Michele Bachmann: Sarah Palin 2.0?

Bachmann bows out of the GOP presidential race, but what's next for the Minnesota congresswoman?

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Though her sights are no longer set on the White House, Michele Bachmann isn't likely to just slink away into nameless oblivion following her stinging defeat in Iowa.

In bowing out of the race, the Minnesota congresswoman emphasized that she will not be returning to her home state with her tail between her legs. "Make no mistake: I'm going to continue to be a strong voice," she said.

But what exactly lies ahead for the fiery Minnesota representative still remains a mystery. Bachmann herself has stayed mum on the topic and requests for comment from her former campaign manager and press deputy were not immediately returned.

[Read: It's Game On in New Hampshire.]

Her sixth-place finish in Iowa and the ultimate decision to quit the GOP nomination race was the culmination of a long downward slide, punctuated by numerous head-scratching moments in which Bachmann's arguably "unconventional" views were exposed.

On more than one occasion, Bachmann was dinged for misleading statements or flat-out factual inaccuracies. But has that completely undermined her credibility and irrevocably damaged her political career?

Probably not.

That's not to say experts expect Bachmann to rapidly ascend within her party or successfully run for Senate, but she still might be able to carve out a place for herself on the national level, and she definitely won't be a stranger to the Tea Party movement. After all, Bachmann's staunch Tea Party-friendly stances have made her a darling of the movement and her support there isn't likely to fade anytime soon.

"I don't know if she can take the Sarah Palin route of trying to convert her political support into stardom, but I think she will hang in [Congress] and could pick up a national constituency," based around, for instance, a social issue, says Chris Arterton, professor of political management at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

[Read: Is Romney Unbeatable?]

Bachmann is no stranger to standing her ground on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, and assuming the mantle of social and political cause could be the most logical next step.

"Unlike some politicians who have been accused of moving their positions to appeal to a constituency, I get the impression that she has been totally honest and candid about what she feels is the appropriate direction for public policy," Arterton says. "You can't really charge her with moving around on the political spectrum to gain votes."

That stick-to-her-guns record could come in handy if Bachmann does decide to champion a certain issue in the future, but for the time being her future remains a big question mark.

mhandley@usnews.com

Twitter: @mmhandley

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