Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) says she will not run for reelection to… (Alex Wong / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON — Michele Bachmann, the fiery conservative congresswoman from Minnesota, announced Wednesday she would not seek reelection, a move made in the face of a political challenge at home and several investigations into her failed run for the White House.
Her surprise announcement had the same flair for the dramatic that led her to rank near the top of the Republican field briefly in the 2012 campaign. Two years ago she used a televised debate — the first to include eventual nominee Mitt Romney — to announce she had filed the paperwork to become an official presidential candidate. As the camera-ready face for the ascendant tea party movement, she rode the momentum of her performance to an upset win in an influential straw poll in her native Iowa two months later.
That victory, though, proved the beginning of the end of her presidential campaign, whose later stages were convulsed by misstatements from Bachmann.
In a slickly produced video released early Wednesday, the four-term Minnesota lawmaker told supporters that it was simply the right time to leave Congress, and that her decision was not a reaction to inquiries into her campaign finances and activities.
Nor, she said, was it about what would have been a difficult House reelection bid against the same Democrat who nearly defeated her last year. (Bachmann had already been airing campaign ads, an early testament to her vulnerability.)
She declined to rule out a potential future run for national office, saying, "My future is full — it is limitless — and my passions for America will remain."
Republicans will probably be in a much better position to hold onto her congressional seat with someone else as the candidate, political analysts said. Minnesota's 6th Congressional District is the most conservative in the state, but Democrat Jim Graves, a business executive, came within 5,000 votes of unseating her in November.
Bachmann was the lead sponsor of legislation that the Republican-controlled House passed this month — and that will probably die in the Democratic-controlled Senate — to repeal President Obama's healthcare law. But otherwise she has cut a relatively low profile in the 113th Congress.
Graves, her would-be opponent, said in an interview that it was "a new Michele Bachmann," but that voters were all too familiar with the old one.
"Michele Bachmann was very good at creating headlines, no question about that. She was short on creating good legislation that passed," he said.
Bachmann's lawyer has not disputed reports that she is being investigated by the Federal Election Commission and the House Office of Congressional Ethics for activities related to her failed presidential run. Any enforcement action that results from a congressional investigation — a process that remains sealed and could take months to conclude — could only be carried out during her remaining time in office. The Washington office of the FBI declined to comment on a report by the Star Tribune in Minneapolis that it was also looking into her campaign.
Separately, an Iowa legislative panel was pursuing her 2012 Iowa campaign chairman, a sitting state senator, on allegations of receiving improper payments from her campaign.
Bachmann, in her video, says: "It was clearly understood that compliance with all rules and regulations was an absolute necessity for my presidential campaign, and I have no reason to believe that that was not the case."
In the nearly nine-minute video, Bachmann offered a full-throated defense of her conservative views, in what could be an audition for a more lasting role as a spokeswoman for the tea party movement or as a paid media personality.
"I will continue to work 100-hour weeks" during the rest of her term, Bachmann said. "And I will continue to do everything that I can to advance our conservative constitutional principles.
"I want you to be assured that there is no future option or opportunity … that I won't be giving serious consideration if it can help save and protect our great nation," she added.