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Once one of the tea party’s loudest voices on Capitol Hill, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann now shuns the national spotlight for Saturday morning coffees in St. Cloud.
These are the political consequences when a former presidential candidate wins re-election by a single point.
Fourteen months after dropping out of the White House race, Bachmann is attempting to recast her national profile into a local one. After a humbling year, the former state senator appears to be fortifying the roots that helped launch her quick ascent into the national consciousness and ultimately made her a contender for the GOP’s presidential nomination.
“What Michele found is that running for president does not help you in your congressional district,” said former Rep. Vin Weber, R-Minn. “The message that it sends is that you have higher ambitions and we are not your top priority. I don’t think she wanted to send that message, but she did, and I think she’s back now reassuring people that being a member of Congress is her priority.”
Even Bachmann’s appearance last week at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, held just outside the nation’s capital, was relatively understated. She spoke off-camera on March 15 to a small room packed with GOP activists, and on the next morning, she delivered her main address when the media filing center was half-empty.
Once happy to engage reporters in the speaker’s lobby, Bachmann recently declined interview requests from multiple Capitol Hill publications, including CQ Roll Call, and she slipped out of view of reporters after both of her CPAC speeches. Instead, Bachmann participated in a lengthy profile that ran last week in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and focused on her work in Congress.
To be sure, the content of Bachmann’s message hasn’t changed much. Her CPAC speeches, especially on March 16, were laced with the red-meat rhetoric that’s made her a controversial figure in national politics. She also sat down with conservative media that lined radio row at a National Harbor hotel, with young conservatives crowding her every step through the corridors.
But Bachmann doesn’t necessarily need to moderate her positions to win. President Barack Obama lost the 6th District last year by a wider margin than in 2008. Still, Bachmann appears to have made the calculation that continued success in her district requires a revamped focus and rebranding.
Fresh off her CPAC appearance, Bachmann returned home to join a bipartisan mix of elected officials and business representatives at the state Capitol on Monday in support of about $400 million in highway improvements, the Star Tribune reported. The infrastructure funding would include Interstate 94 and Highway 10, which cut right through the middle of Bachmann’s district.