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Why it’s increasingly likely Michele Bachmann will retire

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Lots of Republicans say off the record that they are hearing a growing chorus of rumors that Bachmann may retire.

No one is saying it for quotation yet, but it is increasingly likely that Michele Bachmann will decide not to seek another term in the U.S. House when her seat comes up in 2014.

Lots of Republicans say off the record that they are hearing a growing chorus of rumors that Bachmann may retire. And they are downright expansive about the fact that the party will be thrilled if she does. But absolutely no one to whom I have spoken claims to have heard it from her or from members of her innermost circle.

So if you are willing to take this as informed speculation, here are some of the issues:

Republican Bachmann’s Sixth District should be solid red. In fact, it is the most pro-Republican district in Minnesota. A generic Republican starts with about an 8 percentage point advantage, according to Cook Political Report’s “Partisan Voting Index.” Yet, Bachmann won reelection last year by less than 2 points against political newcomer Jim Graves, and despite the fact that Bachmann outspent Graves by about (hold your breath) 12 to 1. Bachmann spent more than any other House candidate in the country and barely survived.

Plenty of other GOP candidates

A mainstream Republican who didn’t attract the kind of polarized feelings that Bachmann attracts could probably hold the seat easily, indefinitely and at much lower cost (possibly freeing up some of those millions to go to other Republicans).  The Sixth District is well-loaded with Republicans who could settle into that seat and hold it indefinitely.

One of the long-time Republican operatives who spoke to me off the record said “a lot of Republicans think Michele Bachmann is the only Republican who could lose that district.”

(In fact, as an aside, if Bachmann did decide to retire from politics, it would likely be the worst possible blow to Graves, who has already announced his intention to challenge her in 2014.)

All of the above consists only of reasons that many Republicans hope Bachmann will retire. None of it necessarily translates into reasons that she would choose to do so.

Of course, after her close shave in 2012, retiring would enable her to leave Washington on her own terms, rather than face the possibility of leaving in defeat (although I am in no way predicting how a Bachmann-Graves rematch would turn out).

No longer a rising star

Bachmann also would be disconnected from reality if she didn’t know that she is no longer considered a rising star in Republican circles. Her presidential campaign flamed out early and left her looking fairly foolish (not that she was the only one). She provided collectors of her famed fact-challenged outbursts with many new items that will follow her into whatever future she chooses.

She was tolerated by the House leadership because of her following within the Tea Party wing, but even that is now in doubt. Her McCarthyesque attack on a highly regarded Muslim woman who worked for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton caused her to be denounced by several prominent Republicans. Speaker John Boehner described her behavior in that episode as “pretty dangerous” but declined several calls to remove her from the House Intelligence Committee.

But Bachmann has seldom shied from controversy, and often seems to thrive on it. She once famously explained that she decided to run for Congress after hearing a calling from God that she should do so. You never know what to make of people who say things like this, but if you take it seriously (either that God did call her or at least that she believed God did), it is hard to subject speculation about her possible retirement from politics to normal logical analysis.

Bachmann has been suffering from, and takes medication for, severe migraine headaches that at times interfered with her ability to maintain a full campaign schedule. Some have suggested that if she retires, the headaches will be a major reason, others that it will be a convenient excuse.

One possible indication that she is not fully committed to another reelection campaign is the drop in her fundraising in the first quarter of 2013. She raised about $600,000, which is actually a very large number for a typical House member but is only about half of what she raised in the first quarter after her 2010 reelection. And Bachmann spent more than she raised in the most recent quarter. The itemization of those expenditures is not yet public. It may be that the recent spending relates to the several ethics complaints that are currently under official investigation over financial issues from the 2012 cycle.

The ethics issues could, of course, be another incentive to be done with politics. If she does face Graves in a tough reelection race in 2014, the presence of those ethical questions cannot be helpful.  

We shall see.

Comments (41)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/22/2013 - 06:40 pm.

    Just like in professional athletics, the rational discernment of when to retire in politics is a rare quality. Snark would say that rationality and discernment have not been her strong characteristics, ever. I would bet the “coming from behind” meme would energize her. The present campaign finance issues hold no real weight with her supporters and probably with her. It can be all spun into “partisan politics” and used as a campaign point of “surviving challenges” from the left. Barring a truly unexpected “Appalachian Trail” moment, she’ll be back.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/22/2013 - 06:58 pm.

    These are good reasons

    why she -shouldn’t- run,
    but this is Michele Bachmann we’re talking about, so there are no guarantees.
    I like your line “Bachmann also would be disconnected from reality….”.
    I don’t know the details of her migraine problem, but it can usually be controlled (if not prevented) by a number of different daily medications, plus stronger meds to control actual attacks. I don’t think that this by itself would be a reason for her not to run, though, as you imply, it would make a good face saver.
    As for Graves, he would probably run against her even if she didn’t run again, since her name would still be much more familiar than that of her replacement.
    She’s still the albatross around the Republicans’ necks.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 04/23/2013 - 09:51 pm.

      I agree

      That Mr. Graves will run against Bachmann even if she doesn’t run again. It worked when Senator Obama ran against President George Bush and again when President Obama ran against President George Bush in his re-election campaign.

  3. Submitted by Don Evanson on 04/23/2013 - 12:09 am.

    Author Black quotes sniveling elitist Republicans.

    Here is a different Republican point of view.

    Establishmentarian Republicans hold those of Tea Party inclinations in disdain and are quick to disparage such Republicans of good sense.

    Author Black, at least impliedly, supports those establishmentarian notions, albeit only because he apparently believes it serves the political interests of the left to disparage successful Republican “Tea Party” candidates and office holders.

    If Michele should decide to retire from her House seat, I hope that it is only to aspire to an office of greater influence.

    Her comments and position statements of past campaigns have been perceptive and prescient.

    • Submitted by joe poblocki on 04/23/2013 - 10:20 am.

      Perceptive and prescient? Like when she said the Cervical vaccine caused mental retardation in girls? Don’t make me go on. A search on Google produced 175,000 pages of Michele Bachmann gaffes. She is a gaffe machine. Highly entertaining, in a comic relief sense. At what point was she ever a “Republican of good sense”? Supporters of Bachmann are quick to blame the leftist agenda for her recent ethics investigation, yet all the allegations have come from her own former staff. Whistle blowers do not come forward easily. They jeopardize their future employment when they file suit against their employers. You do not apply the same high analysis of reasoning to her performance as I am sure you do to everything else. She is indefensible.

  4. Submitted by Alice Gibson on 04/23/2013 - 12:47 am.

    I’ll take that bet.

    Eric, if I take Bachmann to win the 6th in 2014, how many points will you spot me?

    Yes, Graves closed the margin behind her by 12 points in 2012. But the average (average!) improvement for all 8 MN DFL congressional candidates in 2012 was 9. Take away the two DFL perennial slam dunks (4th and 5th) and Graves’ increase was barely above average, despite Bachmann’s falling star. The real difference from 2010? Barack Obama, who won’t be on the ticket in ’14.

    The $678,000 you describe as sub-par was by far the best take of the 8 MN sitting House members, nearly double that of Erik Paulsen, who finished 2nd. Bachmann’s fund raising ability, devoted base, and (even waning) star power make her impossible to primary. The only way she gives up the seat to one of those “Republicans who could settle into that seat and hold it indefinitely” is if the wishful thinkers who have been whispering in your ear can swamp her with an ocean of bad press, like this piece of unsupported speculation.

  5. Submitted by rolf westgard on 04/23/2013 - 12:58 am.


    gives me a headache.

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/23/2013 - 07:56 am.

    Great minds think alike….

    I was just telling someone a few days ago that I wouldn’t be surprised if Bachmann did run next time. She’s not an effective legislator and her grandstanding has become a liability.

  7. Submitted by Lora Jones on 04/23/2013 - 08:17 am.

    I suspect that the only thing that would

    keep Michele from running again is the offer of a plum lobbying or consulting job. So, if the GOP “Establishment” is serious about wanting her gone, they’d be well advised to talk the Koch Brothers or Shelley Adelson into offering her something with a degree of prominence, a team of “handlers” and a whopping big paycheck.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/23/2013 - 10:24 am.

      Plum job

      She is nothing if not an egomaniac. Lobbying would not give her the exposure she so desperately craves. Rep. Bachmann is Sarah Palin, with a lot more polish. I see her getting a fat contract from Fox News.

  8. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 04/23/2013 - 08:25 am.

    The fiction queen

    Hopefully all of her fiction is catching up with her. Her retirement would be a good thing – for the public. Of course she will collect her house retirement. It doesn’t seem right to do nothing and still collect a retirement. She would be gone in a heartbeat working for a corporation where they expect performance.

  9. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 04/23/2013 - 08:28 am.

    The guy who lives in the 6th…

    …says my congresswoman may be many things, but I don’t see her as a quitter. These recent charges will provide fresh fodder for the Graves campaign, though.

  10. Submitted by Paul Landskroener on 04/23/2013 - 08:37 am.

    What did she spend her money on?

    You write: “Bachmann spent more than any other House candidate in the country and barely survived.” On what?, I wonder.

  11. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/23/2013 - 08:42 am.

    Me, too

    Mrs. Bachmann gives me a headache, too. For the most part, she’s an embarrassment. I’m not a Republican, so I’m not concerned with any embarrassment she might bring to the Republican Party, but she’s also an embarrassment to Minnesota, and since that’s where I live, I do care about that. She’s also an embarrassment to the House of Representatives, an institution so inept in recent years that adding extra embarrassment is something of a backward accomplishment. Perhaps she deserves some credit for managing that.

    The “perceptive and prescient” comments and position statements mentioned by Don Evanson must have taken place in that alternate universe so often inhabited by those on the far right. Here in this dimension, and on this planet, she has mostly portrayed the role of court jester. That she has filled that role so well is not a tribute to either her character or her intellect.

  12. Submitted by mark wallek on 04/23/2013 - 09:12 am.

    Retire, then stay that way

    But do not claim your taxpayer funded pension, because you did not represent human beings during your time in power. You are the image of what is foul in American politics, and were there any real justice, you would be spending the rest of your working life paying back the citizens for your betrayal of human values.

  13. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/23/2013 - 10:11 am.

    I Don’t Believe Michelle Bachmann

    Will EVER bow out gracefully. She WILL run.

    She reminds me of a community in which I once lived where people operated out of the principle that if you ever noticeably changed in any way (or changed your mind),…

    it CERTAINLY meant you were WRONG before,…

    which meant that you were probably WRONG, now, too (i.e. there was NOTHING more dishonorable).

    For Michelle NOT to run would be to stop fighting for what she believes in,…

    which would mean that those things weren’t worth fighting for,…

    which would mean that she was wrong to judge them worth fighting for in the first place.

    I believe the ONLY choice Rep. Bachmann’s psyche will allow her is the political equivalence of a Kamikaze pilot: to win or die trying (politically).

    Even if she were to lose, being locked into the Tea Party perspective on things, she will remain convinced that she was robbed of her rightful position by some dishonest skullduggery on the part of her “enemies,”….

    and even then, she won’t retire. Thereafter, she’ll continue to seek the limelight she so desperately needs by becoming a political gadfly, likely giving the local school boards, city council, and county commissioners fits from time to time.

    • Submitted by Carl Karasti on 04/23/2013 - 11:12 am.

      WRONG or RIGHT

      I understand your reasoning here, Greg, but it seems to me that in Bachmann’s case, with every change, she’s been more RIGHT, so how can she possibly ever be WRONG?

      Perhaps our only hope is that she will finally realize that we are in a completely hopeless situation, that there is no way SHE can possibly fix things and save us from ourselves, and she will give up trying.

  14. Submitted by Ron Lietz on 04/23/2013 - 10:19 am.


    Yesterday, Elizabeth II of the UK was 87 years old, .. and she will never retire or abdicate.. they will carry her out. Michelle is like Elizabeth II. Michelle delusionally sees herself as America’s savior… She lives in a very different dimension than the citizens of Minnesota….. even if she loses to Jim Graves, she will demand a recount, go the Supreme Court, have the House invalidate the election…she will be there forever….she is like this Winter in MN…She will be here until Hell freezes over.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/26/2013 - 09:21 am.

      The difference is

      that the Queen of England holds a largely ceremonial office.
      She has little decision making power.
      She knows this, and carries out her appointed duties with style and grace.
      The English equivalent of our President is the Prime Minister.

  15. Submitted by joe poblocki on 04/23/2013 - 10:23 am.

    …about time.

    Perceptive and prescient? Like when she said the Cervical vaccine caused mental retardation in girls? Don’t make me go on. A search on Google produced 175,000 pages of Michele Bachmann gaffes. She is a gaffe machine. Highly entertaining, in a comic relief sense. At what point was she ever a “Republican of good sense”? Supporters of Bachmann are quick to blame the leftist agenda for her recent ethics investigation, yet all the allegations have come from her own former staff. Whistle blowers do not come forward easily. They jeopardize their future employment when they file suit against their employers. This caustic person is reaping what she has sowed.

  16. Submitted by Susan McNerney on 04/23/2013 - 10:28 am.

    Don’t be so sure an alternative candidate would fare better.

    For one thing, Graves is now well known. He’s not exactly a flaming liberal, though seems solid on issues that are important to democrats, who are increasing in the district, albeit slowly.

    But mainly, the MN GOP is now an extremist organization incapable of nominating mainstream candidates. Look at the joke that ran against Amy Klobuchar – the man epitomized the out-of-the-mainstream, free-lunch, divisive “abandon all hope” libertarian philosophies that most Minnesotans, including many in District 6, abhor. He was an incompetent candidate who spent his tiny pot of money on angry billboards demanding voters “FIRE KLOBUCHAR” without offering any viable ideas of his own.

    If that’s what they’re putting up for senate, who’s going to run in place of Bachmann? It won’t be an old-style MN republican. It’ll be someone who’s just as extreme as Bachmann, or worse, and who will have less experience campaigning.

    Also keep in mind that the GOP advantage in MN-06 on presidential races for the last two elections is probably influenced by race. As ugly as it is to point this out, a white democrat will probably fare better than Obama. I live in this district, and I’m quite sure of that.

    Remember how well Klobuchar does in this district? Curious, isn’t it?

  17. Submitted by Don Evanson on 04/23/2013 - 10:34 am.

    The American Spectator has presented a balanced article….

    regarding the current controversy in Iowa surrounding Michele’s campaign tribulations:

    Why can’t we get such balanced reporting out of the Minnesota mainstream media, MINNPOST, and other purported journalistic bloggers?

  18. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 04/23/2013 - 10:37 am.

    It was evident when Jim Graves

    almost dethroned Bachmann in this last election that Michelle would be toast in 2014.
    Everything is going against her ego….the solid defeat of the tea party, the defeat of the two suppression amendments, and the takeover of the Mn. legislature by the progressives. Michelle is the last bastion of hope for the ultra regressives in this State.
    Michelle can’t stand to lose this House seat. She will take the least demeaning avenue of exit, and that being a ‘retirement’…something which I predicted after Graves got so close in 2012.

  19. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 04/23/2013 - 11:07 am.

    She won’t retire because. . .

    what fuels her ambition and her psyche, like that of a lot of the Tea Party, is just PO’ing “liberals.” I saw a poll being touted in the last few weeks by Tea Party people that found George W. Bush to be a “better” president than Barack Obama. The tout was that it really irritated “liberals.”

    Once one comes to the understanding that the Tea Party and its ilk like Bachmann are all about annoying “liberals”, grandstanding, getting publicity and “winning an argument” and not about making any contribution to figuring out the community/state/country’/world’s problems, then their actions make perfect sense.

  20. Submitted by David Frenkel on 04/23/2013 - 11:12 am.

    Bachmann has gone as far as she can go

    Bachmann’s political career has come to a dead end. The only place left is to cash in at a lobbying firm on K street or a right wing think tank in DC. Her position on the House Intelligence committee makes her an intelligence ‘expert’, I just hope somebody briefs here on what items of national security are not to be made public. I think FOX had enough with Palin and they won’t go down that road again.

  21. Submitted by Kevin Sullivan on 04/23/2013 - 11:13 am.

    Michele is not leaving

    Sorry, Michele is not leaving just to please the libs ! In every 6th year of an election (yes, even Ike and Reagan) the party in control of the White House usually gets whupped. Ask W, or LBJ, or even FDR. The dems are not winning MN 06 in 2014. If Michele wants it, its hers. Case closed.

    Look, she is still one of the top 4 fund raising machines in Congress. The top 2 campaigns EVER for fund raising was Michele in 2010 and Michele in 2012. See the trend?

    Yes, Michele allowed two incompetents (O’Donnell and Nahigian) to hijack her presidential campaign and run it into the ground….and then the two of them crawled over to Romney’s campaign…which is where they belonged from the start. Michele hiring the wrong people for a national campaign has nothing to do with MN 06.

    Millions of us love her and will support her from coast to coast.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/23/2013 - 01:23 pm.

      “Millions of us love her”

      “and will support her from coast to coast..”

      I’ve often thought Rep. Bachmann would make a good cult leader.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/23/2013 - 02:19 pm.

      If she can’t prevent

      incompetents from ‘hijacking’ her campaign, she is clearly incompetent.
      And she won’t leave to please the DFL; she’ll leave to please the GOP.
      If we’re REALLY lucky she’ll run as a third party TP candidate and REALLY screw the GOP.

  22. Submitted by Steve Roth on 04/23/2013 - 12:01 pm.

    Reality and Bachmann are mutually exclusive. For someone who really thought she could/should be POTUS – that delusion and hubris still amazes me – I can’t believe she’s seriously thinking about retiring.

    And, on a related, note, she’s on the House Intelligence Committee. And people wonder why the GOP can’t be taken seriously…

  23. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 04/23/2013 - 12:22 pm.

    She won’t go gracefully no matter how much you wish it

    I can’t imagine her retiring until she loses. With her ego and lack of reality-based thinking I can’t see her retiring until she loses. And then she’ll have some excuse other than “the people have spoken”. Maybe she can get a job at HR Block and true believers like Don E will let her do their taxes. Wonder if there is a deduction for gay conversion therapy.

  24. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 04/23/2013 - 07:10 pm.


    I was SO hoping for a Bachmann/Palin presidential ticket in 2016. Oh well.

  25. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 04/25/2013 - 02:46 pm.

    Michelle Bachmann (for the spelling challenged)

    Apart from her flights into fantasy and her lies, she has done nothing (thank god) in Congress in her years there.

  26. Submitted by Fred Keyes on 04/02/2015 - 06:25 pm.


    She’s the energizer bunny. Even today comparing the president to the suicidal/murderous pilot. Unbelievable. More perplexing than MB herself though are the voters who put her in office. I stand in awe of their incredible states of mind. And I’m Republican. She still leaves me utterly speechless.

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