2012 GOP contenders have no regrets as they watch Obama inauguration

Former GOP presidential contenders Newt Gingrich and Rep. Michele Bachmann had hoped to be taking the oath of office on Monday, but they were all smiles as they lined up to watch President Obama deliver an Inaugural address for the second time.

Bachmann (R-Minn.) was snapping photos with her iPhone as she waited in a procession line in the Capitol with other members of Congress.

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“This is history,” she told her colleagues.

Bachmann was briefly a front-runner for the Republican nomination after she won the Iowa straw poll in August 2011. She faded in the polls soon after, however, and dropped out of the race in early 2012.

Far from regretful, Bachmann told The Hill it was “a thrill” to watch Obama’s second inauguration.

“The exciting thing about all of this is the peaceful transition in our country, and we’re proud of that,” she said. “The fact that we have a transparent, open, fair fight in the process, and then we have a final result when the people speak.

“So it’s a thrill for me to be able to be here as a member of Congress, to be able to witness this peaceful transition,” Bachmann continued. “Of course, I would have preferred to see a different outcome, and I had a favorite in the election, but I’m honored to be able to be here today.”

Asked if she was thinking yet about 2016 and another run for the White House, Bachmann replied, “No, I’m thinking about the debt ceiling right now.”

Gingrich, the former House Speaker who also briefly led the GOP presidential polls, arrived with his wife, Callista.

“It’s a great American experience,” he told The Hill. “I think it’s the greatest transfer of power peacefully in the world and it’s an honor to be here. I’m happy to be part of it.

"It's always an amazing thing to watch the greatest transfer of power in the world and to see that it all works," Gingrich said at another point. "I remember being here for Reagan's in '80 — there's a magic to it."

Asked for his message for Obama, Gingrich said, “If he really wants bipartisanship, act in a bipartisan manner.”

Bachmann said her message to the president was “Stop spending more money than what the country is taking in.”

The Republican nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney, is not attending the inauguration. The man who would have been vice president, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), walked in with his fellow House members.

Jeremy Herb contributed.