Michele Bachmann, the lone woman in the GOP presidential primary field, announced she was dropping out of the race after a poor finish in the Iowa caucuses. As Rachel Weiner reported:

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is ending her White House bid, she announced in a press conference Wednesday.

“Last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, and so, I have decided to stand aside,” Bachmann told a crowd of supporters in Des Moines, the morning after her dismal sixth-place showing in the state's primary caucuses. “I have no regrets.”

Bachmann pledged to “continue to fight to defeat the president’s agenda of socialism,” saying she ran because this is the “last election to turn this country around before we go down the road to socialism.”

She spoke for about fifteen minutes, devoting much of her time to her opposition to “Obamacare.”

Bachmann did not endorse another candidate, though she did encourage her backers to rally around the Republican nominee. Nor did she reveal whether she would run again for her Minnesota House seat. There’s a chance that redistricting will pit her against Rep. Betty McCollum (D).

The Iowa-born candidate was defiant Tuesday after the Iowa results came in, telling her supporters, “There are many more chapters to be written in our party’s path to the nomination.”

Bachmann’s exit has left the GOP primary field an all-male contest, as Sarah Palin chose in the end not to enter after much anticipation she might do so. As Jena McGregor explained:

And then there were six. Six white males, that is. With Herman Cain out of the race and Michele Bachmann officially standing aside—she announced she would do so at a press conference Wednesday morning after her last-place finish among the major contenders in Iowa—the GOP field is now noticeably lacking any diversity. All of the candidates are men. All of the hopefuls are white. And four of the six are over the age of 60.

Bachmann’s caucus results are not particularly unsurprising, even given her historic Ames straw poll win. For all the talk of Mama Grizzlies and “the year of the conservative women,” Iowa Republicans—even Iowa Republican women—did not appear ready to elect a woman. Though her conservative chops were just as real, it was Rick Santorum who walked away with the evangelical vote. Despite some remarkable debate performances, Bachmann was tagged in a Des Moines register poll as the least knowledgeable in the field, especially after a series of gaffes.

Who knows how much gender played a role in Bachmann’s single-digit showing. Yes, there were the questions posed to her about whether or not, as she’d said the Bible tells women to do, she would be submissive to her husband. And certainly, her ability to spend—one post-Iowa report says Bachmann spent just $4 per vote in Iowa, by far the lowest—could have been affected by donors’ willingness to give to her.

But I’m not sure that is the most important question in a world that has elected a black man as president and rallied behind a female Republican woman to be this country’s second in command. What is important to ask is what affect the lack of the voice of a female or minority candidate will have on the tenor and substance of the GOP race. Even if Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann weren’t candidates known for pushing issues particularly important to either group, I tend to believe that diversity of leadership is always a good thing when it comes to meaningful debate. The Republican field will now be a pretty homogeneous group. That is, of course, until the nominee’s running mate is named.

Bachmann exited the race much in the same way that she entered it, with frequent mentions of “Obamacare” as what she called dangerous socialist policy. As Melinda Henneberger reported :

After a last-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Michele Bachmann exited the presidential race just as she entered it, painting “Obamacare” as the socialist undoing of the United States of America.

But it was a real painting, she said, that had urged her into the race in the first place, on the night of March 21, 2010, after health-care reform passed in the House of Representatives.

On that night, she said in her concession speech, the great men depicted in Howard Chandler Christy’s “Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” which hangs in the Capitol, seemed to be “staring out” at her beckoningly — in particular Ben Franklin, who’s seated at the center of the work, gazing out at the viewer. (Another interpretation of the look on his face is, “Why is Alexander Hamilton invading my space?”)

As a result, she said, she felt called upon to stop the legislation before most of its provisions go into effect in 2014 by running to replace the president. The law’s “repeal is more than just a cliché for me,’’ she said at a news conference, surrounded by her family. “It’s my Core of Conviction,’’ she said, citing the title of her disarmingly frank campaign-season memoir.

Much of the speech, in which she referred to “Obamacare” 11 times, was an argument against the bill, which she insists against all evidence “includes taxpayer-funded abortion for the first time in the history of our country.” But there was no doubting the sincerity of her insistence that she’s not “motivated in this quest by vainglory,” and felt called by more than that old roué Ben Franklin to run for the country’s top job: “Our principles derive their meaning in the founders’ beliefs, which were rooted in the immutable truths of the Holy Scripture, the Bible.”

Despite winning only 5 percent of Republican caucus-goers in the state where she was born, Bachmann did herself a lot of good in the race, and unlike rock-throwing, score-settling Newt Gingrich, she’s obviously more focused on the unity of her party, where such magnanimity will surely be rewarded.

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