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01.04.12

Michele Bachmann Calls It Quits, Ending Her 2012 Presidential Bid

The Minnesota congresswoman put all of her chips in Iowa—and lost badly. Howard Kurtz on her exit from the race.

The Republican presidential field has lost its only woman.

To no one’s surprise, Michele Bachmann called it quits on Wednesday morning, hours after skidding to an embarrassing last-place finish in Iowa, the state where she was born and where her troubled campaign made its stand.

In an oddly stilted speech in which she read her remarks, the normally fluid speaker recited her talking points against Barack Obama and repeatedly slammed his health-care law. “I will continue fighting to defeat the president’s agenda of socialism,” she said. About the only reference she made to her drubbing was to say, “The people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice … I have no regrets. I never compromised my principles.”

It was a strangely unemotional last chapter for a politician whose trademark is her passion.

By drawing just 6,073 votes in the caucuses Tuesday night, the Minnesota congresswoman was forced to limp off the field. It was an abrupt ending for the woman who won the much-hyped Iowa straw poll in August, landed on the cover of Newsweek, and began a steady trajectory downward.

Bachmann never seemed to settle on a coherent strategy, losing her campaign manager, Ed Rollins, early on, and spent the last few days accusing her Iowa chairman, Kent Sorenson, of selling out for money by defecting to Ron Paul’s campaign. Rollins told Politico that Bachmann pulled her punches against Mitt Romney in hopes of preserving a shot at becoming his running mate.

A founder of the House Tea Party caucus, Bachmann was never able to expand her base beyond evangelical conservatives, and they soon drifted off to Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and ultimately Rick Santorum, who finished in a virtual tie with Romney. She tried to stress her legislative experience but often wound up touting her unsuccessful opposition to Obamacare and declaring that its author would be a one-term president.

Bachmann also committed several high-profile blunders, from mistakenly saying the Revolutionary War began in Concord, N.H., to repeating an unfounded claim that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. She was also embroiled in controversy over once having said her religion requires her to be subservient to her husband, Marcus, who was by her side during her withdrawal speech.