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. BC

    Unfortunately the people that voted for her will vote for the next crazy. All her idiocy aside OboCare does terrify me.

    May 29, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  2. Big_D

    So the Tea Party is a party for quitters. I get it. They play for money.

    May 29, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  3. Naaaaa

    Good riddance Coo Coo.

    May 29, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  4. mike

    She's nothing more than Sarah Palin 2.0...louder, meaner, dumber, and due to be more irrelevant.

    May 29, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. Bsspeer1

    Good bye and good riddance.

    May 29, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  6. John

    A knack for being an idiot! Is the the headline should have said.

    May 29, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  7. redkts

    While she has been in Congress, Michele Bachmann and her husband Marcus have been living on our tax dollars. Marcus Bachmann’s clinic has taken $137,000 in Medicaid funds and an additional $24,000 in federal and state funds. This is in addition to the $260,000 in federal dairy and corn subsidies that she has taken for the family dairy farm, and $174,000 annual salary plus benefits that she receives as a member of Congress. All of this adds up to over $1.1 million in taxpayer money that she or her husband has received, not counting benefits, since she was elected to Congress. Bachmann also worked as a Lawyer for 5 years for the IRS before Congress. Then there is her Federal retirement.
    She is entitled to be paid and take advantage of tax laws like anyone else, BUT to complain about the size of the Federal Gov on the other hand and Citizens living on the Gov dime, is utter hypocrisy.

    May 29, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  8. Bob

    She will be remembered for exactly what she is: a nut job.

    May 29, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  9. JLS1950

    Bachmann and Palin: two noisy but insipid cheerleaders sharing one pom-pom.

    May 29, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  10. GulpOff

    G'bye, silly woman:-D!

    May 29, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  11. Lauradet

    BEST NEWS of the century. So long whack job.

    May 29, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. William Shelton

    Good by and good riddance!

    May 29, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  13. bill.x

    The only reason she is quitting now is because the Swiss are reporting her millions of dollars she and Family have on deposit tax free.

    May 29, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  14. Neal Powers

    We need strong intelligent women in politics. Michelle Bachmann is not among them. Facts have never been an issue with her. This announcement may one day be remembered as the event horizon for the Tea Party black hole. It is about to collapse in on itself, sucking in more light than it ever shed.

    May 29, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  15. Darw1n

    "Bachmann, known for her incendiary comments and misstatements

    I thought she was known for her abject stupidity.

    May 29, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  16. Who Knows...?

    Bachmann & Palin = Dumb & Dumber

    May 29, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  17. scott

    next stop .... a federal prison

    May 29, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  18. rconatser1

    About the same impression as a Kardashian...absolutely no reason to watch or listen to.

    May 29, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  19. Flgeeman

    Well this is a step in getting America back on the track to sensibility. She did absolutely nothing positive in her entire political career. No she is set for life with her Congressional pension, lifetime special healthcare among other perks.

    May 29, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  20. GinnyG

    Do you realize we could eliminate our national debt if we put Bachmann and Palin in a room together with a live video feed - people would pay to watch them try to out do each other

    May 29, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  21. tim43

    Bachmann made an impression? You bet. She's a lunatic.

    May 29, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  22. allens

    so tell me michele, are you going to accept lifetime health insurance while many millions do not have it? you say you are a person of principle, what will you do? well if you do accept it, maybe you can use the money you save to convert gays to straight through your husbands business.

    May 29, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  23. Jopa

    If you are a conservative woman or African American you don't need to "find the spotlight" the spotlight will be glaring due to the state media bias

    May 29, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  24. Big Dongler

    Here we go libs! This is your big chance to unleash your sexist venom!

    May 29, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  25. Calcommuter

    She made an impression? The voters of Minnesota made an impession when they re elected her! Not a favorable impression on the fine people of Minnesota.

    May 29, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
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