Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., announced she would not run for a fifth congressional term in a surprise, 8-minute video issued via email to supporters early Wednesday morning.
Bachmann, a prolific fundraiser and who capitalized on the tea party movement and often represented her party's most conservative wing, ran for president during the 2012 Republican primary only to drop out after a poor showing in Iowa, the race's first contest. Her presidential campaign has faced recent ethics scrutiny for the potential misuse of funds, but Bachmann denied this had anything to do with her decision to not seek re-election.
"After a great deal of thought and deliberation, I have decided next year I will not seek a fifth congressional term to represent the wonderful people of the 6th district of Minnesota," she said in the campaign-quality video.
"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. 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 was not the case."
Bachmann said though members of Congress are not subject to term limits, presidents are limited to eight years so in her opinion, "eight years is also long enough for an individual to serve as a representative for a specific congressional district."
She also made clear she wasn't retiring because she feared winning re-election, as the opponent she narrowly defeated in her last election would be running against her again. But even though Bachmann tried to buffer herself against speculation about why she made her decision, she acknowledged the likely criticism.
"I fully expect the mainstream, liberal media to put a detrimental spin on my decision not to seek a fifth term and since I was first elected to Congress many years ago, they always seem to attempt to find a dishonest way to disparage me," Bachmann said.
Bachmann did not leave much of a legislative mark in Congress, having served in the minority for the first half of her service and sponsoring measures with no hope of passage in the Democratically-controlled Senate – like repealing President Barack Obama's health care reform law – during her time in the majority.
And though able to garner national grass roots, conservative support, Bachmann was often on the outside of power within her own party.
Though she's not leaving mid term, Bachmann's brand and decision to leave office is reminiscent of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was also deluged with ethics inquiries, particularly after she was John McCain's running mate in 2008 and became a political lightning rod. Palin went on to cash in on her celebrity and political notoriety, becoming a Fox television pundit and giving paid speeches across the country. Similarly, Bachmann left the door open for such activity.
"There's no future option or opportunity, be it directly in the political arena 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.
Bachmann's announcement 18 months before the 2014 election gives Republicans in her district plenty of time to recruit a candidate to replace her.