Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota announced late Tuesday in a video that she will not seek re-election in 2014. She narrowly retained her House seat in 2012 when she defeated Democratic challenger Jim Graves, who has already announced that he will run again in 2014. Bachmann also ran for the Republican nomination for the presidency and won the Ames Straw Poll in 2011, but dropped out of the race in January 2012 when she finished sixth in the Iowa caucuses.
While she said that eight years is enough time for her to serve in the House, Bachmann's announcement did not rule out a potential run for other Minnesota offices or another presidential bid. The blogosphere reacts to the tea party favorite's decision:
Peter Weber of The Week explains that despite the fact that Bachmann offered little rationale for her decision, the media won't hesitate to examine it under a microscope:
In eight minutes and 40 seconds, with upbeat music playing in the background, Bachmann goes through a list of things she has done or tried to do and wrongs she thinks the Obama administration has rained down on the U.S. and the world, and warns about the "ultimate risk of the destruction of our entire economic system."
And while she doesn't really explain her decision, she knows how it will play in the press: "I fully anticipate the mainstream liberal media to put a detrimental spin on my decision not to seek a fifth term," Bachmann concludes. But here she's probably wrong. There's nothing the mainstream liberal media would like better than for the highly quotable Rep. Bachmann to continue talking to the mainstream liberal media. What other rank-and-file House member, after all, would get this level of attention for simply announcing her retirement?
Sean Sullivan of The Fix said opponents shouldn't be so quick to celebrate Bachmann's departure, as her retirement from the House will only make it more difficult for Democrats to capture the seat:
Bachmann's 6th district is the most conservative in the state. Mitt Romney carried 56 percent of the vote there in 2012, yet the congresswoman narrowly won reelection by a bit more than one point over Democrat Jim Graves, even as she dramatically outspent him. Simply put, this is fertile ground for Republicans in a standard R versus D race. But Bachmann, of course, is not a standard Republican, which is why she almost coughed up a seat in a district with a conservative tilt.
But now, Graves does not have the luxury of running against a wounded opponent. And he faces an uphill climb given the district's partisan tilt.
The good news for the Democrat is that the Republican race to replace Bachmann could grow crowded and competitive, potentially forcing GOP candidates to expend resources while the Democrat sits back and prepares for the general election. A Republican with an eye on the race pointed to a dozen potential Republican contenders.
Ed Morrissey of Hot Air said the strength of Graves' second bid against Bachmann isn't a likely cause of her announcement:
Why now, then? The video doesn't really give an explanation other than Bachmann simply doesn't want to return to the House. It's possible that she may be eyeing the Senate race against Al Franken — and since practically no one else is, she'd probably win the nomination by default if she chose. If that's the case, why bother retiring now? She could wait for the moment that she wants to jump into the race to announce that she's shifting to the Senate without the formal retirement announcement.
Plus, while Bachmann has done well in CD-6, she's not that strong in the rest of the state. Minnesotans won't elect a conservative firebrand to statewide office any time soon, as much as we might hope that Bachmann's fundraising and name brand might carry her over the finish line. Bachmann is too smart a politician to not know this. She might do better in a gubernatorial bid against Mark Dayton, but that's just a matter of degree rather than a different outcome.
Ed Kilgore of Political Animal also said Bachmann will likely not disappear from the public eye:
Like any left-of-center political writer, I've appreciated Bachmann's hijinks over the years, not just because of her ability to bring The Crazy like no one else, but because she really did complicate the lives of those who wanted to neatly divide today's radicalized conservative movement into secular and religious "wings," or treat the Tea Party as something new and different from yesterday's extremists. She was probably the first nationally prominent pol to consistently label herself as a "constitutional conservative," a self-identifying term that is still growing like topsy in usage and may well become ubiquitous on the Right before long, despite or perhaps because of its arrogance and its assertion of eternally valid governing models and cultural standards from the distant past. I'll probably never be able to hear that particular dog whistle blow without thinking of Michele Bachmann. She was a forerunner in a lot of ways, God help us.
J.F. of Democracy in America also commented on Bachmann's legacy, or what he considers the lack thereof:
But hollowness, alas, is Mrs Bachmann's legacy. Her brief seven-year tenure in Congress has been heat without light. She has chaired neither a committee nor a subcommittee. Of the 58 bills she sponsored or co-sponsored, precisely one passed the full House: a repeal of the Affordable Care Act that has as much chance of becoming law as it does of becoming a kumquat. She has missed more than 10% of roll-call votes during her time in office: more than five times the congressional median. And the less said about her casual relationship with facts the better. She was anger, indignation and a thousand-watt smile—nothing more, and her departure is good news for Republicans. Futile rage helps nobody. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are far better standard bearers for the tea-party movement than Mrs Bachmann and Steve King. They are legislators who appear to have an interest in legislating, and who seem to understand that believing the government is generally inefficient and power-hungry is no excuse for doing the job of governing badly. That is far more than can be said for Mrs Bachmann.
Matthew Yglesias of MoneyBox said that perhaps the allure of a more lucrative career contributed to Bachmann's decision:
Initial news coverage seems to be linking this to an Ethics Committee investigation into the possible misuse of PAC funds to support her nominal 2012 presidential bid. But I think the relevant precedent here is South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint resigning in order to run the Heritage Foundation. Or perhaps former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee taking a pass at a 2012 presidential bid in favor of working as a Fox News host. Which is to say that for many prominent conservative elected officials, getting out of politics and into the conservative edutainment industry seems like a more appealing and interesting option than continuing to work on politics. You can particularly see this in the case of Bachmann. She's an unusually famous House member, but becoming a powerful House member is hard work and often takes a long time. The state of Minnesota as a whole isn't nearly conservative enough for Bachmann to become governor or senator without moderating somewhat, and back-bench House members can't really run for president. But if Bachmann gets out, I'm sure she can earn plenty of money writing books or making TV or speaking appearances.
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