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Bachmann retirement gives GOP better chance of holding seat

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann announced Wednesday morning in a video she won’t seek reelection in 2014 -- a decision that will likely help the GOP hold her seat next year.

"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 Sixth District of Minnesota,” Bachmann said in a video posted on her campaign website. “After serious consideration, I am confident that this is the right decision."

Bachmann said her future was “limitless and my passion for America will remain....There is no future option or opportunity … that I wouldn’t be giving serious consideration if it can help save and protect our great nation.”

The controversial and often outspoken politician was the only reason her seat was a concern for 2014, and without the one-time presidential candidate on the ballot, Republicans’ chances of holding the seat skyrocket.

The founder of the House Tea Party caucus first elected in 2006, Bachmann quickly became a prominent voice against Democrats the Obama administration in the House, particularly against the president’s health care plan. She entered the 2012 presidential race, and while she had a brief wave of success in the fall of 2011 and won the Ames, Iowa, straw poll in August, by the time actual votes were cast, her support had dissipated. She finished a disappointing sixth in the caucuses in her native state, and she dropped out soon after.

Bachmann is still facing scrutiny from her presidential run, with the Federal Election Commission, the Office of Congressional Ethics and the FBI looking into allegations she paid an Iowa state senator to work on her presidential campaign.

Her foray into national politics didn’t help her own reelection chances back home, with wealthy hotel magnate Jim Graves giving her the toughest challenge of her career. Hitting her for not being in the district enough and missing votes in the House, Bachmann narrowly won reelection in 2012 by just 4,296 votes even as Mitt Romney won this suburban Twin Cities seat by 15 points. Her district was drawn to be the most Republican district in the state: in 2008, McCain got 55 percent while in 2004 Bush took 58 percent. But Bachmann consistently underperformed the top of the ticket, though Democrats were never able to topple the congresswoman. 

But for 2014, Democrats were optimistic. Graves had already announced he was running again, and this time the four-term incumbent showed signs she was taking him seriously. While she said in her retirement announcement her decision wasn’t motivated by reelection concerns or the looming investigations into her presidential run, Bachmann was doing her due diligence, and then some, for her reelection campaign. Bachmann had already begun running campaign ads nearly a year and a half before the election, touting her work to repeal health care legislation.

Just last week, Graves touted a robopoll conducted for his campaign showed the two in a statistical tie and Bachmann with a 51 percent unfavorable rating.

While national Democrats didn’t invest in Graves’ challenge last time, he’d already been named to their “Jumpstart” program for promising recruits, and the House Majority PAC had already named Bachmann as a top target.

When Republicans thought Bachmann wasn’t running again in 2012 as she prepped her presidential bid, several local politicians showed interest and there’s sure to be a crowded GOP primary to replace her. Names mentioned last time include former Rep. Mark Kennedy; former state Rep. Phil Krinkie, former state Rep. Jim Knoblach and businessman Jay Emsay, who all lost to Bachmann in the 2006 primary; former state House Majority Leader Matt Dean; Anoka County Board Chair Rhonda Sivarajah; former state Rep. Chris DeLaForest, state Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and state Senate President Michelle Fischbach.

While several House members are running for higher office in 2014, Bachmann is the first outright House retirement. Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) announced last week he will resign in August to take a position with the University of Alabama.