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. Logic N LA

    Michelle will be remembered as the buffoon she was. She was an embarrassment as a Congress woman because she lacked basic knowledge on how the government works, key departments and who was responsible for what. The average eighth grader knew more about civics and this country.

    May 29, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  2. Gumby

    Louie Gomert? You're next, son!

    May 29, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  3. William House

    A Skidmark on your Underwear makes an Impression.

    Republicans need to "Pray Away" the Lying Greedy Bigots.

    May 29, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. Denny

    Great news, best decision Bachmann has ever made.

    May 29, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  5. Colo001

    Wow with all the scandals surrounding the liberals in Washington you would think maybe its time for all you Obama zombies would keep your heads down.
    1 subpoena 2 subpoena 3 subpoena and more
    all you crazy liberals have trouble telling the truth until your hauled into court

    May 29, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  6. gecul

    Good riddance!

    May 29, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |

    I think I need to celebrate this announcement,America is finally rid of this fool.

    May 29, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  8. Wake up People!

    She may leave Congress, but there is no way she is going to be quiet. Especially as long as the "secret Muslim" is in office. She lives for that ish.

    May 29, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  9. Mammo

    Bye Bye Bachmann.........Eeeeeeeuuuuuuuuuuuuu....

    May 29, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  10. ATLJack

    If you are a conservative, you should REALLY dislike this deluded person. By being so extreme and so outlandish, she made the Republican brand unpalatable to independents, meaning Obama couldn't lose.

    The Republican Party will be a party in name only as long as figures like Bachman are around.

    May 29, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. Ben

    What Bachmann will be remembered for is perpetuating the conceptualization of the GOP as a bunch of inbred racists and bigots.

    May 29, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  12. Andy Nonymous

    Ding-dong, the witch is gone! Don't let the door hit you on the butt on way out.

    May 29, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  13. B.

    She did so much damage to the GOP that it's as if someone hired her to purposely behave the way she did. No reasonable person would act this crazy.

    May 29, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  14. GenX

    GOODBYE and GOOD RIDDANCE to Michele Bachmann. She always reminded me of that EVIL NANNY in the original version of the movie, "The Omen".

    May 29, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  15. Steve S

    Bachmann will make a few bucks on the talk circuit:

    NRA events
    KKK rallies
    White supremest compounds
    Tea Party rallies

    You know.....her base.

    May 29, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  16. Phillp Bunn

    CNN forgot to add "moron and imbecile," to her roster of accolades.

    May 29, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  17. LGTV

    resigning to do what? Continue curing gays of there psychological disease?

    May 29, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. Mike

    I hope this doesn't mean that Bachman won't be part of the clown car primary race in 2016. She has always kept the fact checkers very busy.

    May 29, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. slb1113

    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.

    May 29, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  20. Big_D

    She is going back to the coven. You know I didn't think this was anything but a joke until I looked into her eyes. This lady isn't a lady at all, she is a succubus. Look at the eye's and then once you have seen the soul look at the demon. It is scary stuff.

    May 29, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  21. Alex

    She is a national disgrace.

    May 29, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  22. Truck

    And these are the same morons who elected Al Franken. The land of a 1000 looney tunes.

    May 29, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  23. allenwoll

    "Bachman made an impression" . . .
    Yes, like a blob of mud on a white shirt ! ! !

    May 29, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  24. Jim in PA

    The impression left by Michele was not nearly as memorable as that left by her, ahem, "husband." He is just so faaaaaaabulous! Pray harder Marcus, pray harder. The urges will subside....

    May 29, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  25. Bryant Tucker

    She will be better known as a ignorant.

    May 29, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
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