Facing an ongoing FBI ethics probe into campaign law violations and her dimming prospects in a 2014 electoral rematch with Democrat Jim Graves, who lost by less than 5000 votes to Bachmann in 2012, the toxic founder of the Tea Party caucus in the US House has announced that she will not run for re-election in 2014. Although her announcement specifically rejected the FBI probe or her fear of losing her seat in the 2014 contest, as reasons for her decision to leave Congress, the denials were so thoroughly unconvincing that they sounded like tacit affirmations that those issues weighed heavily upon her decision. Bachmann cited her reason for retiring as a “principled” belief in term limits, but her sudden conversion to term limits curiously coincided with the deepening of the FBI investigation of her presidential campaign and her weak polling numbers for re-election. In 2011 she was an outspoken opponent of legislative term limits and she also did not support recent legislative term limit efforts sponsored by some of her Republican House colleagues.
Bachmann’s underwhelming performance in 2012, when she barely eked out a 4200 vote victory over Democrat Jim Graves, demonstrated her political vulnerability. In a district that leans so conservative that Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by a landslide 15 point margin, Bachmann barely survived. A candidate that was so polarizing that she underperformed the lackluster Romney by 14 points was a candidate whose political future was already imperiled even before the ethics investigation further undermined her credibility.
A number of agencies including the (FBI) Federal Bureau of Investigation, the (FEC) Federal Election Commission, the Office of Congressional Ethics and the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee are investigating Bachmann’s presidential campaign for violations of the law. Although Bachmann has tried to deny knowledge of the violations, or to feign ignorance, it is hard to imagine that as a former IRS Tax attorney, that Bachmann is unfamiliar with the legal matters surrounding the campaign and the allegations that it illegally paid a staff worker to do campaign work for her as well as four other suspected violations of the law.
Bachmann’s decision not to run again is an additional blow to the House Tea Party Caucus that she founded. Ten of the members were defeated in November and Bachmann very nearly was the eleventh casualty. The Tea Party Caucus essentially disbanded in July of last year, in part so Bachmann could focus on getting re-elected. Although the Caucus reformed a little over a month ago, it remains to be seen how much influence they are able to exert now that they are led by a lame duck Congresswoman. While Bachmann will probably maintain high visibility even after she leaves Congress, her tenure as a toxic member of the majority party in the US House is coming to a close.