Conservative firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., announced that she will not seek re-election in 2014. The announcement came in a YouTube video posted on her campaign website early Wednesday morning.
The Tea Party darling and former presidential candidate had been facing a difficult re-election challenge from Jim Graves, a Democrat who came close to defeating Bachmann in 2012. Since that election, Bachmann has faced an investigation into payments her presidential campaign made to an Iowa state senator during the 2012 campaign. That investigation has ramped up significantly in the last week, with the FBI joining the probe. Recent polling showed Bachmann narrowly trailing Graves in a battle for a fifth term.
Still, Bachmann said that re-election concerns had not prompted her to withdraw from the race.
“Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected to Congress,” Bachmann said in her announcement. “I have every confidence that if I ran, I would again defeat the individual who I defeated last year.”
She also said that the investigation into her political campaign was not a part of her decision.
A Bold and Bizarre Career
Whatever her spin, it seems unlikely that Bachmann was not motivated at least somewhat by her declining poll numbers. She had already been running ads in advance of the race. This is the woman who once approached a GOP delegate who had opposed her nomination, simply to repeat, over and over, “You will pay.” She has shown no fear of difficult battles, leading the charge of right-wing Republicans in their takeover of both the Minnesota and national Republican Parties.
Bachmann first gained political office in 2000, defeating incumbent State Sen. Gary Ladig, R-Stillwater, in a primary. Bachmann was proudly conservative from the start; in 2003, she worked with State Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, to unsuccessfully push an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Minnesota State Constitiution. That led to one of the earliest strange moments of a very strange political career, when Bachmann literally hid in the bushes on the state capitol grounds in order to watch a rally held by supporters of same-sex marriage.
When then-Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., retired in 2006 to run unsuccessfully for an open Senate seat, Bachmann won her party’s endorsement, and ultimately, a seat in Congress. Once there, Bachmann immediately gained notoriety for kissing then-President George W. Bush after the State of the Union. By the next fall, she was telling Chris Matthews that many members of Congress were anti-American.
Ever since, Bachmann has established herself on the fringe of American political thought. She’s warned that America might be planning to abandon the dollar as our currency, compared the Americorps volunteer program to “re-education camps,” and argued that Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, “had terrorist ties.” Bachmann has been extremely anti-gay (her husband runs an ex-gay counseling service), extremely anti-choice and extremely anti-immigrant.
Bachmann’s high point unquestionably came in 2011, when she won the Iowa straw poll, and very briefly held the lead in polling of the Republican presidential primary. Though Bachmann faded, she established herself as a favorite of the extreme conservative set.
Bachmann’s political future from here on out is cloudly. There has been speculation that she might challenge Sen. Al Franken, DFL-Minn., in 2014, but it seems unlikely that she would announce she was dropping out of her Congressional race without hinting at a challenge to Franken. The same holds true for a challenge of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who is also up for re-election next year. She could make another presidential run in 2016, but given her flameout in 2012, that seems unlikely, too.
More likely is that Bachmann will try to position herself as a new Sarah Palin figure — someone who is beloved by the right, who uses that goodwill to build a career as a talking head.
Bachmann does say that she will continue to work “100-hour weeks” in support of a conservative agenda, and fight Democratic efforts to transform our nation into “something the founders would hardly even recognize today.”
Bachmann also pledged to fight for conservative social issues, saying, “I will continue to work to protect innocent human life, traditional marriage, family values, religious liberty, and academic excellence.”
Whatever her future holds, in less than two years, Bachmann will no longer hold a seat in Congress. As a Minnesotan who has viewed her continued service in Congress with disdain, I can only say that this is truly a joyous day, even if, as I suspect, it means a more moderate Republican will win her seat in 2014. At the very least, her successor won’t be worse than she is; there’s no such thing.
Watch the Video of Bachmann’s Announcement
Image Credit: Gage Skidmore