WEST DES MOINES, IOWA—Less than 12 hours ago, Michele Bachmann seemed determined to prove all the haters wrong and vowed to waste the next several weeks of her life in South Carolina. Turns out it was all a ruse to gather the media for one last headline-grabbing event.
Bachmann announced that she would suspend her presidential campaign this morning at the Marriott in west Des Moines. For the first time in her career, Bachmann seemed to have landed on planet Earth. "Last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, so I have decided to stand aside," she said. Boy, they sure were clear. She came in second to last, just ahead of Jon Huntsman, who drew 5 percent of the vote. That equals 6,073 votes, only a slight increase from the 4,823 people who supported her at the Ames Straw Poll in early August. Back then it looked as if Bachmann could threaten Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination. But the entry of Rick Perry into the race stole her momentum, and she never recovered.
Her whole campaign was built around her Iowa roots, and she invested everything in winning the first state. She had a minimal South Carolina campaign, and her New Hampshire staff not only quit en masse in October; they wrote a letter detailing the ways the campaign had disrespected Iowa. Recent polling averages had Bachmann at 4 percent in New Hampshire, even worse than her caucus showing.
Bachmann joins Herman Cain among the ranks of former candidates who are technically still running even if they do not have an active campaign. Bachmann campaign spokesperson Alice Stewart said that the candidate wouldn't be posting a debt when campaign-finance figures are released next month. Bachmann at least outlasted the other Minnesotan in the race, former Governor Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out after the Ames poll where he finished third, 4 percentage points ahead of Rick Santorum (yes things have taken a bizarre turn). Last night, it looked like Rick Perry would drop out after he headed home to "reassess" his campaign, but a tweet of an enthusiastic photo indicates that he will carry on to South Carolina.
Bachmann has not yet decided if she will run for re-election next year to keep her U.S. House seat, nor did she offer an endorsement for one of the other candidates. But following the announcement, Bachmann’s spokesperson offered praise for the congresswoman’s former rival Santorum. "I think what that shows—which is good—is that the faith community did coalesce around one person," Stewart said. "That's what the faith community wanted. Someone either Romney or anti-Romney, but whoever they coalesced around it was important for them to do that in order to get the faith community vote. That's certainly what we saw. There was a concentrated effort for that to happen over the past couple of weeks."
"I've told you the truth," Bachmann said today. "That our country is in very serious trouble, and this might be the last election to turn the nation around before we go down the road to socialism." The truth might in fact be the area where the Bachmann campaign had the most trouble. Bachmann couldn't resist the chance to distort the facts as she bowed out of her campaign: She began by reminding people that her opposition to the Affordable Care Act was "more than just a cliché to me—it's essential to my core convictions" because it provides taxpayer funds for abortion.
It's hard to imagine a more fitting send-off for Bachmann's anti-Obama campaign than this: "My message has been the necessity for the complete repeal of Obamacare in this once-in-a-lifetime campaign cycle for the presidency," she said. "Because Obamacare represents the largest expansion of entitlement spending in this country's history. And it has now become the playground of left-wing social engineering where the right will always lose every battle."