Rep. Michele Bachmann announces she is ending her 2012 campaign for President.(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Catalina Camia, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann, a GOP conservative who ran for president last year, made a surprise announcement Wednesday and said she will not seek re-election to a fifth term in Congress.
The Minnesota Republican was facing inquiries into her 2012 presidential campaign and a potential 2014 rematch with Democrat Jim Graves, a wealthy hotel executive who came within about 4,300 votes of defeating her in November. She had already bought airtime in Minnesota to begin running campaign ads.
"My decision was not influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected," Bachmann said in a video posted on her website.
Bachmann added, "This decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign."
Former Bachmann aide Peter Waldron in January filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, claiming the congresswoman made improper payments to an Iowa state senator who was the state chairman of her presidential campaign. Waldron accused Bachmann of other FEC violations.
Bachmann, 57, made a name for herself in Congress by staunchly opposing President Obama's health care law. She co-founded the House Tea Party Caucus, a group dedicated to the anti-tax, small government principles that sparked the movement.
Her outspoken critique of Obama and frequent TV appearances, along with support from the Tea Party, invariably led to comparisons with Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican Party vice presidential nominee. Palin had backed Bachmann during her 2010 re-election bid, when she faced a tough fight against Democrat Tarryl Clark. Bachmann said she viewed Palin as a friend and not a competitor.
In her presidential campaign, Bachmann tried to tap into her support from Tea Partiers - who also felt political kinship with candidates such as Rick Santorum and Rick Perry - in her bid for the GOP nomination. She made a number of gaffes on the campaign trail, such as the time she suggested the Revolutionary War battles at Lexington and Concord occurred in New Hampshire.
Bachmann blasted Perry, the Texas governor, in one televised GOP debate over mandating the HPV vaccine for schoolgirls and suggested it would lead to retardation. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other doctors spoke out to correct Bachmann, saying that the HPV vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer, would not cause mental retardation.
It was a quick rise - and fall - on the national scene for Bachmann, who declared her intention to seek the White House during a televised debate in June 2011. The Iowa native later that summer won the Ames Straw Poll, a state Republican Party fundraiser that is viewed as a gauge of grass-roots support for the first-in-the-nation caucuses. But Bachmann had trouble consolidating support among the Tea Party faithful and social conservatives, and dropped out the morning after the Iowa caucuses.
Months after some of her presidential rivals had already done so, Bachmann endorsed Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination.
Bachmann routinely was among the House's top fundraisers and her 2012 race against Graves, the former CEO of the AmericInn chain, was one of the most expensive in the country. She raised nearly $15 million last year to about $2.3 million for Graves, and wasted no time cranking up her fundraising machine for the 2014 elections.
In one such e-mail pitch, Bachmann proclaimed that the "Pelosi-Obama campaign machine" was taking aim at her.
The House Majority PAC, which works to elect Democrats to Congress, hailed Bachmann's decision to retire and promised to help Graves win the seat based in the Twin Cities suburbs.
"Bachmann was one of House Majority PAC's top 10 targets for many reasons: her out-of-touch and extreme right-wing views, her penchant for making repeated and false and outlandish statements and the growing investigation into unethical and potentially even criminal activities," said Alixandria Lapp, executive director of the House Majority PAC. "We are confident that we would have helped defeat her next November, but Bachmann voluntarily removing herself from Congress is a victory we can all celebrate today."
Bachmann promised in her video to "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, Bachmann 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."