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. The NRA is a T e r r o r i st organisation....and MORE JOBS has been created under President Obama 2times over than under GW Bush!!! ***FACT***

    This Cuckoo Bachmann can start another Tea Bagging group and ask for "TAX EXEMPT" status from the IRS....just another "socialist" tax frauding scheme by the RightWing NUTs to live off of the the govt teats with tax-free money!!!!

    Just when are these Tea Party types gonna get a real job....and stop milking the IRS & the govt for free money?!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 29, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  2. helen1233

    Her anouncement was hilarious... nothing about the people or her accomplishments... alll about how she would have won! ME ME MEEEEEEEEEEE!

    May 29, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. Bob Burke

    One clown down and a bunch to go...

    May 29, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. Dave in Arizona

    Wow. The older she gets the more frightening she looks.

    May 29, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  5. Tim

    At last, the end of our national embarrassment. She will forever be known as Bat $–t Crazy Bachmann. What a fine legacy.

    May 29, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  6. dillweed7

    John Stewart gently weeps.

    May 29, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  7. MNClownfactory

    I am so happy today, this woman has not only stained our congress but she has made a joke of the state I love. Minnesota only elected this moron because Tim Pawlenty – R and his activist judges re- redrew voting district # 6 (where Bachmann got elected from) in the shape of a big giant letter h extending from the Northern middle of farm country (St. Cloud), carefully avoiding the twin cities but staying in afluent areas all the way to the wisconsin border (Stillwater). Look at a map sometime it is the most politically drawn district ever devised, totally Jerrymandered (is that a word?). She is gone and even though a Republican might win in this district again, the chances of MN ever having such a moron represent its people again just got lower.

    goodriddence Michelle

    May 29, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  8. sassysticks53

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


    Welll good riddance to lame brain Bachmann! Obama will retire on January 20, 2016. And even happier days will be here again when Hillary Clinton takes his place! Yahoo!

    May 29, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  9. Marie MD

    If the flake is in Russia like I just heard maybe she can poke her head up just a little bit and wave to the mutant in AK who is now sitting on her front porch trying to figure out how to make money since nobody wants her. Sort of the same path the flake will follow.
    Even in her announcement she still doesn't get that she is the biggest bat *hit crazy of the whole bunch of bananas!
    I am going to miss the jokes but there are plenty of other candidates out there . . . . paul lite, cross from Canada, ryan, bo ner, any and all politicians from a red state to tell the truth!

    May 29, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  10. Chuck

    One witch down. Now if we can get the Wicked Witch of Wasilla.... Oh that's right she quits everything anyway.

    May 29, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  11. doug the slug

    just when i thought that current events were all depressing, there is a beacon of hope.

    May 29, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. joe

    "A knack for the spotlight" More like a knack for divisive pandering

    May 29, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. morris

    Thank the Lord for small mercies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 29, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  14. snoozie

    Christmas in May.

    May 29, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. Juls1314

    Can someone name 1 piece of legislation she wrote/introduced in the 8 years she was in the House receiving a tax payer salary?

    Yeah – I didn't think so. Guess who gets Medical Insurance for life anyway.

    May 29, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  16. Michael

    OH please... anyone can make the spot light if they tell outrageous lies to move one's political agenda.

    May 29, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  17. bjjschecter

    Pray away Bachmann proved much more successful than pray away the gay.

    May 29, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  18. eric

    good bye so long adios seeya

    May 29, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  19. robert

    Minnesota and the u.s are well rid of her and her ilk. praise god. if there is one.

    May 29, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  20. dick Delson

    She's right up there with Sarah Palin...A BIMBO. And her imbecile husband hates gays. What a schmuck.

    May 29, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  21. Jeb

    Bachman is just one of many illustrations of how rabid and insane the Republican party has become. I hope that more of them follow her into retirement.

    May 29, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  22. coflyboy

    She can now retire on those socialist programs she so opposed.

    May 29, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  23. Sunflower2

    Yeah she was in the spotlight all right.... She was the butt of jokes, and some of the best ones I've ever heard, for WEEKS. she takes the term B I M B O to an entire new level.

    May 29, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  24. BimboBimbo

    Where ya gonna go dee yo.

    May 29, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  25. martin

    The Tea Party and the crop of Republicans that rose up with it had an important message to bring but they seriously over-played their hand. The essence of politics is compromise and this group felt they were 100% right. It got them nowhere in terms of positive change and pretty much set conservative politics back considerably.

    May 29, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
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