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Michele Bachman’s spectacular fall - Tea Party firebrand retires

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Michele Bachman’s spectacular fall - Tea Party firebrand retires


In an e-mail message to supporters and a video posted online early Wednesday morning former presidential candidate and Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (Minnesota), announced she would not seek a fifth term in Congress in 2014. “Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected to Congress,” Bachmann says in the nearly nine-minute video. “I’ve always, in the past, defeated candidates who are capable, qualified and well-funded.” But at a time when an ethics cloud hangs over her, she also noted, “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.”

The former presidential candidate insisted that she never considered holding public office to be an “occupation.” Looking ahead, “my future is full, limitless and my passions for America will remain. And I want you to be assured that 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 for future generations.”

Bachman’s decision came as a surprise to political Washington. But the White House, getting rid of a longtime nemesis, refused to comment. Press secretary Jay Carney merely said, during President Obama’s morning briefings Michele Bachman was not mentioned at all. “Of course, we wish her well”, Carney added laconically.

Michele Bachmann’s decision not to seek reelection could spare her from an ongoing Congressional ethics investigation, but that doesn’t mean her legal challenges are over. The allegations revolve around a stolen list of home-schooling parents in Iowa. She and her aides deny involvement. If members of Congress resign or don’t run again, the ethics committee loses jurisdiction or interest. But expect the Bachmann case to continue, because the FBI and Federal Election Commission are also looking into whether she misused campaign funds in her failed 2012 presidential bid. This is the latest example of how running for president can make, but more often break, a political career.

In her video, Bachmann explains that she is stepping aside because “in my opinion, well, eight years is long enough for an individual to serve as representative for a specific congressional district.” Maybe so. But it’s certainly not for lack of campaign cash. Bachmann had more than $1.8 million in her campaign war chest as of March 31, according to FEC filings – a huge sum. Her challenger, Democrat Jim Graves, reports just $36,000 cash on hand at this early stage. During the 2012 campaign, Bachmann raised more money than any other candidate for the US House of Representatives. She topped $20 million for the cycle, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. For perspective, the next biggest fundraiser, Allen West, brought in $17 million, followed by Tammy Duckworth with $4.5 million.

“While her presidential bid initially excited Tea Party supporters, Mrs. Bachmann would later find herself upstaged by conservative opponents like Mr. Cain and Mr. Santorum, and she was prone to misstatements, including saying the vaccine against the human papillomavirus was linked to ‘mental retardation,’” writes The New York on Wednesday. “But her campaign was not without impact. Her victory in the Ames, Iowa, straw poll in the summer of 2011 forced Tim Pawlenty, the former Republican governor of Minnesota, to drop out of the contest early, after he did poorly in his neighboring state. … Ms. Bachmann had been a largely obscure member of Congress from Minnesota before the emergence of the Tea Party in 2010. She seized on the movement to brand herself a national voice of conservatives and become the leader of the ‘Tea Party Caucus’ in the House.”

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