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Bachmann walks away

With her eyes at one point on the White House, Michelle Bachmann says she is now leaving politics - at least for now.
Last modified: 30 May 2013 20:55
Bachmann, as the Republican presidential hopeful [Reuters]

Famously, God told her to run for president. Unfortunately he apparently didn't share that she was going to lose.

Michelle Bachmann was at one point the favourite to be the Republican nominee for president. She won the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa six months before the state's caucus.  She marshaled the support of the Tea Party faction, and was seen as a leading conservative voice with a chance of the White House. 

But on the day she won the poll, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced he was getting into the race and stole her headlines and her momentum.

She travelled around Iowa, making many references to the fact she was born in the state, but when she finished an embarrassing sixth, and was saddled with the debt of her campaign, she had no option but to head for the exit door.

Now she's announced she's going to leave Congress and step away from the front line. In the nine-minute video announcing her decision, she brazenly outlined her politics again, which also gives an insight into why she has become a marginal figure. 

"I will continue to work vehemently and robustly fight back against what most in the other party want to do," she said. 

Her core convictions would not let her compromise or seek agreement across the aisle.

Only this week, Bob Dole, the former Republican presidential candidate, criticised the approach adopted by Bachmann and others.

He believes Ronald Reagan and even Richard Nixon would find no place the party as it exists today and warned "the country is going to suffer" from the refusal to compromise.

Bachmann will be missed. By her supporters; by right-wing conservatives and by the media who found her pronouncements a never ending source of stories and entertainment.

She wished Elvis Presley "happy birthday" on the anniversary of his death and insisted John Wayne came from her birthplace of Waterloo in Iowa. 

It was actually the serial killer John Wayne Gacy who was born there. 

She once declared the American Revolution began in Concord, New Hampshire, rather than Concord, Massachusetts. For someone who was trying to base her campaign on a return to the principles of the founding fathers, it was a huge tactical misstep. And she did that more than once.

Politically she could be incendiary. In 2008, she said then Senator Barack Obama might have "anti-American" views. She said the US government was planning "death panels" and God created an earthquake and hurricane to protest federal spending. She was one of the first to describe President Obama as a socialist.

As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, she alleged that a close aide to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had family ties to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. 

She refused to offer any firm evidence and was criticised by fellow Republicans for her statement. 

The Washington Post's fact checker says Bachmann made more false statements that any other politician. Dana Millbank, a columnist at the newspaper, said that: "Bachmann has done more than any other elected official to inject false claims into the national debate, contributing to a culture in which many conservatives detach themselves from reality."

I met her once, briefly, during the build up to the Iowa caucus. She spent more than an hour with a right-wing radio host who agreed with a great deal with what she said. We tried to grab a word as she left the building and got one brief answer before she scuttled off, insisting she could win and ignoring the question that challenged some of her positions. 

She was tiny and petite, but not fragile. She looked much younger than her 57 years, but her unblinking gaze, highlighted by comedians across the country, was real.

After stepping away from presidential politics, she returned to fight for her Congressional seat in Minnesota but won only narrowly in a district Mitt Romney carried easily.

Likely to face the same candidate next time around, she insisted her decision to leave Congress was not driven by the fear she may lose. Nor, she said, was it "impacted in any way" by inquiries currently under way by the FBI, the Federal Election Commission and the Office of Congressional Ethics about her.

Bachmann hasn't ruled out a return to politics, but she's now more likely to make money as a lobbyist or accepting speaking engagements. She'll still have a voice in the Republican Party – but, as she found, voices can be misleading.