Michele Bachmann’s Political Swan Song

Amid a tangle of federal investigations into alleged misuses of campaign finances, and a looming re-election fight against a tough opponent, Bachmann bows out.

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Alex Wong / Getty Images

Michele Bachmann after a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on May 16, 2013.

Michele Bachmann’s swift rise and bruising fall tracked the fortunes of the Tea Party movement she helped inspire. Her punchy stem-winders against Barack Obama made her a cable-news celebrity, a fundraising powerhouse and, briefly, an insurgent contender in the 2012 GOP presidential primary.

But by the time Bachmann announced early Wednesday that she would not seek a fifth Congressional term in 2014, she had also become something of a punchline. She was a gifted provocateur but an indifferent legislator. Her penchant for incendiary rhetoric — which often shaded into outright misinformation — incensed Democrats and alienated many fellow Republicans.

A former tax lawyer first elected in 2006, Bachmann, 57, practiced politics as infotainment, using her perch in Congress to bludgeon her opponents with a freewheeling style that made her a favorite of the Tea Party grassroots. A conservative firebrand, she fashioned herself as one of the leading critics of the President’s health-care law and an unrestrained federal government. She helped to form the Tea Party Caucus, and surfed the movement’s rise from the back benches of the House to national celebrity.

Bachmann attacked her targets without much care for accuracy; at times her penchant for hyperbole helped keep the political fact-checking industry afloat. (Her file at PolitiFact, which rated just 15% of Bachmann’s statements it assessed to be true or mostly true, is a trip through the fever swamps of conservative paranoia. In a send-off that seemed tinged with genuine regret, the Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler called her “a fact-checker’s dream.”) This approach helped fuel her victory in the 2011 Iowa straw poll, which briefly vaulted her into the top echelon of the GOP presidential contenders.

But Bachmann’s campaign unraveled quickly, hampered by internal strife, mismanagement and a flawed candidate prone to misstatements. She exited the race after plunging to sixth in the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, with just 5% of the vote. In November, Iowa’s Republican governor pointed to her victory at Ames to make the case that the non-binding beauty contest had “outlived its usefulness.”

Bachmann’s decision to bow out of a looming re-election battle, revealed in an 8 min., 40 second video released in the middle of the night, spares Republicans the hassle of defending some of her outré remarks and may help them hold onto Minnesota’s most conservative district.

The move comes amid a tangle of of federal investigations into alleged malfeasance during her messy presidential bid. The Office of Congressional Ethics, the Federal Election Commission and an Iowa investigator appointed by the state supreme court have looked into separate claims that her campaign concealed payments to a Hawkeye State senator who worked for her campaign, pilfered a private database of an Iowa home-schooling network, and misused campaign funds to promote a memoir. Bachmann has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and did so again in her video message early Wednesday.

“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,” she says. “It was clearly understood that compliance with all rules and regulations was an absolute necessity for my presidential campaign. And I have no reason to believe that that was not the case.”

The cloud of ethics probes wasn’t the only possible deterrent. Bachmann was facing a tough re-election battle against Jim Graves, a wealthy businessman who came within a few thousand votes of toppling her last year. She insists in the video that this wasn’t a factor.

“Be assured: My decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being reelected to Congress,” Bachmann says. “I have every confidence that if I ran, I would again defeat the individual who I defeated last year.”

But retiring now allows Bachmann, who never showed much interest in Washington dealmaking, to hit the cable news or speaking circuit with an unblemished electoral record. She remains a conservative touchstone; on the day she declared she wouldn’t run again, an e-book publisher released a political-romance novel with a heroine — a presidential candidate “full of firebrand pluck and red state sex appeal” — modeled after the congressman. Bachmann may be done with Washington, but her fans aren’t over her yet.

55 comments
lfinley51
lfinley51

Gosh, Michelle, you may not be running for Congress, but you sure seem to be running for something! Can't wait! We need you as President, before Jihadist Death Panels can eliminate all the Christians and impose Shariah law. Sure, they're anti-abortion and pro-family values, but I for one am concerned they may deal harshly with some of our banks and corporations. And how do you think they would feel about your hair? Or your husband? I'm not saying he's gay, but you have to admit it may look like it to a bunch of Koran-crazed fanatics! So for our sake and yours, I hope you go for it!! Remember, the bums will always lose!!

gintonics
gintonics

As a Minnesotian I am SO SO HAPPY that this bat sh*t crazy Iowan will no longer be mis-representing the great state of Minnesota. 

Michele, please take your crazy and head back to Iowa.  PLEASE.  And let the door hit you on your way out, maybe it will knock some sense into you.

sacredh
sacredh

I am interested in filling Michele's seat.

I never thought I'd say that.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

If I was Marcus I'd get the hint that she didn't mention spending more time with her family.

sacredh
sacredh

If she starts a think tank, I might have to be restrained.

sacredh
sacredh

Bachmann is to politics what a fart is to a windchime.

warthog0
warthog0

I seriously dislike Ms. Bachmann. Her anti-science stance is atrocious and what she did to Huma Abedin was despicable. Her grasp of the reality she inhabits is exceeded by most 5th graders who generally realize the battle of Lexington and Concord was fought in Massachusetts. The fact she is a Congresswoman brings shame to the country funded by men like Thomas Jefferson and preserved by Abraham Lincoln.

The fact that she will not be a member of the US Congress after 2014 makes me very happy.

What a great day to be an American.

BeanCube
BeanCube

I don't know, after seeing WSJ headline, "Who'll Replace Bachmann?" I got my instant prayer, "Who Needs Breast Cancer AGAIN? Bye!"

Yemil
Yemil

Swans are beautiful and elegant creatures and using their name in this Bachman context is an insult whatever song it refers to. I wonder if there is such a thing as a toad song..... a lizard song maybe or even a slug song perhaps? Yeh....use one of those, any of them would be more appropriate in this case.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

Outside of being semi attractive I cannot find any reason to like her.  My brother, who I did not previously think was a nit wit, said he liked Palin because she was good looking.  Both of these women are huge liars, praying upon people's fears.  I'm glad they both have lost political favor, at least where it counts.  They can continue to talk to the sheep in the Flush Limbaugh network of life.

GuyDallas
GuyDallas

The lady was demonized by the liberal press from the onset.I respect her stand for traditional values and wish her the best.

sacredh
sacredh

It's a good thing she isn't running again. She was starting to embarrass the crying drunk that chairs the house.

sacredh
sacredh

"Her penchant for incendiary rhetoric — which often shaded into outright misinformation — incensed Democrats and alienated many fellow Republicans."

Shorter version: The b1tch lied.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

One GOP crazy resigns and dozens more remain. No wonder even Bob Dole has had enough with this clown car of a party.

grape_crush
grape_crush

/sigh

Another fringe conservative pol is put out to pasture; one less right-wing kook to serve as an object of mockery and derision.

Not that I'm afraid of running out of fools like Bachmann. It's as if there's a factory in Wingnutistan that specializes in their manufacture.


Kris45
Kris45

Hah, she can just see the writing on the wall, that's all. It's quit or be kicked out.

sacredh
sacredh

Markus: Hurry up and get your clothes on guys. Michele's coming home.

Kris45
Kris45

@sacredh Yeah, but that implies that she's capable of thinking... so no worries :)

TyPollard
TyPollard

@sacredh 

 I recommend restraining yourself as a precaution. Safety first.

sacredh
sacredh

Congratulations on 10k.

manlyman
manlyman

Of course you can't find any reason to like her. She's a conservative. You're a piece of s__t liberal.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@notLostInSpace 

I'm not so sure about her being a liar (Bachmann). I seems to me that she is a true believer in provably false information. Hard to tell though for sure.

GaySpecking
GaySpecking

The press didn't demonize her, she put her own foot in her mouth. The press just reported it.

Arimathean
Arimathean

@GuyDallas  Those jerks in the liberal media changed reality so it no longer fit with Michelle's claims!

warthog0
warthog0

@GuyDallas She demonized herself with idiotic comments like 'vaccines cause mental retardation' and teaching Evolution is censorship. Oh and don't forget that China is blinding US satellites with lasers.


MrObvious
MrObvious

@GuyDallas 

No one made her say and do the stupid things she did. It's hard to demonize so much stupid other then point and laugh.

tommyudo
tommyudo

@grape_crush 


I don't think there is a factory that produces them. All you have to do is turn over a rock. The crazies in the GOP have become like  a franchise with each DC or state rep yahoo trying to out do the other in insane ramblings. With Michelle going back to a marriage that never should have been saved, the chief bull goose loony in the House now becomes  Louis "Louie, Louie" Gohmert 

sacredh
sacredh

Kicked out of the republican party for being crazy. Think about that for a minute.

sacredh
sacredh

That might be a good idea. I've been working in the yard off and on since noon. I'm soaked, scratched up and my back is killing me. It's in the high 80s and humid. I'm taking a break now and have beach towels thrown over the chair to keep it from getting sweat soaked. I couldn't cut the grass before now because of all of the rain we've been having.

Arimathean
Arimathean

@manlyman  Colin Powell is a conservative.  Michelle Bachmann is a lunatic.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@manlyman I found a reason to like her. She made the entire GOP congress look like braindead idiots.

Kris45
Kris45

grab yer gun pa, that thars a libarel... hyuk.

Kris45
Kris45

Only an uneducated conservative would admire her for her intellect.

warthog0
warthog0

@MrObvious @GuyDallas The problem is that after her errors were pointed out she tried to defend them rather than admit her mistake.


Din dong the witch is dead!

manlyman
manlyman

What are the lies of which you speak manindrag? In your own words now, not your leftyloon "imformation" sources.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

no, the other nitwits looked smart in comparison to her!

sacredh
sacredh

T & A beats IQ every day in wingnut land.

StoneyB
StoneyB

@Kris45 If graduating from the Oral Roberts School of Law makes her well-educated, we gotta work on the definition of education.

Kris45
Kris45

I think it's absolutely hilarious that this supposedly well-educated woman keeps making such an idiot of herself. She is an embarrassment to MN.

sacredh
sacredh

It's nothing more than liberal hatred when you have to stoop to using Michele's own words to prove that she's nuts.