Next for Michele Bachmann — retirement?
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has spent the better part of the last year telling the nation that she is an Iowan. So how’s that going to play with her constituents in Minnesota?
We may never find out.
Political observers in Minnesota are skeptical that Bachmann will seek reelection this year while at the same time acknowledging that she would likely be a heavy favorite if she were to run for re-election in her current district.
But there are several factors that seem to suggest Bachmann may not take that electoral route.
First, Bachmann is now a national figure who doesn’t appear to have much to gain by staying the House.
She has always been shunned by the House GOP leadership and didn’t have much success spearheading the tea party caucus when she tried in 2010. She could certainly use her failed presidential campaign to try and expand her voice in Congress, but it’s not clear how successful such a strategy might be.
Second, the money dried up.
The fundraising prowess that Bachmann showed in her 2010 reelection campaign never really translated to the presidential campaign, for whatever reason. Yes, Bachmann raised decent money, but it seemed that as her campaign wore on, she became less and less a hero of the tea party movement. Given her poor showing in Iowa, we have to wonder whether she will retain the kind of cause celebre status that helped her raise an astounding $13 million for her last House reelection bid.
Now, would she have enough money for a 2012 bid ? Of course. But having a massive campaign war chest is part of what made her a national figure. And without it, being relevant becomes more difficult.
And third, redistricting is around the corner, and her district is sure to change.
With the state legislature unable to reach an agreement on a new congressional map, the line-drawing is in the hands of the courts, which means anything could happen.
We know that Bachmann’s district needs to shrink considerably because it is over-populated, and we also know that she lives pretty close to the edge of it, as currently constructed. That means she could either be drawn out of her district entirely or have a very different-looking district in which to run in 2012.
A few different scenarios have Bachmann ending up in the same district as a neighboring member — either Rep. Betty McCollum (D) or Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) — and such an outcome would undoubtedly affect her future plans.
But if that doesn’t happen and Bachmann gets something close to the same exurban, socially conservative district she has now, it doesn’t appear anybody has illusions about beating her for the GOP nomination or in the general election.
While there are some obvious choices for Republicans if she steps aside, including 2010 GOP governor nominee Tom Emmer, nobody has stepped forward to press the issue. And the state’s nominating process, which includes a convention dominated by party activists, leaves little hope for someone to beat the very conservative congresswoman.
If Bachmann were to fall, then, it would likely have to come in the general election. But Democrats have tried repeatedly to beat her without success. And her 2010 opponent, state Sen. Tarryl Clark, has opted to run against Cravaack rather than give it another go in Bachmann’s 6th district.
If Bachmann did face a tough opponent, that opponent could make the case that the congresswoman has not been representing her district for the last year and sold out to Minnesota’s rival to the south. (Remember when Hawkeyes football fans tore down the goal posts in the Metrodome!? Some things cannot be forgiven.)
But it’s rare that a politician gets tossed out of office for seeking higher office — think Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, John McCain, Joe Lieberman — and Bachmann fits very well ideologically with her district.
“Statewide I have seen polls putting her negatives in the upper 50 percent range,” said David Schultz, a political expert at Hamline University in St. Paul. “Whether the same is true for her district is a good question.”
Many see Bachmann, 55, as a strong candidate for television punditry, while others think she may have designs on running against Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) in 2014. If she does the latter, it may actually be advantageous to be out of Congress, where she doesn’t have to take flack for missing votes and can burnish her outsider credentials.
Bachmann has given no indications about her plans, but we would expect to get an idea sometime after the courts issue the state’s new congressional map, which is expected to come out Feb. 21.
The filing deadline isn’t until June, so she has plenty of time. But at some point, her would-be successors are going to get antsy.