Actually, it might be a stretch to call this a retirement. Rep. Michele Bachmann announced last night that she would not seek a fifth term in the House from Minnesota’s 6th Congressional district in this nearly nine-minute valediction. As The Week notes, however, Bachmann doesn’t say she’s retiring from politics or even electoral politics, which means she may have something else in mind already (via Andrew Malcolm):
On Monday, Politico speculated that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the “bomb-throwing conservative and onetime Republican presidential candidate,” faced an “existential threat in 2014.” Bachmann “may be the congresswoman with nine lives,” said Politico‘s Alex Isenstadt, but between “a swirl of investigations into her campaign finances” and a looming rematch with hotelier Jim Graves, a Democrat who almost unseated her in 2012 — and who is already beating her in some polls — her luck may have run out.
On Tuesday night, Bachmann announced via a YouTube video (watch above) that she won’t seek re-election in 2014. In the video, the Tea Party leader rejected the idea that she was being hounded out of office, saying her decision “was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff” and expressing confidence that she would have beaten Graves.
So why isn’t she seeking re-election? Bachmann doesn’t really explain. She says that if eight years is enough for presidents, it’s enough for her. And she promises not to fade away, continuing “to work vehemently and robustly to fight back against what most in the other party want to do to transform our country into becoming, which would be a nation that our founders would hardly even recognize today.” Her future is “full, it is limitless,” says Bachmann, it just won’t involve sitting in the House. She doesn’t rule out running for other public office.
In eight minutes and 40 seconds, with upbeat music playing in the background, Bachmann goes through a list of things she has done or tried to do, wrongs she thinks the Obama administration has rained down on the U.S. and the world, and warns about the “ultimate risk of the destruction of our entire economic system.”
I don’t think Jim Graves’ renewed challenge had much to do with this. Bachmann managed to edge Graves in 2012 with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket it what turned out to be a wave election in Minnesota. Democrats swept the statewide races and won back control of both chambers of the legislature, fed in no small part by presidential campaign spending. Next year, the lay of the land and the electorate will look considerably different, and Bachmann should have had little trouble in winning again if she ran.
Why now, then? The video doesn’t really give an explanation other than Bachmann simply doesn’t want to return to the House. It’s possible that she may be eyeing the Senate race against Al Franken — and since practically no one else is, she’d probably win the nomination by default if she chose. If that’s the case, why bother retiring now? She could wait for the moment that she wants to jump into the race to announce that she’s shifting to the Senate without the formal retirement announcement.
Plus, while Bachmann has done well in CD-6, she’s not that strong in the rest of the state. Minnesotans won’t elect a conservative firebrand to statewide office any time soon, as much as we might hope that Bachmann’s fundraising and name brand might carry her over the finish line. Bachmann is too smart a politician to not know this. She might do better in a gubernatorial bid against Mark Dayton, but that’s just a matter of degree rather than a different outcome.
Perhaps she’s hoping to focus on grassroots activism, where she has shined and which propelled her to a serious bid for the Republican presidential nomination. If so, the ground should be favorable in 2014, and the Tea Party groups ready to make a bigger impact. Bachmann found a true national constituency in the Tea Party, and that would give her a way to push for change from the outside as a leader rather than on the inside, where Republicans rebuffed her bid to join the House leadership. Don’t expect that we’ve seen the last of Michele Bachmann.