By Don Davis
Eight is enough.
That is the message Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann delivered early today when she announced that she will leave the U.S. House after eight years. In a video message, she gave no hint about her future, but said she could have won re-election if she wanted to run.
The 57-year-old congresswoman who serves the area north and northwest of the Twin Cities surprised the Minnesota political community by posting a video announcing her decision. It came just a couple of weeks after she ran a television commercial, seemingly cementing her re-election plans.
“My good friends, after a great deal of thought and deliberation, I have decided next year I will not seek a fifth congressional term to represent the wonderful people of the 6th district of Minnesota,” she began her video. “After serious consideration, I am confident that this is the right decision.”
The announcement follows weeks of controversy about her aborted presidential campaign in Iowa, her home state. Her campaign is accused of improperly paying an Iowa state senator and other irregularities.
The Bachmann decision sets off a 6th Congressional District Republican scramble for a replacement candidate. It is the state’s most Republican district, although wealthy hotelier Jim Graves came within a few thousand votes of upsetting Bachmann in last year’s election. He is running again in the 2014 campaign.
For years, some have speculated Bachmann would challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken next year. But polls have shown Franken with a solid lead over Bachmann.
Others have suggested that Bachmann could become a Fox News Channel commentator or return to the presidential trail. After early success, she lost the 2012 Iowa caucus, forcing her to drop out.
Even after that failure, Bachmann remained a popular conservative libertarian across the country.
Bachmann does not live in the district she represents, which is alright under Minnesota law. When judges drew new congressional district lines after the 2010 census, the Stillwater area where she lives was put in U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum’s district.
Democrat McCollum and Bachmann are rivals, especially over a new bridge joining Stillwater and Wisconsin.
Bachmann was featured at a Tuesday groundbreaking ceremony for the bridge, now in McCollum’s district. She made no mention of her upcoming announcement.
The conservative congresswoman said her future “is limitless” and that there is no option “that I will not be giving serious consideration.”
Bachmann said she expects the media to “a detrimental spin” on her announcement.
“I will continue to fight for public policy that is first and foremost in the best interests of the citizens,” she said.
Bachmann added: “This decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign.”
Names of potential GOP candidates began immediately to pop up after the announcement.
Among the best-known contenders is state Rep. Matt Dean of Dellwood, who is a former House majority leader. Also mentioned is state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake, who served eight years as Minnesota secretary of state.
Democrats have used Bachmann’s presence as a strong fund raiser, but the party’s Minnesota chairman seemed happy to see her go.
“Minnesota’s long national embarrassment is coming to an end,” Chairman Ken Martin said. “When you think of some of the national leaders we have sent to Washington, D.C. from Minnesota — people like Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Gene McCarthy, Orville Freeman and others — it was such a tragedy that our state was represented by someone like Michelle Bachmann who was so out of the mainstream of even her conservative-leaning district.”
See Bachmann video: http://tinyurl.com/MBNotRun