard Larson

    No legacy for being a total idiot. Questions must be asked as yo why the retirement now. Campaign finance irregularities? Possibly, but more likely fear that she would be embarrassed by a more mainstream candidate with real party support. The voters are very restless about a do-nothing Congress and it appears that the NRA isn't able to deliver and that mainstream money is being tendered with serious strings attached.

    May 29, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  9. Chris

    Yet another tea-party quitter. She and Sarah can now officially co-host that "Dumb and Dumber" reality show they've always starred in.

    May 29, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  10. BigdaddyUSA

    She's a Bimbo and she will be on the bus with Palin next year.

    May 29, 2013 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  11. ge

    the state should name a bird after her- the minnesoton coo-coo bird

    May 29, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  12. SteveinMN

    We passed gay marriage in MN mostly to drive her hence...

    GOOD RIDDANCE, BICHMANN! You do not have the SENSE God gave GEESE!

    May 29, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  13. Tanker

    Bachmann's legacy is five bucket loads of crazy...

    May 29, 2013 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  14. Jo Black

    Uncooked dough.

    May 29, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  15. Jocho Johnson

    Bachmann's legacy? Pray the gay away, and the corn dog photo.

    May 29, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  16. MTATL67

    To me she like Palin will always remind me extremism is not an American value

    May 29, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  17. bellemichele

    I rarely agreed with her but by gosh I admired and respected her-it took a LOT to be not only a conservative but a conservative WOMAN in the land of 10 thousand conformists. In a state where everyone, and I mean EVERYONE thinks and says the same thing, it was actually refreshing to hear a different viewpoint being voiced. Now that she is leaving Minnesota can quite happily return to their conforming state of blandness.
    Actually, I was surprised she lasted so long and wasn't burned at the stake for being a non-conformist, but hey, that's not the passive-aggressive way that minnesota works.

    May 29, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  18. Siestasis

    And the IQ of the House of Reps goes up. But not by much, unfortunately.

    May 29, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  19. Thomas

    She has a great future in selling pop tarts !

    And to think she ran for President .
    Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is under investigation , in violation of the group's non-profit status.

    And she blames the IRS

    May 29, 2013 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  20. Brad Olsen

    She reminds me a a waterbird that I often see in the morning. A loon. How could that district vote her in for 7 terms? I think her run was over and she would have lost this time.

    May 29, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  21. Jay David

    Like most members of Congress, Michelle Bachman has no legacy.

    However, I'm sad Bachmann didn't become more prominent.

    Kristen Wiig could have had a blast parodying Bachmann on SNL.

    May 29, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  22. drefromla

    The Tea Party is a fart in the wind in the grand scheme of American politics. Soon to be forgotten. As will Mrs. Bachman. Someone who accomplished nothing bt was eloquent at telling lies and manipulating people for her own needs. See ya!

    May 29, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  23. libfreak48

    What is Bachmann's legacy? I can sum it up in one word: nothing.

    May 29, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  24. David

    She retires with a slickly produced TV piece that is released at 2 am. Sounds like an honest politician to me.

    May 29, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  25. glorydays

    She'll go down as living proof as to the lack of Tea Party IQ.

    May 29, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
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