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. RasPutin

    Politics aside, conservative or liberal, (yes, I'm conservative) this woman is delusional at best, quite dumb in all likelihood. She displays a complete lack of understanding of the world around her and is embarrassing for those rational fact-based conservatives out there. I cannot believe anyone of rational thought can hear her speak and not have grave questions of her ability to grasp her own world.

    May 30, 2013 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  2. Mark

    Bachmann's legacy is a psychotic phony who is mean-spirited, evil and possessed by zealots. The only thing more phony than Michele Bachmann and her Tammy Faye makeup is her closet-case "pray-away-the-gay" so-called husband. Bachmann will go down as part of the GOP circus clown act during the 2012 GOP nomination, taking 6th place in the dunce content.

    May 30, 2013 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  3. ep tor

    Her legacy? Hmmm. . . Religious extremist? Bimbo? If she could see Mexico from her back yard, we'd be protected from the Mexicans. Palin's got Russia covered.

    May 30, 2013 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  4. hotpatata

    Dear Santa,

    All I want for Christmas is a three-year federal prison sentence for Michele Bachmann.

    Thank you, Santa. Beignets on the fireplace this year!

    May 30, 2013 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  5. larry

    To quote Mark Twain "Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

    May 30, 2013 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  6. peoples choice

    Now, if only all of her goofy supporters would follow suit, the district she represented in Minnesota might have a chance to gain some semblance of normalcy.

    May 30, 2013 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  7. Good Riddance

    It's about time they dumped that very ignorent woman. How many false statements can a politician make before they lose ALL credability? Seems that Democrats can't make one false statement whereas the Republicans have a special right to make up their own fact. How she got on any commitee with the word Intelligence in it is a real wonder.

    May 30, 2013 03:20 am at 3:20 am |
  8. MOCaseA

    10 to 1 – She is attempting to set herself up for another run for the White House.

    1 to 10 – She'll fail and be out of top level politics forever

    May 30, 2013 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  9. komododr

    The Tea Partiers gravitated to her and vice versa cuz they're intellectually empty headed. It was all good as long as she doesn't speak. Whenever she spoke, it shows the dept of her intellect. But she was charismatic and speak well with non-sense.

    May 30, 2013 03:51 am at 3:51 am |
  10. Bye Bye Crazy Jesus Lady!

    "She has free health care and guaranteed salary at the tax payer expense... who's the socialist now?"
    "I expect she will reject her taxpayers' paid pension and health care, otherwise she is an unprincipled hypocrite."

    100% Agree. What a lying hate filled UGLY hypocrite. She will NOT be missed.

    May 30, 2013 03:53 am at 3:53 am |
  11. Leif

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

    May 30, 2013 04:07 am at 4:07 am |
  12. GO_GOP

    She is one of the smartest politicians in the country today. She was tough, smart, great knowledge of international affairs, fiscal conservative and above all a true Christian. I sure hope she comes back with a bang and wins the presidency in 2016. The fact she has withdrawn reflects awfully on this country.

    May 30, 2013 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  13. David Witcraft

    Flash in the pan! Probably jealous of all the PR Palin is getting! What are the odds she turns up on Fox News? 99.9%?

    May 30, 2013 04:34 am at 4:34 am |
  14. Rick

    Darn, with both Bachmann and Palin out of the mix where will I get the regular does of hilarity I got each time these buffoons opened their mouths?

    May 30, 2013 04:42 am at 4:42 am |
  15. Rick

    Her tombstone should read: Michelle Bachmann....She never let the truth get in the way of a good accusation.

    May 30, 2013 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  16. Scott

    Listening to the scornful, derisive and cruel comments on this blog is extremely disheartening. What happened to acting/writing with dignity, class and a valid point? It is such comments that keep good people from serving in our government. Who would want to subject themselves and their family to the bitter ramblings of armchair (or basement) critics.
    I guess all the hate and poison she spewed while in congress don't matter to you though? All the lies she told, the stupid things she said meant nothing. This woman if she were an average member of congress who honestly worked to better the country through compromise instead of stonewalling would deserve some praise for her time there. She chose to act the way she did and is getting what she deserves.

    May 30, 2013 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  17. Hillcrester

    Only a Bachmann–Palin 69 love act can save the GOP from extinction.

    May 30, 2013 05:04 am at 5:04 am |
  18. Al

    She was there for those that are willing to stand up or roll up and earn their place on this planet and in this country. She is one for the working people, the proud working people, and that is what America was built on, the working yes at one time people were willing to go get jobs, there was no garage expecting for something that was not theirs.

    May 30, 2013 05:16 am at 5:16 am |
  19. Sane Person

    She wouldnt win re-election and she knows it. Unfortunately, she has very loose relationship with "Truth" and lets nonsense fly out of her mouth.

    May 30, 2013 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  20. tim43

    Legacy = lunacy

    May 30, 2013 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  21. Vader

    Legacy? She has no legacy, which implies a lasting impact. She is simply a blip on the political continuum to be replaced by the next fringe flavor of the day.

    May 30, 2013 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  22. johno54

    Her legacy will be that the CDC, FDA, and NIMH have failed us for not pointing out that the genetic matrixes of our Mid West and North Western states are in serious flux and we had better get a handle on it soon as there are more Palin's and Bachmann's out there just waiting to get their turn at devolving our nation.

    May 30, 2013 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  23. Thomas

    Funniest part is her on Intelligence Comittee.

    May 30, 2013 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  24. an American

    America is already a better place.

    May 30, 2013 06:56 am at 6:56 am |

    Well, I just have to say that it should only be another week or two, and she will be resigning her seat. She would never, ever quit unless she knows for certain that the FBI has concrete evidence that she broke the law. So, I am certain she did. It does not surprise me at all, the only way someone like Michelle Bachmann could stay in power is to buy your way there. And that is the way most POL's get there. The only difference is hiding how and where the money comes from. Michelle obviously made a mistake in who and what she tried to buy. Or rather what she used the Koch brothers money to buy.

    May 30, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
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