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. crazyvermont

    Guess with all the craziness in DC(both parties) I'd just as soon look at a pretty face like Bachmann then the likes of Pelosi, Waussermann Schultz, Kathy Sebelius, Clinton etc etc.

    May 29, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  2. george marple

    Made an impression? Oh, I get it. Like a turd flung from the Empire State Building dropping on the head of a hapless passersby.

    May 29, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  3. johnb

    Some people are only educated on paper common sense is not common.

    May 29, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  4. birdyboy

    What's scarier than Bachmann are the "Religious nuts" that voted for her.Both her and Sarah Palin have to be the two most uneducated women in the country and make "The Real Housewives of...blah...blah..blah look like geniuses.

    May 29, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  5. rand

    Such CLASSY liberal comments on this board..............

    It always amazes me how classless and rude liberals can be.

    Is it a required trait in order to vote Democrat?

    May 29, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  6. Marc

    What does this say about the consitutency that voted her in? Not much...

    May 29, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  7. baffledbyyoureignorance

    PRETTY FACE??!! I guess beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

    May 29, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  8. Sarcastro

    If by legacy you mean solidifying the GOP as a bunch of backwards, science-fearing, air beaded twits, sure, that's a legacy.

    May 29, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  9. yep

    Maybe she was just someone who took her view points to the extreme and found that there were people out there that would listen to her and elect her. Her legacy, which is a word entirely too strong for her time in office, will be a passing footnote at best. The only thing we can hope for is that her 15 minutes are up and it's time for her to fade into the past.

    May 29, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  10. bombastus

    II suppose she can now spend more time with her husband de-gaying all those godless gay sinners. If people like her, Palin, the pizza dude, Santorum, etc keep bailing out there won't be anymore comic material for SNL. That would be sad.

    May 29, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  11. chuck

    her and Palin both were ruined by left leaning media attacks, even late night
    hosts got into the demonizing of these women.

    May 29, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  12. angeson

    She had such a great act too. Bizzaro, the better than thou politician of God

    May 29, 2013 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  13. D.Mama

    Some one liked her. She got back in office.Hope they help her back out!!!

    May 29, 2013 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  14. stevenkane

    It sure is "surreal" to say the least when CNN gives a NUTCASE like Bachman any ink at all. Then I noticed some hick comparing her to Pelosi.

    And while I am not exactly a fan of Nancy Pelosi, Bachman is like a "grapefruit" when you are trying to compare her intellectually to Pelosi. Pelosi at least can speak in complete sentences and doesn't have to make up history and the constitution as Bachman always did.


    This is why I am "pro-choice" - too many loons who are now finding their way into politics.

    May 29, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  15. ccw

    Anybody else doing the happy dance?

    May 29, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  16. Bill

    To call her a complete idiot would be kind.

    May 29, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  17. coderjones

    another tacky palin wanna be

    May 29, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  18. Tom

    Poor Michelle, all she needs is an eternal high colonic.

    May 29, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  19. ralph

    what was her impact? negligible. Her legacy? She'll be forgotten. And if others like her retire and go away the Republican party might get back on track and try to move forward with intelligent conservatism–not hatred and divisiveness.

    May 29, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  20. breed7

    Like Sarah Palin, Bachman has proved that the only thing an exceptionally unintelligent person can do when challenged is to slink back under the rock from which she originally emerged.

    Our country will be a far better place once she's gone from office.

    May 29, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  21. Ralpher

    The important issue with Michele Bachmann is that she is the type of person that is dangerous for the country. Her views are beyond off base. She often makes statements that are not only wrong, but knowingly wrong. She has no morals regarding who she might harm with her comments. She lacks a basic understanding of decent political thought.
    On a related note, it is amazing that someone like Bachmann could have any traction within the Republican Party; actually its sad. The Tea Party and other far, far right wing elements of the Republican Party are filled with hate, negativism, and harmful views. Bachmann captures all that in one hurtful person.

    May 29, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  22. Teresa

    Thank God she is finally going away. I am a Minnesotan who does not understand how she kept getting elected. I've never met anyone that could stand the woman.

    May 29, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  23. Dan Jones

    Looking at these comments I realize that our country is finished. Liberals are winning and it will be to their own demise. The only reason they hate this lady so much is that she spoke the truth and it pricked their sick little conscience making them uncomfortable, which is a crime in this age. You will find out that history will vindicate Michelle and condemn the liberals who destroyed this nation.

    May 29, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  24. Flooby

    Legacy...HA HaHa Ha Ha

    May 29, 2013 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  25. penguin

    Perhaps she's leading the demise of the Tea Party. One can only hope. I wonder what uninformed, uneducable, bafoon will replace her.

    May 29, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
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