With the news that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., will not seek re-election in 2014, the tea party movement is losing its most famous poster child in Congress. Bachmann’s political career waxed and waned with the fortunes of the tea party -- and her impending departure is another sign that her vocal brand of conservative activism may be on its way out.
Bachmann, whose decision comes amid numerous campaign finance investigations, experienced a spectacular rise and fall after her election to Congress in 2006. Championing the repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, Bachmann entered the Republican presidential primary field in 2011 as a top contender and won the Ames straw poll in Iowa in August 2011. But just months later, when the Iowa caucuses rolled around in January 2012, Bachmann came in last place and promptly bowed out of the race. Soon, the congresswoman was fighting a tough re-election battle for her House seat, and she narrowly defeated Democrat Jim Graves. Graves recently announced that he would take on Bachmann a second time in 2014, but she denied that her decision had to do with her re-election prospects. Finally, though Bachmann was the best-known tea party star, her ability to grab headlines was waning. Once a constant presence on cable news, Bachmann’s retirement received only passing acknowledgements on Fox News Wednesday morning.
Bachmann is the latest tea party star to exit Congress after Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., lost his 2012 re-election bid and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., stepped down to run the Heritage Foundation. But she's not the last of her breed. Bachmann will still leave behind a few tea partiers sure to carry on her brand of vocal, borderline-paranoid conservatism, including Rep. Louie Gomert, R-Texas, who famously warned of a “terror babies” plot being carried out by terrorists from the Middle East, and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who survived his own tough re-election challenge in 2012.
“God closes one door, Michele Bachmann, and opens three, Louie Gomert,” Democratic strategist James Carville said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday.
Though Bachmann’s departure may well be mourned in tea party circles, Carville suggested that many Republicans may be looking forward to the congresswoman’s retirement: “I do think there are a lot of Republicans that are going to be relieved if some of these fringe people decide to pursue a speaking career.”