Some good news is so good that it makes you a little sad. Today’s case in point: Michele Bachmann’s announcement that she won’t be running for re-election next year. It’s a mighty fall for the Tea Party darling who just two years ago was a presidential candidate in the Bizarro universe of Republican politics.
Bachmann is positioning her decision as a commitment to term limits. In fact, deciding to quit now — you can’t say while she’s ahead–may be the first proof ever that Bachmann is occasionally conversant with reality. Because the political reality is that Michele is dead in the water. Here are three reasons why:
1. An investigation into her presidential campaign finances. Nothing spells political death like the drip-drip-drip of a long-running investigation. The Office of Congressional Ethics (yes, an oxymoron but it exists) is looking into how Michele spent her campaign money. In particular, the investigators are interested in whether Bachmann used money from her political action campaign improperly. Things got even juicier a couple weeks ago when the FBI decided to join in the investigation.
2. A good chance of losing reelection. Bachmann barely held onto her congressional seat last year, even as her district went heavily for Romney. This time, Democrats were heavily investing in a rematch. Ironically, Michele’s departure may have saved the seat for the GOP.
3. Diminished influence. Now that the Tea Party is in its twilight, Michele has a lot less clout. Compounding that is that she was never a powerhouse inside the Beltway. As Politico puts it, “In the Capitol, the Minnesota Republican never proved herself a savvy legislative operator, or even a real factor in the rough and tumble of Congressional brawling.” In a nice twist, her biggest legislative accomplishment this term has been a classic bridge-building project that critics called pork-barrel spending.
Michele, of course, insists that she could win re-election and that she is confident of the ethics of her actions. But that’s not what her decision says. Her decisions says she’s getting out while the getting’s good, because pretty soon her departure may not be on her own terms. We might have missed some extra humiliation if she waited. What we won’t miss is Michele.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore