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. Mando

    By" mooning "the people with her brain.

    May 29, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  2. davey

    Now if we could get rid of that screech owl nancy pelosi.

    May 29, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  3. hozo1

    she certainly made an impression ... so did Benedict Arnold ... traitor to her country ... politics and Michele ahead of country and compromise .. she is the Newt of her generation and she has forever made this country worse ... nice legacy

    May 29, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. Jo Black

    The same way acne does after puberty. She's a pockmark.

    May 29, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. Organic1

    She is nothing more than some mad dog puppet.

    May 29, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. Yivo

    thank you for all the laughter you brought

    May 29, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  7. dick Delson

    Can you spell D.U.M.M.Y.?

    May 29, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  8. Ricksta

    Goodbye Tea Hag. Don't let the door hit your fat butt on the way out.

    May 29, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  9. joanne1965

    Some say she was an embarrassment to the GOP, the senate or the country...Before all those 'positions' she was an embarrassment to women everywhere.

    May 29, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  10. Pusser

    Said she'd leave Minnesota if it passed gay marriage, so I guess she is. Where is Fox News located? My guess is she's headed there.

    May 29, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  11. Brandonious

    With her gone the average IQ for the House should rise by several points. It may even break into double digits.

    May 29, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  12. The War Criminal General Sherman

    This buffoon has a legacy?

    May 29, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  13. Robin Jones

    Democrats will miss her, she was such an easy target.

    May 29, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  14. marshu

    Historical footnote at best. Complete asinine nut job that represents the worst this country has to offer. Go crawl back under your rock you insipid moron.

    May 29, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  15. Bob

    Bachmann, known for her incendiary comments and misstatements, has had a knack for finding the spotlight, be it good or bad.

    Nothing but a media wh@re right wing whack job.

    May 29, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  16. Bob C.

    She's a phony and hurt the conservative cause more than helped it. Good riddance.

    May 29, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  17. RapidOne

    One of the most powerful magnets for idiots the GOP ever had.

    May 29, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  18. reader

    This dumb broad doesn't deserve a headline CNN. Idiots like this don't deserve any attention at all. Yet here you are, giving her a front page. Really CNN?

    May 29, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  19. 2 Km N of G Zero

    She should be an Obama-hater on Fox News. She should definitely NOT be in charge of anything, let alone the future or this country. Can we please bring back some sensible Republican politicians? Paging Jon Huntsman?

    May 29, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  20. RapidOne

    I'll say one thing though: Bachmann, much like Palin, certainly was a litmus test for bigotry, willful ignorance and zealotry.

    May 29, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  21. RichardSRussell

    Why wait? Leave now!

    May 29, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  22. JZG

    Dear Bachmann:
    We won't miss you. Now please shut up.
    Sincerely, America.

    May 29, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  23. midwestmatt

    Completely useless and self serving. She lies about money her own company received from government subsidies while she decries others who get the same.

    Her husband is desperately gay and lying to her and everyone else. They are incredible hypocrites.

    Good riddance.

    May 29, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  24. Skeptic

    Palin/Bachmann 2016! Now THAT would be a comedy show!

    May 29, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  25. RichardSRussell

    Bitter tears are falling at Comedy Central.

    May 29, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
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