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Democrats mourn the end of Bachmann blunders

Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota and self-appointed Tea Party figurehead, has announced she will not contest the 2014 mid-term elections.

Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota and self-appointed Tea Party figurehead, has announced she will not contest the 2014 mid-term elections, casting a pall over the mainstream media she claimed to abhor.

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Michele Bachmann leaving US Congress

Republican Michele Bachmann has announced that she is not running for another term in the US Congress.

In truth, Ms Bachmann loved the media, as it did her.

Her congressional career could be cast as an eight-year sound bite. She railed entertainingly against Obamacare, gay marriage, the global warming conspiracy, evolution, vaccination against HPV and abortion. She questioned the loyalty of the president and saw traitors lurking in the corridors of the Capitol.

The media rewarded her with attention that far outweighed what Politico called her "thin" legislative legacy, while the far right of the state of Minnesota rewarded her with four two-year terms – but only just.

The independent fact-checking organisation Politifact reported that she enjoyed "a remarkable streak", with her first 13 ratings being recorded as "False" or "Pants on Fire".


Indeed, 75 per cent of the Bachmann statements Politifact considered throughout her career were labelled "False", "Mostly False" or "Pants on Fire". Perhaps her greatest Politifact moment came when she claimed that the organisation had once checked her statements during a debate and found, "everything I said was true". Politifact rated that statement "Pants on Fire".

The highpoint of her career was during her bid to become the Republican presidential candidate, when she won the Ames straw poll, a significant early indicator of Republican voter enthusiasm. A short time later she took just 5 per cent of the vote at the Iowa caucuses, casting doubt on the future relevance of the Ames beauty contest. She eventually finished sixth in the primaries.

She went on to win her district in the 2012 election by just over 1 per cent against the Democratic challenger, Jim Graves, whom she outspent by a factor of 12 to one. (It turns out all those rhetorical flourishes were worth their weight in donation gold.)

But Mr Graves had made it clear he was coming back for another shot, and skies were darkening for Ms Bachmann, perhaps enough to turn off the geyser of Tea Party lucre. She was being investigated by the House Ethics Committee, the FBI and the Federal Election Commission for campaign funding irregularities.

Declaring she would not run again via a video released early on Wednesday morning in the US, Ms Bachmann reassured supporters that neither Graves' challenge nor the circling investigators had any bearing on her decision not to run again.

Rather, she compared herself with the president, who may serve only an eight-year fixed term. As a congresswoman, Ms Bachmann faces no term limit, but the grandiose and spurious comparison appeared to surprise no one in DC.

The Democratic strategist James Carville noted on MSNBC's Morning Joe TV program that her decision was a "sad day" for Democrats, and a relief for Republicans.

"She is a special treasure to the country, our movement and to freedom," said the Americans for Prosperity president, Tim Phillips.

She leaves several contenders behind to take over as chair of the congressional Tea Party Caucus, including Steve Stockman, a Texan Republican best known for inviting right-wing former rock star Ted Nugent to one of Barack Obama's State of the Union speeches, and for threatening to impeach Mr Obama if he instituted gun control laws in response to the Newtown massacre of December 2012.

Also in the running is Louis Gohmert, another Texan, who earned his Tea Party stripes for telling a woman she should have carried a foetus to birth even though doctors determined it was brain-dead; for suggesting the US government had been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood; and for saying that the mass killing in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado could be blamed on a decline of Judeo-Christian values and a lack of armed patrons.

Also in the running would be Steve King from Iowa, who once said Islamic terrorists would be "dancing in the streets" to have a man with the middle name Hussein elected president of the United States.

Then there is Senator Ted Cruz, yet another Texan, who was likened to Joe McCarthy for suggesting US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel was a paid agent of North Korea. Fellow Republican John McCain called him a "wacko bird" after that, but getting called into line by the elder statesman of the GOP is manna from heaven to Tea Partiers.

As Ms Bachmann departs, the Tea Party is reinvigorated not by her efforts, but by the scandals plaguing the president, particularly revelations that the US tax office targeted Tea Party groups for further investigation.