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“What She Didn’t Say”: Reading Between The Lines Of Michele Bachmann’s Retirement Speech

She was the first woman to win the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa during her Republican presidential primary bid, but Michele Bachmann’s victory there in August 2011 only wound up calling the legitimacy of the political tradition into question. With her presidential campaign itself now under investigation and facing the prospect of a tough reelection fight, the four-term congresswoman on Wednesday released an eight minute and 40 second video announcing her decision not to seek a fifth term representing Minnesota’s 6th District.

A between-the-lines read:

BACHMANN: “Our Constitution allows for the decision of length of service in Congress to be determined by the congresspeople themselves or by the voter in the district. However, the law limits anyone from serving as president of the United States for more than eight years and in my opinion, well, eight years in also long enough for an individual to serve as a representative of a specific congressional district.”

Bachmann routinely describes herself as a Constitutional Conservative, so it’s not surprising she invokes her constitutional right to not serve as a member of Congress or run for office, even though everyone knows there is no mandate that all elected representatives must keep running for reelection forever. Fittingly, Bachmann also compares herself to a president, which is what she sought unsuccessfully to be and the aim of her only national political bid.

That campaign both elevated her profile and undermined her standing as an elected official. She came in sixth in the Iowa caucuses, transforming her from a high-profile national Tea Party leader into a person who was proven unable to garner more than token support among an ideologically sympathetic population of voters outside her carefully drawn district.

BACHMANN: “Be assured my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being reelected to Congress.”

Despite the advantages of incumbency and outspending him 12-to-1, Bachmann defeated Democrat Jim Graves by only 1 percentage point in the 2012 election in a heavily Republican district that Mitt Romney won by 15 percent. Graves was at a considerable disadvantage at the time. “We had a very abbreviated campaign. When we announced, we had nobody on the team, so we had to create a team and had to create a field operation and we had to do all those things in a very abbreviated time frame up against a very well-funded candidate,” he has said, explaining his loss. Recent internal polling from the Graves campaign put him slightly ahead of her a year and a half before their rematch.

Bachmann not only faced a tough reelection battle but a long one, and in mid-May she started reelection campaign advertising on Minnesota television. That, at the very least, suggests she had not been planning a resignation announcement for long, or was uncertain about how she wanted to proceed.

BACHMANN: “Rest assured this decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff.”

Inquiries is a mild way of putting it: Bachmann’s former national field coordinator, Peter Waldron, turned on her and in March filed complaints against her presidential campaign organization and political action committee with the Federal Election Commission. The Office of Congressional Ethics is also conducting a probe of her campaign payment arrangements. Also investigating the conduct of the Bachmann presidential campaign are: the FBI’s public integrity section, an Iowa special investigator requested by the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, and the Urbandale, Iowa, Police Department. That’s a lot of potential headaches for a weak incumbent.

BACHMANN: “Last year, after I ran for president, I gave consideration to not running again for the House seat that I hold. However, given that we were only nine months away from the election, I felt it might be difficult for another Republican candidate to get organized for what might have been a very challenging campaign — and I refused to allow this decision to put this Republican seat in jeopardy. And so I ran. And I won.”

It is not unusual for failed presidential candidates to reconsider their political careers, and Bachmann is right that if she had pulled out late in the game Graves might have surged while the GOP scrambled to find a replacement. This time, the Republicans will have time to find someone who can compete against him more effectively in a district that should favor their party, and Bachmann can step down knowing she’s done her all to keep the seat in Republican hands.

BACHMANN: “Feel confident: Over the next 18 months I will continue to work 100-hour weeks.”

Being a member of Congress is exhausting.

BACHMANN: “Looking forward, after the completion of my term, my future is full, it is limitless and my passions for America will remain. And I want you to be assured that there is no future option or opportunity — be it directly in the political arena or otherwise — that I won’t be giving serious consideration if it can help save and protect our great nation for future generations.”

Translation: I haven’t yet figured out what to do next — please hire me.


By: Grance-Franke-Ruta, The Atlantic, May 29, 2013

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Big Problem Is Brewing”: This Could Be A Career Ender For Michele Bachmann

With a special investigator soon to be appointed by the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, the ethics cloud hovering over Rep. Michele Bachmann could quickly become a major problem for the Tea Party hero, experts tell Salon.

“This is very serious,” said Craig Holman, a government ethics lobbyist at liberal-leaning watchdog group Public Citizen. “It’s not Watergate, or at least not yet, but these are a series of allegations that are each serious on their own, and when you put them all together, this could be a career ender for Michele Bachmann.”

Ken Boehm, chairman of the conservative-leaning National Legal and Policy Center, told Salon that we should wait to see what investigators find — indeed, no wrongdoing has been reported so far — though he acknowledged the escalating scrutiny could be a major headache for the congresswoman down the line.

The Iowa investigation, looking into whether the campaign improperly paid a state senator, is just one of at least three different probes examining a range of allegations related to Bachmann’s failed presidential campaign, including charges that she improperly used campaign funds to promote her book, that her campaign “launder[ed]” money, and that one of her staffers stole an email list from a home-school organization.

Two former staffers, including her former chief of staff, have agreed to testify against Bachmann, which Holman said is “very unusual” and something that will push investigators at the Federal Elections Commission and the Office of Congressional Ethics, each of which reportedly has its own investigations into the campaign, to take the matter seriously.

OCE can’t issue penalties itself, but instead refers matters to the House Ethics Committee, where the range of potential punishments is huge, from a letter of censure to expulsion from the House, though the committee has a reputation for partisan gridlock and could easily sidestep the matter. FEC violations, meanwhile, come with civil fines, but the commission is even more notoriously ineffectual than the Ethics Committee.

The real punishment, even if no wrongdoing is found, would likely instead come in November of next year, when Bachmann will face off against Democrat Jim Graves, whom she beat by less than 4,500 votes in 2012. The race presents real challenges for Graves, as turnout will be lower without a presidential race, and the district remains the most conservative in Minnesota.

But Professor Larry Jacobs, who runs the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at University of Minnesota, says the ethics questions are a “big problem” for Bachmann. “There are a lot of things a conviction politician like Michele Bachmann can withstand, and being attacked by Democrats is definitely one of them. But the kind of krypton that will disable her is having her convictions challenged,” he told Salon.

Some supporters will no doubt stick by her, and refuse to believe the veracity of any charges (see: Glenn Beck), but others may not. “These charges are particularly damaging because they cut to the core of her greatest strength among her followers, which is her authenticity. This cloud of questions has now enveloped her in the ‘usual politics’ label and what I’ve heard from her supporters — and this is obviously not a scientific sample — is, ‘she’s just like the rest of them,’” Jacobs added.

For his part, Graves isn’t ready to make an issue of the ethics questions — yet. “We aren’t going to make any assumptions,” he told Salon. “We’re confident in the bipartisan process responsible for investigating this matter. The truth will set you free — or otherwise. I’m just disappointed at how long this issue has had to go on, creating another distraction from the real needs and concerns of Minnesotans.”

Bachmann’s core supporters will probably never vote for a Democrat, but they might stay home, which could be trouble in a low-turnout race like midterms generally are. Still, Jacobs guesses that Bachmann hangs on for another cycle, but barely. And if the ethics questions get worse, that prediction might change.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, May 2, 2013

May 3, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Michele Bachmann In Danger”: The Voters May Just Pray Her Away

Despite her national fan base and a massive war chest, Rep. Michele Bachmann may be in more danger than most suspect, with a new poll showing her lead diminished to just 2 points. Independent voters have swung against her by nearly 20 points in just two months, from a 4 percent advantage to a 15 point disadvantage. The internal poll, conducted by Democratic pollsters Greenberg Quinlan Rosner at the behest of Democrat Jim Graves’ campaign and shared with Salon, shows that Bachmann’s favorability rating has tumbled since their last survey in mid-June, and finds Graves gaining ground with independents as his name recognition grows.

Overall, the poll shows Bachmann leading Graves 48-46 percent, within the margin of error. The race has moved significantly among independents, with a 20-point net shift toward Graves, from a 41-45 percent disadvantage in June to a 52-37 percent lead now. Among independents, Bachmann’s favorability rating has slipped 4 points while her unfavorability rating has jumped 7 points. Overall, she’s viewed mostly negatively. Among all voters, 40 percent give her a positive job rating, while a sizable 57 percent give her a negative one, with a plurality of 35 percent giving the most negative answer possible — “poor.”

Graves’ campaign manager (and son) Adam Graves told Salon that the numbers show his candidate is well positioned to beat Bachmann. “Obviously, we’re very excited about it. The first thing that’s notable is that obviously her recent comments, the stories that she’s created for herself, have really hurt her among folks in the middle,” he said. Bachmann, who had tried to keep a lower profile after aborting her presidential bid, grabbed headlines this summer for her implication that Muslims in the U.S. government may be secret agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.

As we argued last month, Graves has the best shot at beating Bachmann of any Democrat since the congresswoman was first elected in 2006, thanks in large part to the absence of a third-party candidate. In previous races, those candidates have captured as much as 10 percent of the vote, siphoning votes away from the challenger. While some observers were skeptical that much of that 10 percent would break toward a Democrat, the Graves campaign said the new poll shows clearly that that fear has not materialized, as independents are moving toward its candidate.

The poll also show that Graves’ name ID in the district has jumped 20 points, though he’s still largely unknown at 38 percent. Meanwhile, Bachmann is known by 99 percent of voters. That will make it harder for Bachmann to change people’s perceptions about her, while Graves should be able to influence people who do not yet have an opinion of him. “If every time we pick up 20 percent on voter ID, we pick up 20 percent of the independents, then by the time we’ve reached a place where we’re happy with 80 percent ID or whatever, we realize that we’re going to be in a position to win,” Adam Graves said.  ”This race is neck-and-neck.”

There’s been no other public polling of the district, though it’s reasonable to assume that the Bachmann campaign has commissioned its own surveys. The fact that none have been released suggests that Bachmann’s numbers also do not bode well for her. Meanwhile, she underperformed in her Republican primary last month.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, September 10, 2012

September 11, 2012 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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