ST. PAUL, Minn. » Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, a tea party favorite, announced today she will not run for another term in the U.S. House, saying her decision had nothing to do with ongoing investigations over finances related to her unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination.
Bachmann, in a video posted on her website, also said her decision “was not influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected.”
The polarizing conservative narrowly won a fourth term last year in her suburban Minneapolis district over Democrat Jim Graves, a hotel chain founder who is running again in 2014. A spokesman said Bachmann wouldn’t be available for interviews, but her former chief of staff said he suspects she was anticipating a tough battle ahead and seemed to be stuck in place in Congress.
“This is a great chance to exit stage right rather than have a knockdown, drag-out re-election fight,” said Ron Carey, also an ex-state GOP chairman. “The reality also set in that she is not a favorite of Republican leadership, so she is not going to be rising up to a committee chair or rising up in leadership.”
In her video, Bachmann also said her decision “was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign” last year. In January, a former Bachmann aide filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, claiming the candidate made improper payments to an Iowa state senator who was the state chairman of her 2012 presidential run. The aide, Peter Waldron, also accused Bachmann of other FEC violations.
Bachmann had given few clues she was considering leaving Congress. Her fundraising operation was churning out the regular pitches for the small-dollar donations that Bachmann collected so well over the years, and she had an ad running on Twin Cities television talking about her role in opposing President Barack Obama’s health law. The early timing of the ad suggested she was preparing for a tough fight against Graves.
Without the polarizing Bachmann on the ticket, Republicans could have an easier time holding a district that leans more heavily in the GOP direction than any other in Minnesota. A parade of hopefuls was expected. By this morning, state Rep. Matt Dean, a former House majority leader, said he was inclined to run.
“It is something I have thought about in the past if Michele were to not run again,” Dean told The Associated Press. “It’s not something that I just started thinking about this morning.”
Graves said he thought Bachmann had “read the tea leaves.”
“The district is changing,” the Democrat said in an interview today with KARE-TV in Minneapolis. “They want somebody who really does have some business background and understands the economy and can get things done in Washington and back in the district.”
Andy Aplikowski, who has long been active in the district’s Republican Party chapter, said he expected Bachmann to run again but can understand why she didn’t.
“It’s a grueling thing to be in Congress. It’s a grueling thing to be Michele Bachmann in Congress,” he said. “Every move you make is criticized and put under a microscope.”
Bachmann’s strongly conservative views propelled her into politics, and once there, she never backed down.
She was a suburban mother of five in 1999 when she ran for a Minnesota school board seat because she thought state standards were designed to teach students values and beliefs.
She lost that race, but won a state Senate seat a year later. Once in St. Paul, she seized on gay marriage as an issue and led a charge to legally define marriage in Minnesota as between one man and one woman. That failed, but Bachmann had laid the foundation with social conservatives to help propel her into Congress in 2006.
In Washington, she turned to fiscal issues, attacking Democrats and President Barack Obama for government bailouts and the health care overhaul. Even in her early years in Congress, Bachmann frequently took those views to right-leaning cable talk programs, cultivating her national image even as she built a formidable fundraising base with like-minded viewers outside Minnesota.
But her penchant for provocative rhetoric sometimes backfired. She was hammered in 2008 for saying Obama might have “anti-American views,” a statement that prompted a rare retreat by Bachmann and made her race that year closer than it would have been. She was also criticized by her fellow Republicans last July for making unsubstantiated allegations that an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had family ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Her White House bid got off to a promising start, with a win in an Iowa GOP test vote. But Bachmann quickly faded and finished last when the real voting started in Iowa’s leadoff caucuses, a result that caused her to drop out. Saddled with debt, Bachmann opted to campaign again for her Minnesota seat and squeaked through.
But the failed presidential campaign continued to dog her. Allegations of improper payments prompted ethics inquiries. Bachmann also faced a lawsuit from a former aide that alleged someone on the congresswoman’s team stole a private email list of home-school supporters for use in the campaign. That case is pending.
Bachmann — a vocal opponent of the Obama administration — today promised her supporters, “I will continue to work overtime for the next 18 months in Congress defending the same Constitutional Conservative values we have worked so hard on together.”
As for her plans beyond Congress, she said, “There is 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.”
Bachmann’s success in the talk media world led industry analysts to say she could easily move into a gig as a host.
Bachmann has been mentioned as a potential challenger to first-term Democratic Sen. Al Franken, but she has given little indication that she would take that step.
Kesten reported from Washington.