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. GOP = Greed Over People


    Odd isn't it, how quickly a con "chri$tian" completes "god's work" once the FBI starts to investigate the chri$tian's "work ethic"?

    May 29, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  2. dereid49

    Ever notice how the Liberal's comments on CNN post sites are leaning toward Hate!

    May 29, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  3. Chaerlotte

    I can think of more accurate ways to describe Bachmann.

    May 29, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  4. Retired Army

    She'll be missed.

    Now.....we'll have to find a new source for Congressional Comic Relief.

    May 29, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  5. deee510

    Go crawl under a hole lady.she contributed not a thing to this nation except distractions and hate

    May 29, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. Woman In California

    Best wishes Michele.
    I wish you the very best in each of these areas:

    1) losing your healthcare; (best wishes)
    2) becoming investigated for having anti-American involvement; (best wishes)
    3) watching your life's work (the TP) explode right in front of your crazy eyes; (best wishes)
    4) not being able to find a good paying job; (best wishes) and most of all,
    5) watching at least one of your children produce an inter-racial child – forcing you to become the grandmother of all that you hate (minorities). This would drive you over the edge, out of the public eye and behind lock and key where you belong assylum).

    All the best Michele.

    May 29, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. Jack

    Now all we have is Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, this is getting really boring!

    May 29, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  8. Randy, San Francisco

    Bachmann's legacy is one of shame and embarassment to the Republican Party. Her over the top bomb throwing and hate inciting speeches have hurt and damaged the Republican brand. Rove and establishment Republicans must be breathing a sigh of relief.

    May 29, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  9. Chris

    I am so glad this weirdo is going away. She brings nothing to the table and if it were not for her looks, she would have never been elected in the first place. Maybe her and Sara can share notes.

    May 29, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  10. omar

    this women is crazy point blank period.

    May 29, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  11. jim

    I'm a Republican and I wonder if there really was something to the ethics questions, and the GOP asked her to retire.

    (compare and contrast to the Democrats, where felonies are pretty much ignored–at least, here in Chicago).

    May 29, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  12. The Real Tom Paine

    Now that she can collect a good pension from Congress for the rest of her life, why work? Actually, she did not work while IN Congress, so her impact was negligible. With her salary and perks, thats over a million dallars we will never recover, and she will get get top-flight medical care for the rest of her life, all at our expense. Bachmann, that parasite that keeps on draining us.

    May 29, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  13. nitromays

    She doesnt want to run because she knows that the shiznit that the tea party started about the IRS is about to hit the fan. I cant wait.

    May 29, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  14. NorCalMojo

    Score one for establishment career politicians of both parties. Another victory for that 1% the neoliberals are always complaining about. Congratulations, useful idiots! You did your masters proud.

    May 29, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  15. GOP = Greed Over People

    Missy's legacy is, she can run faster than Dana Bash!

    May 29, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  16. Bonnie

    My prayer is answered....

    May 29, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  17. Dan5404

    She can start a new group "The Retired Right-Wing Wackos Club'

    May 29, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |

    Another good Republican is retireing. Good luck in what ever you do, You were a class Republican. and will be missed.

    May 29, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  19. Lorianne

    Thank you. Now take your brain dead cohort Sarah Palin with you.

    May 29, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  20. No Tea for me

    Darn it all, just when she finally learned which camera to look into, she's quitting on us. Always a 9, at minimum, on the unintentional comedy scale. Who's the next clown up in the GOP?

    May 29, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  21. Ladokguy

    Our founding fathers worked tirelessly to rid this nation of the scourge of .... airheads like Bachmann

    May 29, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  22. JustAO

    Fox News will hire her unless she tries to get her own radio talk show to spout out conspiracy theories to scare white baby-boomers that Starbucks is hiring illegals to brainwash their suburban/rural kids to Sharia Law. Something creative like that will definitely get her the funds she needs to stay relevant in a younger society that no longer finds her relevant (just like Palin).

    May 29, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  23. Bootstomper

    New ice fishing series on Fox hosted by Bachmann and Palin.

    May 29, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  24. Revolution2012

    More Anti-American Propaganda from FOX the propaganda ministry of The Republican/TEA Party and a Terrorist Organization. The Agenda of the Republican/TEA Party Terrorist and Traitors that have infiltrated and infested OUR Government, with their agenda to sabotage OUR Government, Security, and Economy. The Republican/Tea Party Infiltrators have Betrayed there Oath Of Office, and committed Treason against The People and Government of The United States Of America, The Republican/TEA Party Traitors have failed to act on the Budget submitted in April 2012 as part of agenda of Sabotage, The Republican/TEA Party Traitors that have infiltrated OUR Government have disseminated Classified Defense, National Security Information, Technology, and Strategic Intelligence, to Their International Terrorist Organizations, Communist China and others allied with The Republican/TEA Party Traitors that Infest OUR Government. The Republican/TEA Party Traitors have renounced and forfeited their United States Of America Citizenship, Conspired with the Enemies, The People and Government of The United States Of America. The Republican/TEA Party Traitors are waging a Terrorist WAR on The People and Government of The United States Of America. Any Member of The Republican/TEA Party are Traitors, Terrorist, and Enemies of The People and Government of The United States Of America. Any Member of The Republican/TEA Party are Non-Citizen Enemy Combatants, and should be regarded as such and removed with Extreme Prejudice.

    May 29, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  25. Doug Bonnell

    Good riddance! She will always be remembered for her total ignorance and stupid comments. How the heck did she get elected?

    May 29, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
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