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. Nick Rymond

    She will be remembered as an ignorant, racist, fool. And I am a republican.

    May 29, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  2. Justin Cider

    The fact that she was the leading GOP Presidential candidate for several week speaks volumes about the current state of the GOP...

    May 29, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  3. Pony

    Embarrassing that she came from my state – I can't believe that raciest kept making headlines. And yea, she is not running again because she almost lost to a guy no one had heard of 6 weeks before elections. Everyone in her district was fed up with her.

    May 29, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  4. She'sAFool

    Made an impression that she's just as much of a fool than Mrs Palin is.

    May 29, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  5. cleareye1

    She was good looking and could take the heat, but she was always poorly prepared. Not a big leaguer. Her worst day was confusing John Wayne with a serial killer. Hard to beat that.

    May 29, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  6. Bman

    Please keep your crazies. They make it so much easier for us on the left to defeat you!

    May 29, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  7. bspurloc

    Bachmann's idiocy: What a difference a few years can make.

    May 29, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  8. Laurie in Spokane

    Goodbye Michelle Bachman Good riddance, too. That's two squirrel-brains down – Bachman and Palin – now can we just find a way somehow to make the other nuisance Tea Partiers and those of their ilk to go away too?

    May 29, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  9. SkyKing169

    What a shame.
    She was a gift to the Democratic Party.

    May 29, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  10. Knudlr

    Michell I am going to tell you a lie- Bachman can at least read the political sunset and sees that the lies and fakeory have finally caught up to her. There was not one thing that she said that was true- just like a republican, lie, cheat, and makes faults accusations.
    For you Obama care haters– Obama care is goinng to shine a liight on the medical industry and show you where all the money is going- and how they are cheating you with your life at stake!!!

    May 29, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  11. M.E.

    I feel sorry for the republicans having to suffer her. Bachmann and her sort set the conservative side back quite a distance by being completely rigid and unable to draw people in. Preaching to the choir isn't the way to win an election. You have to preach to the whole church, including the choir, and be heard by the passers by on the street to win an election. It's a shame, there are some relatively decent and intelligent conservatives out there, but the extremes always attract the attention. As with anything, whoever can come closest to the middle path will win.

    May 29, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. anothermuse

    The author I believe gives to much credit to the Tea Party legacy in general, let alone this player whose name will most likley be on the Trivial Pursuit card that follows "Who was the Governor of Alaska and Vice Presidential candidate in 2008".She and the Tea Party will be an asterix at best to American History.

    May 29, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  13. PushingBack

    Bachmann's only legacy is that she is an embarrassment to her state and anyone that voted for her.

    May 29, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  14. John

    One of the best thing that could happen to the GOP, now to get RID of the rest of the TEA Bagger.

    May 29, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. Steve

    She is truly a rare breed of crazy. She will be missed (entirely for the entertainment she provides)

    May 29, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. Kris

    I used to think the same way.. the Michelle Bachmann is a crazy loon with over the top views about what Obamacare is...

    Little did I know.. she has been right about a lot of things so far..

    May 29, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. roy

    Bottom line just another crooked inept politican.

    May 29, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  18. bspurloc

    Bachmann has 0 Employment history. and it shows

    May 29, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. solex

    The epitome of wanting to be entertained as opposed to informed.

    May 29, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. Izzy Kiddnya

    A small step for a woman ..... a giant step for the US Congress!

    May 29, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  21. dina

    Good riddance. She is not smart enough to have been a representative or sensitive enough to other people and hope she leaves the state as she promised if the marriage equality bill was passed. Goodbye Bachman.

    May 29, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  22. Justin

    Glad she's and lying comments will be gone. She's been an embarrassment to MN.

    May 29, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  23. GIUK

    She did make an impression. Then again so does a deer in the headlights of a bus.

    May 29, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. BD70

    Good bye Michelle. I will never forget you on national TV saying Obama spent 2 million a day on his trip to India. Turned out to be an internet hoax which I knew before you even went on national TV. Get educated...hopefully you will have plenty of time. Oh and please don't come back to the spotlight.

    May 29, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  25. Trombonebiker

    She made an impression alright. A BAD Impression! The only way she got in was on Palin's coat tails as another pretty face. A Pretty Dumb Broad though.

    May 29, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
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