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. Dikran

    She is a beautiful, smart woman. I wish her the best

    May 29, 2013 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  2. blakenaustin

    Amazing how the far left media has demonized this woman and yet continues to look the other way with compulsive liars and criminals like Obama, Hillary Clinton, Holder, Rice, Carney, Napolitano, and Pelosi. They don't have an objective bone in their body. No credibility.

    May 29, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  3. Travis

    She's a smarter-but-more-unstable version of Sarah Palin. Fox News will snatch her up in a second.

    May 29, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  4. Seattle Sue

    She will always be known as That Crazy Lady From Minnesota.

    May 29, 2013 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  5. okfine

    One down.........

    May 29, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  6. Oregon Bruce

    Another down the tube

    May 29, 2013 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  7. Homer10

    Michele will join Sarah Pailen on a comeback tour. Michele has just a little more up stairs than Sarah did. However the verbal gaffs were a hoot. Sarah can beat her in the wacko department.

    May 29, 2013 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  8. Dave

    Have any of you people bashing Michele Bachmann ever read her resume? She's from from an idiot and I don't believe she was a phony conservative either.

    May 29, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  9. jim

    Obama got reelected, Allen West and Wilson lose, Dement quits and now Bachmann runs for the hills. Life is good.

    May 29, 2013 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  10. apstar

    Michele Bachmann's legacy summarized in one word: "none".

    May 29, 2013 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  11. She Has a great pension and medical insurance

    She gets a great pension and medicare for life. What more is there?

    May 29, 2013 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  12. DmSha

    she has creepy devil eyes.

    May 29, 2013 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  13. Operations

    She was part of the "re-elect Obama" team. A legacy we will all remember.

    May 29, 2013 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  14. hrdwrknjoe

    The same as Cain's, Perry's, Palin's, Romney's, Ryan's, Gingrich's and Santorum's. Nothing but 8 pubic hairs on the urinal's rim.

    May 29, 2013 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  15. NKBL

    I'm sorry, if you don't know who actually abolished slavery, I don't trust you whatsoever. You are a Mr. Dumas. Slavery was abolished at the end of the Civil War not the Revolutionary War. Basic knowledge.

    May 29, 2013 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  16. craig

    Her biggest legacy will likely be that "you don't have to have intelligence to serve on the Intelligence Committee." She's a living example of Einstein's theory of Infinity: There are only two things that are infinite, the Universe and mankind's stupidity...and I'm not certain about the Universe."

    May 30, 2013 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  17. nvmature

    Her legacy: Being a dingbat.

    May 30, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  18. Brett

    Good bye nut job!

    May 30, 2013 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  19. Mike Buck

    Michelle was appointed as a member of the House Intelligence Committee by John "Boner". Now there is a contradiction! She is also a leader of the Take Education Away (TEA) Party.

    May 30, 2013 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  20. Rogue351

    Her legacy will be hate, distrust, bigotry, elitist and the fact that she will do and say anything for the right amount of money. Which is why she is leaving. She will show up in the private sector making millions spewing her hate for the federal government, the Obama administration and America. I am 100% sure of it.

    May 30, 2013 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  21. Rogue351

    Tea Hag, I like that. Very funny yet appropriate.

    May 30, 2013 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  22. BigD

    I am not a witch! Just don't notice my scary eyes and the details of my features. I'm thinking more succubus.

    May 30, 2013 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  23. bptsj

    It is scary how such a wacko can come so close to a position of power. If you look at the choices the GOP has offered up over the last 8 years or so it is frightening.

    May 30, 2013 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  24. Boater39

    Dumbest politician since Sara Palin

    May 30, 2013 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  25. mark theo

    Legacy? Devoid of ethics, speaker of inaccuracies, accusations and completely fabricated information... my guess she'll end up at FOX news. Another moronic big haired narcissist that panders to the far right winged birth-conspiracy tea party morons... maybe the best legacy would be if she's investigated for illegal activities and found guilty and goes to prison never to be heard of or from again.

    May 30, 2013 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
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