When Michele Bachmann dropped out of the Republican presidential race Wednesday, she was making just the first of a series of important political decisions she’ll face in 2012. Next on the list: whether she will run for re-election to the U.S. House.
Alice Stewart, Bachmann’s presidential campaign spokesman, said Bachmann’s only decision in the short-term was about leaving the presidential race and that discussions about her future in Congress would have to come later.
“This was an emotional decision, this was tough … this is all-consuming since the results came in,” she said. “She’s going to take a little time off and then decide what’s next.”
Bachmann’s not likely to make that decision any time soon. A court panel still needs to draw the state’s congressional district lines and the various plans it is considering have vastly different implications for Bachmann’s 6th District — one would move her hometown of Stillwater into Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum’s territory.
National strategists from the campaigning arms of both the Democratic and Republican Parties said it’s hard to judge the viability of Bachmann’s return to the House without knowing what the districts look like. But Democrats indicate the party would try to make her presidential bid an issue if she chooses to run again.
Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said his party relishes the the 2012 6th District race whether Bachmann runs or not. He expects a competitive race if Bachmann leaves Congress and there is an open seat, and said her presidential bid would be used against her if she runs again.
“She did everything she could to ingratiate herself to Iowa voters but did nothing” for her Minnesota constituents, he said.
GOP in the dark
Republicans, meanwhile, are just as in the dark about Bachmann’s future plans as everyone else, putting the odds at 50-50 that she runs for the House again. If she were to pass on a run, and the district’s boundaries don’t change too dramatically, they’ve got a list of potential Republicans who could step in to take her place (though no potential candidates have come out publicly, lest they risk facing Bachmann in a primary).
David FitzSimmons, the chairman of the 6th District GOP, said he imagines Bachmann will run for re-election to her House seat and successfully retain it. Her presidential bid, though unsuccessful, is unlikely to affect her political prospects in a House race.
“Any time you take a step up to a new political level it’s a lot more difficult,” he said.
But Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, questioned whether her poor performance would affect the way her congressional constituents view her if she lands on a Minnesota ballot again.
“It is never a good thing to crash and burn, and that’s what Bachmann has done in the presidential race,” he said. “If she’d done better, there might have been home district pride, but the opposite effect is probably taking hold.”
Her poor Iowa showing indicates she’d find it more difficult to run a race outside the friendly confines of the Sixth District, including possible Senate match-ups against either Amy Klobuchar this year or Al Franken. Polling suggests Klobuchar would clobber Bachmann in a head-to-head race. It also indicates that Minnesota as a whole has a highly unfavorable view of Bachmann, making her an unlikely Republican challenger to Franken in 2014.
“She’s very controversial, and other Republicans would make much stronger nominees when, say, Al Franken comes up in 2014,” Sabato said.
FitzSimmons disagrees, pointing to the tight state-wide races of the last two election cycles.
“Any party has a chance of winning any statewide race,” he said.
Bachmann, of course, could choose not to run for any election in Minnesota again.
Failed national candidates often take up a movement or occupation that can keep in the hot glow of the national spotlight for as long as possible. On Wednesday, for example, Herman Cain announced that he would go on a national tour promoting his 9-9-9 tax plan, which became a sensation during his presidential run. Sarah Palin became an author and a Fox News contributor, and her flirtation with a presidential run was a national story last fall. Mike Huckabee won the 2012 Iowa caucuses and now hosts a show on the network.
Stewart said on Wednesday that Bachmann has yet to consider moving into any such career.
“Time will tell,” she said. “It’s news to me.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry