WASHINGTON — Wasting little time to assess her disappointing loss in the Iowa caucuses, Rep. Michele Bachmann quickly closed the door Wednesday on her hopes to win the White House.
"Last night the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, so I have decided to stand aside," she said at a press conference in West Des Moines. She finished sixth with 5 percent of the vote. "I have no regrets. We never compromised our principles."
The three-term Republican congresswoman from Minnesota said that she never told voters "what the polls said you wanted to hear," and she repeatedly invoked her religious faith as one of the two driving forces behind her campaign. The other was her belief that President Barack Obama was leading the country in the wrong direction.
As during her campaign, Bachmann sounded alarms against the 2010 health care law that the president and congressional Democrats approved. She said that it "endangered the very survival of the United States of America."
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Singling out as well a Wall Street regulation law that tightened restrictions on the financial industry, Bachmann said she "ran because 2012 is our last chance and our only chance to repeal" both.
Bachmann entered the race with high expectations. She had a political appeal similar to Sarah Palin, but without the former Alaska governor's sometimes prickly personality and with a greater depth of issue mastery. She seemed to possess many of the qualities to suit the frustrated and confrontational mood of the conservative Republican electorate.
While Bachmann followed her own drummer at times in Republican congressional politics, she was in tune with the beat of the tea party, whose influence inside the GOP was increasing. Along with social conservatives, both groups were potent political forces in the party's presidential nomination race. Amid a crowded field of Republican contenders, Bachmann had credibility with both.
And in Iowa, where Bachmann grew up and which seemed a good fit for her message and charisma, she scored an initial success in the August straw poll of Republican activists, which she won. But she soon was eclipsed when Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race, and she slipped steadily in polls. Once the slide began, she was never able to parlay her strengths into a marketable candidacy again.
"She strikes people as a courageous, dynamic and unapologetic conservative, who is willing to speak truth to power," said Keith Appell, a Republican political strategist. "Unfortunately, those qualities didn't help her put together an effective campaign that could employ the tactics necessary to be successful."
Bachmann officially suspended her effort, which will enable her to continue to raise funds to pay off her debts.
Bachmann did not say whether she would run this year for another term in Congress, now that she is out of presidential politics. But "make no mistake, I'll continue to be a strong voice," she said. "My faith in the Lord God the almighty, this country and our republic is unshakeable."
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