By Jonathan Easley and Meghashyam Mali - 05/29/13 02:46 PM EDT
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) — the conservative firebrand and Tea Party favorite who was briefly a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination — announced Wednesday that she would not seek reelection to Congress in 2014.
Bachmann, who has long been a target of Democrats and faced a difficult reelection next year, compared herself to a president limited to eight years of office in a statement explaining her decision.
“After a great deal of thought and deliberation, I have decided next year I will not seek a fifth congressional term,” Bachmann said in a video message on her campaign website. “I am confident that this is the right decision.”
Bachmann rocketed to national fame with floor speeches and cable television appearances blasting President Obama's administration. Just this month, she was the lead sponsor on a bill to repeal ObamaCare.
She won the Ames, Iowa, straw poll in August 2011, briefly making her a front-runner in the crowded GOP field. But her campaign quickly flamed out, and she withdrew after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses.
That failed presidential bid sparked an ethics investigation into alleged improper payments to campaign consultants, though Bachmann said that probe did not influence her decision to leave Congress after her term.
“This decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff,” she said. “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."
Bachmann maintains that she never violated any laws or House rules, and the ethics investigation appears to be focused on what she knew about the actions of Guy Short, her former national political director, and her former Iowa campaign chairman, state Sen. Kent Sorenson (R-Iowa).
The probe, however, has widened, with the FBI joining the inquiry by scheduling interviews with the two men. Bachmann is also reportedly seeking to settle a lawsuit over her campaign’s alleged theft and misuse of a proprietary email list of home-school families.
Her decision to leave Congress at the end of her term also comes six months after Bachmann survived her toughest House campaign, topping Democratic challenger Jim Graves by 4,300 votes.
While the district is heavily Republican, Bachmann ran well behind GOP nominee Mitt Romney, and she appeared vulnerable once again.
Graves announced last month that he would run again for the Minnesota district, and one poll from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed him within two percentage points of Bachmann.
Bachmann, though, is one of Congress’s most accomplished fundraisers, and in her resignation video, she dismissed that challenge.
“Be assured my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being reelected to Congress,” she said. “I have every confidence that if I ran, I would again defeat the individual who I defeated last year,” she said.
In her message, Bachmann gave no indication of her next step after leaving Congress.
Bachmann rocketed to national attention in 2010 when she founded the Tea Party Caucus, but the group never became the congressional force it seemed destined for after a conservative wave helped the GOP reclaim the House in 2010.
However, the recent controversy over the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups seemed to pump new life into the caucus, as Bachmann and a host of other Tea Party lawmakers seized on the scandal as an example of big government run amuck.
Bachmann’s service will be remembered for her fierce commitment to socially conservative causes.
“I proudly have, and I promise you I will continue to fight to protect innocent human life, traditional marriage, family values, religious liberty and academic excellence,” Bachmann said in the video.
Bachmann's criticism of the Obama administration extended to foreign policy. She repeatedly warned about the threat of Islamist extremism in the U.S., and invited controversy and criticism from some in her own party last year after suggesting that Hillary Clinton's deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, was a covert supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Bachmann and other GOP lawmakers sent several letters to government agencies asking them to make sure they were properly vetting federal workers, and Bachmann later made the same claim about Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress.
“I’ve called out the Muslim jihad terrorists for who they are and for the evil that they perpetrate on our people and I’ve demanded that this administration never under any circumstances subordinates our national security for the administration’s weak version of political correctness,” Bachmann said in the video.
“I’ve identified at the outset of the so-called Arab spring, this administration’s foreign policy blunders and how those blunders have contributed into turning the Middle East into a devastating, evil, jihadist earthquake.”
This story was first published at 4:54 a.m. and was last updated at 10:46 a.m.