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)

    Thank God Republicans have more class then the Hateful Democrats. Democatic Women are witches.

    May 29, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  2. Reckless

    It's pretty sad that some conservatives are actually defending Bachmann. I would've thought this would be one thing we could all agree on.

    May 29, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  3. Expat American

    Bachmann rambled on and on about standing up and fighting for what she believed in...until it was time to actually stand up and fight for what she believed in...and then all of a sudden Michelle Bachmann became a victim of the MSM. Just like her beer goggles weekend college girl crush Sarah Palin.

    Bye Bye, Crazy Jesus Lady.

    May 29, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  4. Bill Mahr

    There goes a lot of material!

    May 29, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  5. Pat

    One of the GOP clown car down, about a hundred to go.

    The Koch brothers money pipeline for idiocy must be drying up. The stock market is going gangbusters....who needs tea party freaks any more.

    May 29, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  6. interested 48

    There is a God!!!

    May 29, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  7. truth is good

    back to the looney farm

    May 29, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  8. Leah K.

    I guess she can't get votes by eating corn dogs any more.

    Marcus probably wouldn't mind giving it a try from what I understand.

    May 29, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  9. Ehsan

    Yes , good call.... please leave... time for GOP to close house and repair...

    May 29, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. Steven

    She has free health care and guaranteed salary at the tax payer expense... who's the socialist now?

    May 29, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  11. Patrick in Minnesota

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out. I mean both Congress AND Minnesota!

    May 29, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  12. ritmocojo

    "Benghazi! Benghazi!" What a nutcase.

    May 29, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. The REAL Truth...

    Wow... do ya think that the investigation had no impact on her decision?? Just like failin' Palin, eh!

    May 29, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. Malory Archer


    Thank God Republicans have more class then the Hateful Democrats. Democatic Women are witches.


    Ladies & gentlemen, the above is a classic example of the pot meeting the kettle.

    May 29, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  15. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    She will also be remembered as the least intelligent member of Congress. Ever. I expect she will reject her taxpayers' paid pension and health care, otherwise she is an unprincipled hypocrite.

    May 29, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  16. Mitsy

    Good, she can take Sarah Palin with her.

    May 29, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  17. rick

    One less idiot to have to worry about. Score one for the good guys (and gals)...

    May 29, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  18. mikewj

    With all of her silliness since Obama took office, she's finally run out of hot air.

    May 29, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  19. boi

    NOT a loss to anyone. Now, stay away for good.

    May 29, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  20. bob baden

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

    May 29, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  21. Bubba

    she promised Obama will be a one term president, she promised to repeal Obama care. Did she?

    May 29, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain

    @REPUBLICAN ARE THE GREATEST: "Thank God Republicans have more class then the Hateful Democrats. Democatic Women are witches."

    Well, I guess that would be true of Palin... after all, she did have all her demons cast out before the 2008 election ...

    GOP women = Screech owls on steriods

    May 29, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. The Real Tom Paine

    Maybe Glen Beck needs a weather girl for The Blaze?

    May 29, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  24. The Elephant in the Room

    It is the height of cowardice for the woman, who sought the media microphone every day last year to try and slip this out by way of a web video. Why not a news conference where some REAL questions could be asked?

    May 29, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |

    Now can Obama retire, that would be a home run, a touch down, a hockey goal and Happy Days are here again

    May 29, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
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