The Note: Michele Bachmann's Exit Strategy

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By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • EIGHT IS ENOUGH: In an e-mail message to supporters and a video posted online early this morning Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., announced she would not seek a fifth term in Congress in 2014. "Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected to Congress," Bachmann says in the nearly nine-minute video. "I've always, in the past, defeated candidates who are capable, qualified and well-funded." But at a time when an ethics cloud hangs over her, she also noted, "This decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff." The former presidential candidate insisted that she never considered holding public office to be an "occupation." Looking ahead, "my future is full, limitless and my passions for America will remain. And I want you to be assured that is no future option or opportunity - be it directly in the political arena or otherwise that I won't be giving serious consideration - if it can help save and protect our great nation for future generations."
  • HER LEGACY: "While her presidential bid initially excited Tea Party supporters, Mrs. Bachmann would later find herself upstaged by conservative opponents like Mr. Cain and Mr. Santorum, and she was prone to misstatements, including saying the vaccine against the human papillomavirus was linked to 'mental retardation,'" writes The New York Times' Michael D. Shear today. "But her campaign was not without impact. Her victory in the Ames, Iowa, straw poll in the summer of 2011 forced Tim Pawlenty, the former Republican governor of Minnesota, to drop out of the contest early, after he did poorly in his neighboring state. … Ms. Bachmann had been a largely obscure member of Congress from Minnesota before the emergence of the Tea Party in 2010. She seized on the movement to brand herself a national voice of conservatives and become the leader of the 'Tea Party Caucus' in the House."
  • IN THE MONEY: In her video, Bachmann explains that she is stepping aside because "in my opinion, well, eight years is long enough for an individual to serve as representative for a specific congressional district." Maybe so. But, as ABC's DEVIN DWYER points out, it's certainly not for lack of campaign cash. Bachmann had more than $1.8 million in her campaign war chest as of March 31, according to FEC filings - a huge sum. Her challenger, Democrat Jim Graves, reports just $36,000 cash on hand at this early stage. During the 2012 campaign, Bachmann raised more money than any other candidate for U.S. House. She topped $20 million for the cycle, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. For perspective, the next biggest fundraiser, Allen West, brought in $17 million, followed by Tammy Duckworth with $4.5 million.


ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Michele Bachmann's decision not to seek reelection could spare her from an ongoing Congressional ethics investigation, but that doesn't mean her legal challenges are over. The allegations revolve around a stolen list of home-schooling parents in Iowa. She and her aides deny involvement. If members of Congress resign or don't run again, the ethics committee loses jurisdiction or interest. But expect the Bachmann case to continue, because the FBI and FEC are also looking into whether she misused campaign funds in her failed 2012 presidential bid. This is the latest example of how running for president can make, but more often break, a political career.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: In saying why she didn't decide to retire - not out of fear of reelection, or concern over ethics and FBI investigations - Rep. Michele Bachmann may have given a big clue as to why she did. Democrats are celebrating the decision, and it surely boosts their chances of picking up her House seat next year. But attempts to nationalize this decision or this race will be harder to maintain than eye contact with the camera. Bachmann had a target on her back because she's well, Bachmann. No other member of the House boasts her kind of backstory and national profile, for quite the same mix of reasons. This is the kind of decision that, odd as it is to say, will be met with bipartisan approval.

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Speaking of that bipartisan approval that my colleague, Rick Klein, wrote about above, The Note's inbox has been full of reactions to Michele Bachmann's retirement announcement this morning. One GOP source called her career a "cautionary tale about what happens when lawmaker refuses to be disciplined in any facet." This Republican strategist told me, "Her repeated false claims in TV appearances, on the floor and battles with leadership in public and behind closed doors all contributed toward making her a caricature, betraying the dynamic nature that vaulted her to the top of public consciousness to begin with." What's interesting is that from the left, a statement from the pro-Democratic House Majority PAC's Executive Director Alixandria Lapp wasn't all that different: "Bachmann was one of House Majority PAC's top ten targets for many reasons: her out-of-touch and extreme right-wing views, her penchant for making repeated false and outlandish statements and the growing investigation into unethical and potentially even criminal activities."

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: President Obama played arcade games with Chris Christie on the Jersey Shore Tuesday, tossing a football through a tire and even giving Christie a high five when the New Jersey governor won. The political odd couple trip to the Jersey Shore came six months after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the region, and it was a reminder of the time Christie stood next to the president in the wake of Sandy just days before the November election, praising the Obama - a show of support that earned Christie some harsh words at the time from some Republicans. Yesterday's visit also had political implications. Why? Because Christie actually has a Democratic opponent for his gubernatorial re-election bid: state Democratic Sen. Barbara Buono. She wasn't mentioned in public Tuesday, but she did tweet that she met with Obama. Buono was part of a group of approximately 30 state and local officials - Democrats and Republicans - who met with the president before he spoke in Asbury Park, N.J. A senior administration official said there was a photo line, but no separate meeting between the two. Not exactly a rousing endorsement. So was it pay back or a thank you for Christie's praise of the president just days before he took on the man Christie endorsed, Mitt Romney? Possibly…or maybe the two do just get along really well. It's hard to imagine that buddy-buddy scene yesterday, though, if Christie was taking on Newark Mayor Cory Booker instead of Buono.


MCCONNELL CAMPAIGN AD USES IRS SCANDAL AGAINST OBAMA. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is seizing on the scandal at the Internal Revenue Service in a new campaign advertisement, using vintage video footage of Richard Nixon to amplify his criticism of President Obama and his administration, ABC's JEFF ZELENY reports. No opponent has yet emerged to challenge McConnell in Kentucky, so he is biding his time by sharply condemning the Obama administration in the wake of the IRS acknowledging that conservative groups had been unfairly targeted. It is the clearest sign yet the IRS controversy is likely to play a central role in the midterm elections next year. The new online ad for McConnell, obtained by ABC News, seeks to draw comparisons between Nixon and Obama. It shows a famous clip from an interview with David Frost, where Nixon declares: "When the president does it, that means it's not illegal." It is the first political ad of the year to show IRS officials on the hot seat at recent Congressional hearings. One employee is shown taking the Fifth Amendment and declining to testify, while two others repeatedly say they were unaware of the targeting underway by the IRS.

ON THE AGENDA: This afternoon, President Obama heads to Chicago where he will attend two fundraisers for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. First Lady Michelle Obama, meanwhile, will attend a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser in Boston followed by two Democratic National Committee events in New York City, including the DNC LGBT Gala featuring Jason Collins, the first openly gay active player in the NBA.

PRESSURE MOUNTS ON POTENTIAL MCCONNELL CHALLENGER. Make up your mind. That's the message an influential Kentucky congressman is sending to a fellow Bluegrass State Democrat who has spent months contemplating whether to challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell but has yet to announce her intentions, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE and MICHAEL FALCONE report. Three-term Rep. John Yarmuth, the state's only Democratic congressman, had some blunt advice for the potential Senate contender, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday. "It's very important to do it now," Yarmuth said, adding that he and other prominent Democrats have been reaching out to Grimes but not getting much of a response. He called her failure to return calls "extremely unusual." "She's keeping her own counsel on this, and I guess that is fine, but there are others waiting in the wings," Yarmuth said, noting that Democrats want to "avoid an expensive primary."

-WORD FROM GRIMES: Despite the pressure, an adviser to Grimes said she would not be rushed into making "a snap decision." "She's certainly closer to making a decision than she has been because she has been talking to a lot of people and assessing what this opportunity means," the adviser told ABC News. "I would think in the not-too-distant future you will hear an answer from her," noting an announcement was likely to come within a month. Grimes' spokeswoman, Lynn Zellen, said in a an e-mail message to ABC News last week that "Secretary Grimes is continuing to talk with her supporters across Kentucky and giving it the due diligence it deserves."

-NOT SO FAST: Not all Democrats agree with Rep. Yarmuth's assessment. "There is no mounting pressure in terms of the timeline. The examples are numerous of candidates getting in much, much later and being successful," one Democratic strategist said. "Resources do become an issue, however a Democratic candidate will have no problem raising money at the prospect of defeating Mitch McConnell."

HOLDER 'NOT SATISFIED' WITH LEAK INVESTIGATIONS. Attorney General Eric Holder told CNN yesterday that he wants to change how the Justice Department handles leak investigations, notes ABC's CHRIS GOOD. The department is embroiled in controversy over its seizure of phone records for Associated Press reporters and offices. Also this month, The Washington Post reported that the FBI suggested Fox News reporter James Rosen may have broken the law, in an affidavit seeking emails from his Gmail account, as the FBI investigated a potential leak of classified information about North Korea. "We're going to have a real frank, good conversation about this," Holder said, CNN reported. "And I think, we're going to make some changes because I'm not satisfied with where we are." President Obama has ordered a 45-day review of Justice Department guidelines of how journalists are investigated when the department is probing a leak.

FOSTER FRIESS' TORNADO CHALLENGE. Philanthropist Foster Friess, who has promised to match a $1 million in donations to help tornado victims in Moore, Okla., yesterday challenged the 50 state governors to raised $20,000 each in private funds. Friess may be most widely known in political circles as the man who helped fund Rick Santorum's presidential campaign, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE writes, but he has a history with disaster philanthropy traveling and donating to three other natural disasters: the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The governors' together would raise $1 million for the stricken town of Moore if they all come through. "We are challenging each of the 50 governors to put their private hats on and encourage people in their states to send private money, not government money," Friess told ABC News. He said he has already spoken with Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and he's on board telling Friess, "Let me start calling."

OBAMA PROBLEMS: LIPSTICK AROUND THE COLLAR. President Obama had a bit of a lipstick problem at the White House Tuesday evening, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. A bright red stain appearing on the collar of his white shirt as he took the stage for a speech. The president quickly called out the woman responsible for the big red smudge saying he didn't want to get in trouble with First Lady Michelle Obama. "I want to thank everybody who's here for the incredible warmth of the reception. A sign of the warmth is the lipstick on my collar. I have to say I think I know the culprit," the president said to laughter at the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month celebration at the White House. "Where's Jessica Sanchez? It wasn't Jessica. It was her aunt. Where is she? Auntie, right there. Look at this. Look at this. I just want everybody to witness." "I do not want to get in trouble with Michelle, so I'm calling you out right in front of everybody," he joked.


VETS ADVOCATE: OBAMA MUST 'STEP UP' TO SHRINK DISABILITY BENEFITS BACKLOG. With nearly 900,000 veterans waiting to hear from the Veterans Administration about disability benefits claims-and the average wait time stretching to almost 300 days-the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is calling on the president to make policy changes that will help diminish the backlog. IAVA's Chief Policy Officer Tom Tarantino tells Top Line that, while the White House says President Obama is keeping a close eye on the situation, veterans needs proof that real change is on the horizon. "What we need is the commander-in-chief to step up and say 'Look, there is a plan,'" Tarantino tells ABC's RICK KLEIN and Yahoo's OLIVIER KNOX, hosts of "Top Line," "and we have to articulate a plan that's actually measurable so that those of us in the veteran's service community, as well as every vet out there, can actually see how we're going to go from point A to point B to point C and get rid of the backlog." WATCH:


-"JOE MILLER FILES SENATE STATEMENT OF CANDIDACY PAPERS," by the Washington Post's Sean Sullivan. "Joe Miller, the tea party-backed conservative activist and attorney who defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in the 2010 primary only to lose to her write-in campaign in the general election, filed a statement of candidacy document to run for the Senate earlier this month, campaign finance records show. A statement of candidacy form must be filed when a individual raises or spends more than $5,000 or another person does so on behalf of the candidate, according to Federal Election Commission instructions. Miller had previously announced he was forming an exploratory committee for a run against Sen. Mark Begich (D), so the move is not a total surprise."

-"CORY GARDNER SAYS HE WON'T CHALLENGE MARK UDALL FOR SENATE IN COLORADO," by the Denver Post's Allison Sherry. "One of Colorado's most competitive and viable Republicans in office decided Tuesday he is not going to run against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall next year. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said he has decided against entering the race, which does not yet include any Republican candidates. 'I've got work to do, I'm not in a hurry to run for another office,' he said. 'I think the most important thing for people is to know now. I needed to make a decision now, and I'm fully committed to make sure the GOP nominee will win in 2014.' Gardner was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 to represent the 4th Congressional District. Since then, his district has turned more Republican - and thus more secure - for the 38-year-old multigenerational Coloradan."


@SusanPage: One reason immigration will be a tough sell in the House: Few Hispanics in GOP districts @AlanGomez @DaviSusan

@ByronYork: We've learned much about State Dept actions in Benghazi, but military side of story remains classified.

@TheRickWilson: Allen West, Washington Outsider, Returns To Washington -

@jestei: Nice, counterintuitive WashPo story about S.C. Congressman Mulvaney back home for recess. Plus, okra:

@TonyFratto: Take a Deep Breath and Think Before Rushing Further Reform …