Michele Bachmann’s presidential dream is over. At a press conference Wednesday morning in Des Moines, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced that she is suspending her campaign for the Republican nomination for president, effectively dropping out, after her disastrous sixth-place showing Tuesday in the Iowa Caucuses.
“And so last night, the people of Iowa spoke, with a very clear voice,” said Bachmann. “And so I have decided to stand aside. And I believe that if we are going to repeal Obamacare, turn our country around, and take back our country, we must do so united. And I believe that we must rally behind the person that our country, and our party, and our people, select to be that standard-bearer.”
She did not directly comment on whether she will run for re-election to her safe Republican seat in the House, but did say she would continue to be “a strong voice” in public life.
Going into the race, Bachmann’s advantages were twofold: First, she has always seemed to genuinely enjoy going out and campaigning among everyday people. But furthermore, she doesn’t just speak Tea Party fluently, as the other Republicans have learned to do, but as her first language. After all, it was all the way back in March 2009, when the Tea Parties were just barely being formed, that she called for revolution in America against President Obama.
Bachmann seemingly pulled off a significant win in August, when she won the Ames Straw Poll. But then her thunder was immediately stolen by Rick Perry, who upstaged Bachmann by launching his own campaign on the same day, over in South Carolina. (And for his part, Perry’s own gaffe-ridden campaign resulted in a fifth-place showing in the caucuses.)
In the end, though, she could claim a head on her wall: Her fellow Minnesotan, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, under whom she had served in the legislature (and often opposed from his right). Bachmann’s exchanges with Pawlenty during debates, and her victory in the Ames Straw Poll — which pushed her fellow Midwesterner way down in the pack — forced the much-hyped Pawlenty right out of the race.
And that was pretty much her peak. Well known for her gaffes on the stump, Bachmann’s early stumbles were forgivable enough. Laughable, but mostly innocuous, such as when she confused John Wayne and John Wayne Gacy, or when she confused the dates of Elvis Presley’s birth and death.
But then came a gaffe from which she just could not recover. As part of an attack on Rick Perry for issuing an executive order that young girls in Texas be vaccinated against the sexually-transmitted disease HPV — which can lead to cervical cancer — Bachmann claimed that a woman told her after a Republican debate that the HPV vaccine had caused her daughter to develop mental retardation. This statement was based on long-standing myths that vaccines cause retardation or autism in some children, an idea that the medical profession has worked very hard to dispel.
She was then raked over the coals by not only pediatricians, and the counter-attacking Rick Perry, but also by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and her own former campaign manager Ed Rollins. Bachmann then tried to walk back the retardation claims, while continuing to hammer Perry on the vaccination issue itself.
She was also never able to win over any elements of the Republican establishment, with whom she was never at all close — or her own staffers, of whom she has had many. A former chief of staff repeatedly blasted her in the press, declaring that she was neither electable, nor qualified to be president.
Of course, anyone who has been familiar with Bachmann’s history, should have known from the start that her presidential campaign would face scrutiny over some of her odder pronouncements.
Back in 2006, when she was just a state senator running for an open U.S. House seat, she famously told a mega-church audience that she had communicated with God, receiving through fasting and prayer the command to run:
“And in the midst of that calling, God then called me to run for the United States Congress. And I thought, what in the world would that be for? And my husband said “You need to do this.” And I wasn’t so sure. And we took three days, and we fasted and we prayed. And we said “Lord, is this what you want? Is this Your will?” And after — along about the afternoon of day two — He made that calling sure. And it’s been now 22 months that I’ve been running for United States Congress. Who in their right mind would spend two years to run for a job that lasts for two years? You’d have to be absolutely a fool to do that. You are now looking at a fool for Christ. This is a fool for Christ.”
She then shot to great fame (or infamy) in the closing fortnight of the 2008 elections. In an appearance on Hardball, Bachmann said she was “deeply concerned” that Barack Obama might be “anti-American” — citing as evidence not just the usual Republican fare about Obama’s past associations with Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright, but also citing insinuations about his his wife, Michelle Obama. She then also called on reporters to investigate which members of Congress are secretly against America.
This triggered a flood of donations from around the country to her Democratic opponent — but with only two weeks left in the campaign, it was more than he could actually spend. On election night, Bachmann narrowly survived by a 46%-43% margin — and would go on to become a premier Tea Party star.
Watch the video of her address here: