Rep. Michele Bachmann, the notorious four-term congresswoman whose political star power, like the Tea Party movement she came to embody, has quietly faded almost as quickly as it so vehemently burst onto the national scene, will not seek reelection in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District.
The firebrand 57-year-old tax attorney's staunch pro-life, anti-gay, anti-Obamacare, and generally anti-government positions made her a Tea Party darling who won the Iowa Straw poll in a vacillating 2012 Republican presidential primary field. But after dropping out of that race last January and winning re-election to her seat, she became ensnarled in an investigation into her campaign finances that the FBI is now joining. And as Politico's Alex Isenstadt explained just yesterday, Democrat Jim Graves, who lost to Bachmann by just 1.18 percentage points in November and had major backing from his party, posed "the gravest threat to her political career yet" in 2014. Bachmann, who was never fully embraced by the fractured leadership of her own party, denied in a video (below) released on her Facebook page announcing the decision early Wednesday morning that either threat affected her decision not to run:
Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being reelected to Congress. I've always in the past defeated candidates who are capable, qualified, and well-funded. And I have every confidence that if I ran, I would defeat the individual who I defeated last year, who recently announced that he is once again running. And 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 that was not the case.
Her Democratic challenger might have been a serious enough threat to not risk a near certain future as an anti-government crusader and high-paid speaker and/or consultant, but the investigation into alleged campaign finance violations during her failed presidential campaign may have been nipping at Bachmann's heels. Minnpost.com's Cyndy Brucato reported on May 17 that the FBI was joining the FEC, the Office of Congressional Ethics, and an Iowa State Senate ethics committee to investigate whether Bachmann hid payments to an Iowa state senator who worked on her campaign, and whether "the state senator stole the email list of an Iowa home-school group from another Bachmann staffer, Barbara Hekki, prior to the Iowa caucuses in January, 2012." Bachmann was actually plagued by a tailspin of scandal from inside her campaign as her former staffers revolted against her quite publicly: In October 2011, her New Hampshire staff quit en masse, and this January, a high level-staffer for her presidential run alleged that Bachmann's financial chairman was stiffing staffers on campaign paychecks because they didn't sign a non-disclosure agreement. Her aides just wouldn't let 2012 go away.
Bachmann is also leaving as her national political clout is a shade of its former self. That's partly due to the shifting dynamics of the Tea Party, which as The Atlantic Wire's Elspeth Reeve explained in March, has shifted its attention to the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Reeve wrote:
Why the change? They didn't fare so well in 2012. The Tea Party Express endorsed 16 Senate candidates in 2012; only four won. Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus once had 60 members, but 10 lost their seats in 2012 ... That's a pretty bad showing, given the that 90 percent of the House was reelected last year.
A survey conducted by Public Policy Polling released on May 20 showed Graves holding a slight edge, 47 percent to 45 percent, over Bachmann in the 2014 contest — a race in which Michele Bachmann, after being so outspoken on so many things she would not let go away herself, will not be participating.
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