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. Mary

    How can you have a legacy when you have nothing of value to pass along to anyone else? She could leave her head to a bat colony, I guess.

    May 29, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  2. GetFiddle Man

    Bachman is pretty and as dumb and dishonest as a stump.

    May 29, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  3. aaron

    The committee should have been renamed Lack of Intelligence committee once Bachmann infected it.

    May 29, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  4. Bamador

    To the Republicans: Seems your party CAN house too much crazy.

    To the Democrats: Be careful, her district elected her 4 TIMES, should we fear the devil we know or the devil we don't?

    To the Independents: PLEASE look at what these people you vote for stand for. Are they in it for bettering the county or their party? You decide the fate of elections.

    May 29, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  5. bee Anderson

    she would give a plate full of maggots the creeps!

    May 29, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  6. michael in houston

    Legacy??!! Who on your staff came up with that?! You amuse us

    May 29, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  7. Perplexed

    @Davey, Nancy Pelosi has accomplishments under her belt. You may not agree with them but, the Health-care, Financial, Ethics reforms, $787 billion stimulus, the Ledbetter Act, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't tell, just to name a few. Ding-bat Bachmann went to a funeral and tried numerous times to kill the health care reform and failed. However, if you can mention anything she has done to help our country please share. I think you may be surprised to discover her misconduct after a few investigation. Don't worry, she always has Fox News the station for the misinformed.

    May 29, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  8. Willy Nilly

    This woman brought such shame to the female sex. She lived up to the stereotypes of 'dumb woman' that are held by many people. How she ever rose to represent my home state of Minnesota is a wonder to me. I can only assume that those who voted for her are as foolish as she appears to be. My only concern is that if she's not representing Minnesota in Congress, where will she take her mischief? Beware, she's not really leaving, she's just relocating somewhere more welcoming to her looniness.

    May 29, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  9. Complete ignorance

    All she leaves is a foul smelling charcoal-stain in the drawers of America. Please flush that crazy heffa down the toilet – so she can caucus with her turd-supporters.

    May 29, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  10. Matt

    Woman from I.D.I.O.T. (a nod to the old TV show, Man from U.N.C.L.E.)

    May 29, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  11. Thatguy371

    The legacy is blind ignorance, and the seeds are planted. Just like Limbarf/Hannity/Beck/Coulter/OReilly et al started the stoo-pidd olympics, except it's a 24/7 event that won't go away. It isn't called extrapolating when all you come up with are a bunch of way-out ideas and concepts over and over. And there are several nations worldwide that would imprison her and her ilk for their actions. So she should be happy she lives here... and learn to keep her big trap shut.

    May 29, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  12. Loathstheright

    Bachmann's legacy: That conservative voters can be soooo stupid that they will vote into office someone as corrupt as Bachmann.
    On the government dole: Check
    Milking the government from everything from dozens of foster kids, to farm subsidies: Check
    Who's statements are so bazzar that they are obvious lies and crazy babble: Check

    Just amazing the type of people republicans will vote for.

    May 29, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  13. pmmarion

    And for her 8 years of "service" she will receive approximately $23,000 a year when she turns 62. Is the USA a great country or what?

    May 29, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  14. wakano

    Her legacy is setting her gender back about 100 years. Why are the 2 women chosen by Repubs both dumb as a stump? Is it intentional?

    May 29, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  15. ANNIER


    "Mr. Bachmann" come out, come out, wherever you are!

    May 29, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  16. Steve

    Nobody will be more dissapointed than Democratic strategist.... She had a special ability to turn off swing voters. The TEA party will lose more votes than it gets for Republicans.

    May 29, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  17. The REAL TRUTH...

    Now all we needed is to add Ryan, Issa, Imhofe, McConell, Boehner and McCain to the list, and it would have been a really great week!

    May 29, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    She is an embarrassment to women

    May 29, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  19. Erasrhedd

    Don't you have to have done something to have a legacy?

    May 29, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  20. scientificpoetry

    Thank goodness she's bowing out. It's truly amazing that idiots like her can get elected to office in the first place. We are turning into and idiocracy...

    May 29, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  21. John

    This was probably not her choice, the GOP national committee is terrified of losing BIG in 2014 and it is anxious to rid itself of the tea party stain, watch for other tea party folks exiting politics in 2013/14

    May 29, 2013 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  22. bee Anderson

    she's an idiot, that's her legacy.

    May 29, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  23. navaJohn

    Great start at cleaning house GOP.
    Now "retire" Grover Norquist.

    May 29, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  24. WhereIsPalin

    She's apparently been called back to her home planet.

    May 29, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  25. opinion8it

    where are the clowns; bring in the clowns..... never mind..... she's gone.

    May 29, 2013 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
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