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Published May 30 2013

Forum editorial: Bachmann tea party saga over?

It looks like the gosh-darned liberal media won’t have Michele Bachmann to kick around anymore. Minnesota’s 6th District Republican congresswoman and tea party darling announced online Wednesday she would not seek re-election after eight years in the U.S. House. Then she avoided all those gosh-darned liberal media questions by dashing off on a congressional junket to Russia. How convenient for her.

But has the failed presidential candidate and target of a couple of campaign corruption investigations really stepped out of the political spotlight for good? Her self-serving announcement left the door open.

Having won a squeaker re-election in 2012, Bachmann insisted she would have won in 2014. But other observers of Minnesota’s political scene disagree. The campaign violation investigations – relatively unimportant now that she is not running – would have dogged a re-election campaign. Her cartoonish run for president collapsed after winning only one narrow caucus, and provided her opponents with classic Bachmannisms that would have been used against her in the 6th.

Finally, as an unapologetic self-promoter, she did not win friends and influence people in the House. She alienated GOP leadership. She was the perfect bizarre foil for House Democrats. She became the face of a movement that seemed more interested in tearing government down rather than making it work better. Tellingly, no significant legislation bears her name, despite her high-profile years in the House.

Bachmann is nothing if not politically savvy. Having appropriated the tea party crowd not to advance serious ideas but rather to advance herself, she knows the tea party horse has been run to death. Some of her supporters still don’t get it. They still see her as Saint Bachmann – persecuted by the media and undermined by mainstream Republicans. If that (shallower) well of support holds, Bachmann still might indulge her presidential aspirations in 2016. There is plenty of time.

And the people cheering her on with the greatest enthusiasm would be – get this – Democrats. She is among those fringe Republicans who have done wonders to convince the majority of Americans that Republican presidential candidates are not fit to lead. How’s that for a political legacy?


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