The Iowa caucuses are perhaps better known as a contest that culls certain losers from a field of candidates than one that anoints the winner. But this year, the only casualty of the first big electoral test of the primary season -- besides the hours of sleep we lost waiting for Clinton County's returns to come in and whatever sense of dignity CNN's election team began the night with -- was Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who finished the night with only five percent of the vote. (The other poor finisher of the night, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has opted to remain in the contest, presumably through the South Carolina primary.)
When Bachmann entered the race, she worked hard to establish herself as a candidate with serious presidential bona fides. She was a congressional Tea Party leader. A tax litigation lawyer. A member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Mother to an often indeterminate number of children. More importantly, she cast herself as the "tip of the spear" in the fight against everything about the Obama administration that bedeviled the GOP, most notably the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.
Along the way, she distinguished herself with a colorfully loose grasp of historical facts and a tendency toward the hyperbolic. But on August 13, 2011, Bachmann notched a career milestone, becoming the first woman to ever win the Ames Straw Poll. She received 4,823 of the 16,892 votes, just pipping Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) at the post.
And ... that was about it for Bachmann. That same day, Rick Perry entered the race and that same weekend, Perry showed up in Waterloo and won over the attendees of the Black Hawk County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner while Bachmann stewed in her campaign bus. Over the course of the next few weeks, her displeasure with Perry intensified to the point where she started making outlandish claims about the HPV vaccine, which Perry had mandated be distributed to teenage girls in Texas in order to curb cancer. Bachmann confronted Perry on the issue at a debate, and later said she had met a woman whose daughter had been mentally disabled by the vaccine -- a claim that outraged medical experts.
Bachmann's campaign manager, Ed Rollins, who had previously vowed to impose a new discipline on Bachmann's public statements, had abandoned her by this time for a career in talking smack about her on cable news. Bachmann's entire New Hampshire staff followed suit in late October. Finally, her Iowa campaign chair, Kent Sorenson, defected to the Ron Paul campaign mere days before the Iowa Caucus. It was the final nail in the coffin of a campaign that had long lost its footing in the polls and the ability to finance a run beyond the Hawkeye State. Yet on the eve of the caucuses, Bachmann was still predicting a miracle, comparing herself to Tim Tebow.
The comparison was apt -- Tebow is suffering through his own collapse as the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos. But at least he'll get to play in the postseason. Bachmann, after putting on a brave face the night of Iowa's decision, decided Wednesday to quit the race.
She leaves behind only memories, many of which have been collected in the above video, produced by our own Andrew Rothschild. So let's take a look back on the candidacy of Michele Bachmann. She managed to outlast Herman Cain and Tim Pawlenty at least, so there.
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