Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Michele Bachmann became a born-again Christian at the age of 16. After earning a law degree, Bachmann became a local conservative activist, protesting abortion clinics and state-mandated educational standards. In 2000 she was elected to the Minnesota state Senate, and earned a reputation for her conservatism and her hyperbolic style. In 2006 Bachmann was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and helped found the conservative Tea Party Caucus, becoming one of President Obama's most outspoken critics. A rising star in the GOP, in June 2011 Bachmann announced her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination but failed to get the bid. Despite her loss, she was able to hold onto her Congressional seat in Minnesota in 2012, albeit by a very slim margin against Democratic businessman Jim Graves.
Born as Michele Marie Amble on April 6, 1956, in Waterloo, Iowa, Michele Bachmann came from rather ordinary, Midwestern roots. Bachmann's family moved from Iowa to Minnesota when she was young, eventually settling in Anoka, where her parents divorced in 1970. Despite the family separation, Michele remained a bright and popular straight-A student and cheerleader, winning the title of Miss Congeniality in the Miss Anoka competition. After becoming a born-again Christian at the age of 16, Bachmann took a great interest in the Holy Land, spending a summer working on Kibbutz Be'eri near Beer Sheva, Israel, in 1974.
She then matriculated at Winona State College, a medium-sized public school in southeastern Minnesota, where she met her future husband, Marcus Bachmann. She married him shortly after graduation, then took a year off to enjoy married life before starting pursuit of a law degree at the William Mitchell School of Law in St. Paul. Bachmann eventually received her J.D. from Oral Roberts Law and an LL.M. degree from William & Mary Law School, and later worked for five years as an attorney for the United States Internal Revenue Service.
Start in Politics
Though she volunteered for Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter's successful presidential campaign in 1976, Bachmann decided she was a Republican after reading the liberal writer Gore Vidal's novel Burr: "He was kind of mocking the Founding Fathers and I just thought, 'What a snot.' I just remember reading the book, putting it in my lap, looking out the window and thinking, 'You know what? I don't think I am a Democrat. I must be a Republican."
After moving the family back to Stillwater, Minnesota, Marcus Bachmann started a Christian counseling practice. Michele Bachmann, no longer working for the IRS, became a full-time mother to her five children while also caring for a number of foster children. Meanwhile, she began to get involved in local politics, at first mostly as a hobby: "I didn't consider myself overtly political," she later recalled. "I certainly didn't think of it as something that I would do as an occupation." She began her career as a political activist in the early 1990s by protesting against abortion clinics, and by leading the fight to start a Christian conservative charter school in Stillwater, which led her to protest against state-mandated educational standards.
Unexpectedly, Bachmann soon found herself ranked among the rising stars of the local Republican Party. A fiery speech at the 2000 Minnesota Republican Convention won Bachmann the GOP nomination for a seat in the state senate; that November, at the age of 44, Bachmann won her first elective office.
Michele Bachmann quickly became one of the most conservative members of the Minnesota Senate, first gaining statewide notoriety in 2003 by proposing a constitutional amendment banning the state from legally recognizing gay marriage. Though Bachmann failed to get that measure onto the ballot, she established herself as a force to be reckoned with on the Republican right.
In 2006, Bachmann set her sights on a bigger prize: a seat in the United States House of Representatives, which was left open when incumbent Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy unsuccessfully ran for United States Senate. Boosted in her fundraising by the support of national evangelical groups and the National Republican Congressional Committee, Bachmann easily won the seat in a three-way race, claiming 50 percent of the vote and becoming one of the few Republican freshmen in the 110th Congress, following a 2006 election cycle dominated by Democrats nationwide. When she was sworn into office in January 2007, Bachmann became the first Republican woman ever to represent Minnesota in Congress.
Well-known for both her strong fiscal and social conservatism, and for her tendency to engage in hyperbolic rhetoric, Bachmann quickly became a prominent and polarizing national political figure. During the hotly contested presidential campaign of 2008, Bachmann declared on national television that Democratic candidate Barack Obama held "anti-American views" and seemed to suggest that such views were widespread among Democrats in Congress and ought to be investigated. "I wish the American media would take a great look," she said, " at the views of people in Congress and find out are they pro-America, or anti-America. I think people would love to see an exposé like that." Liberals and Democrats decried what they saw as an implicit McCarthyism in Bachmann's statements, but her harsh words won her more fervent support on the right. Once Obama took office in 2009, Bachmann became one of his most outspoken opponents in Congress.
2012 GOP Race
In 2010, long since having become a darling of the GOP's conservative base, Bachmann originated the Tea Party Caucus in Congress. While she was passed over that year in her bid for a position in the Republican congressional leadership, she maintained her status as a popular national leader on the American right, and prepared for a potential presidential run in 2012. "I think what this has changed is the grass roots, and what they're looking for. Our phones have been ringing off the hook, our Facebook has been lit up, our donations are pouring in. And people are saying, 'Michele, jump in, we want you to run.'"
In June 2011, Bachmann officially announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for the presidency in Waterloo, Iowa—the town of her birth, which happens to be located in the crucial early caucus state. Refusing, in the early days of her campaign, to attack friends such as Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin among the prospective Republican field, Bachmann focused instead on unseating the incumbent president: "This is really a referendum on Barack Obama," she said. "I'm not comparing myself to any other candidate, other than Barack Obama."
Bachmann ended up losing the 2012 presidential bid and in the immediate months after, found herself in a politically vulnerable position. In November, she was able to keep her Minnesota congressional seat but only by a very narrow victory against Democrat Jim Graves.
In May 2013, Bachmann announced that she "will not seek a fifth Congressional term" in a video on her website. "Different than some, I've never considered holding public office to be an occupation," she said. Bachmann has pledged to continue to work hard to advance her "Constitutional Conservative" ideals in her remaining time in office. She also claimed that her decision had nothing to Jim Graves's decision to run again in 2014 and the complaints filed against her presidential campaign with the Federal Election Commission earlier in the year.
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