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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 29th, 2013
07:02 PM ET

Briefly a GOP presidential frontrunner, Bachmann's future is now uncertain

Rep. Michele Bachmann announced late Wednesday night that she will not seek a fifth term in Congress. But her political legacy is already written.

Bachmann was a fierce critic of the Obama administration, a champion of social conservatives, and a White House hopeful who started her career as a volunteer for Democrat Jimmy Carter's 1976 campaign for president.

Bachmann was always a more complex character than the late night comedians made her out to be.

She earned conservative accolades for her stance as an opponent of legal abortion, a die-hard defender of marriage between a man and a woman, the Constitution, and Israel.

Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, also raised five children, and opened their Stillwater, Minnesota, home to 23 foster kids.

In 2006, she became the first Republican woman from Minnesota to be elected to the U.S. House, where she founded the Tea Party Caucus.

Bachmann's career reached its peak in August 2011 during the Republican presidential nomination fight, when she won the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, the state where she was born.

Asked then why moderate Republicans would vote for her, Bachmann told CNN's Jake Tapper, then with ABC's This Week, "I think what people see in me is that I'm a real person. I'm authentic. And they want someone who's going to go to Washington and represent their values."

But Bachmann had message issues.

There were gaffes, such as confusing John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gacy, and more substantive moments when she alienated supporters with controversial comments.

"I had a mother come up to me last night here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that [HPV] vaccine, that injection. And she suffered from mental retardation thereafter," Bachmann said on NBC's Today show, in September 2011.

That comment was not rooted in medical fact, and Bachmann lost steam quickly, eventually placing sixth in the Iowa caucuses. She ended her presidential bid the next day.

Bachmann's congressional seat was always competitive.

She won her first race with 50% of the vote. Last November she barely held on to her House seat, winning by little more than 4,000 votes. She spent more than $11 million on that win, or $65 per vote, more than any other congressional candidate.

Bachmann's former faith coordinator for her presidential campaign, Peter Waldron, brought campaign finance allegations against her that are being investigated by the House Ethics Committee.

"I believe that the strain of having to sustain all the questions that are coming as a result of the investigation, talking to investigators, the lawyers, the lawyer fees, settlement talks, it gets to be quite a chore to carry that," said Waldron.

Bachmann said that the investigations are not the reason she is retiring.

Waldron said it was wise for Bachmann to step down.

"I think it was a good decision. I think it benefits her. It benefits her constituents," said Waldron.

Bachmann represents a Republican district that Democrats thought they could win, said CNN's Dana Bash.

"Now Democrats admit if she's gone, it might be hard ... for them to get. And every single seat in the House, as the Democrats try to get the majority back, matters," said Bash.

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