Michele Bachmann back in the headlines

After failed presidential bid, champion of the tea party works to rebuild her political profile

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Nearly 18 months after she faltered on the snowy fields of Iowa in the GOP presidential primary, Rep. Michele Bachmann is making a return to the headlines this week, sponsoring the bill to repeal President Obama’s health care law and giving a forum to tea party groups who say the IRS led politically motivated audits against them.

Still, Mrs. Bachmann’s re-emergence is not without perils. The 57-year-old married mother of five continues to battle allegations of election finance violations and accusations that her presidential campaign tried to bribe the Iowa state GOP chairman ahead of her disastrous performance in that state’s presidential caucuses last year — a showing that forced her to drop out of the race and begin a long slog to rebuild her political profile.

It doesn’t hurt that the recent allegations about the Internal Revenue Service targeting tea party groups plays right into the hands of Mrs. Bachmann, who for the past two years has run — with varying results — the House Tea Party Caucus.

“History is filled with stories of political comebacks and she will have that opportunity — and she has the capability to rehab her image and change the focus to her work instead of these other issues,” said Keith Appell, a GOP consultant. “Given how this issue of the IRS‘ persecution of the tea party is mushrooming, an opportunity is emerging for her — if she plays it right — to be relevant again. The IRS scandal will fuel tea party participation in the 2014 elections, so if she can get out from underneath these other issues she could play a significant role next year and potentially benefit from a tea party conservative victory.”

Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist, said a Bachmann resurgence would be a gift to his party.

“As a Democratic strategist, I can’t think of anything better for my party than to have Michele Bachmann raising her profile again on the national scene,” Mr. Manley said, before sliding in a jab at her staunch support for traditional marriage. “Her views are so far out of the mainstream that it can only mean good news for the Democratic Party in 2014. For God’s sake, same-sex marriage just passed in her home state of Minnesota, that is how out of touch she is.”

Mr. Obama also poked fun at Mrs. Bachmann at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last month, joking that she is a big part of his revamped GOP outreach efforts. “In fact, I’m taking my charm offensive on the road — a Texas barbecue with Ted Cruz, a Kentucky bluegrass concert with Rand Paul, and a book-burning with Michele Bachmann,” Mr. Obama quipped.

Mrs. Bachmann has returned fire in recent weeks, knocking the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attacks — in particular the attempt to link the attack to an anti-Islamic video produced in the U.S. “The administration has been caught in the midst of a lie, not only a lie, but a coverup,” Mrs. Bachmann said last week on Fox News. “They’ve been covering up since Sept. 11 about the phony cover story that they were peddling about Islamophobia.”

Mrs. Bachmann will be back in the thick of things Thursday on Capitol Hill when House GOP leaders have scheduled a vote on her bill to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law. She also has planned a news conference with tea party leaders and members of Congress about the IRS‘ targeting of conservative groups.

Michele Bachmann has such a powerful brand within the tea party that when tea party issues pop up, it is just natural that people are going to turn to her and her profile is going to go up because of that,” said Judson Phillips, the leader of Tea Party Nation who plans to attend the event.

Mrs. Bachmann’s office did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Riding her pro-life credentials and reputation for going to bat for less government and lower taxes, Mrs. Bachmann rocketed to the front of the GOP presidential pack in 2011 before crashing back down to earth with a sixth-place finish in the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

She went on to squeak out a fourth term in a tight congressional race last year.

Mr. Phillips said that Mrs. Bachmann has been on a roller-coaster ride the past two years.

“I think she could sing the chorus of the Grateful Dead song, ‘What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been,’” he said.

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