WASHINGTON - Emerging from a failed presidential campaign, Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann said on Wednesday that she will carry on her political cause by returning to Congress and running for re-election this year.
"I am very thrilled to be in the position that I am today, and I am looking forward to continuing," Bachmann said.
But the three-term congresswoman will face a new hurdle in her bid for a fourth term. Bachmann's fast-growing north-suburban district must shed tens of thousands of residents under once-a-decade redistricting. A court ruling next month on the state's new congressional boundaries could significantly alter Bachmann's district. One proposal put forward by the Minnesota DFL would pit her against Rep. Betty McCollum, a veteran St. Paul Democrat.
"Obviously we'll see what happens with these [redistricting] maps ... But I do intend to run again," Bachmann said.
Although Minnesota Republicans have largely left the field open for her in the Sixth District -- at least publicly -- Bachmann faces other potential obstacles. A prodigious fundraiser in Congress, she burned through money in her seven-month presidential campaign faster than she could raise it. In the end, she had no funds for a significant ad buy in Iowa, a state that was crucial to her White House bid. Political observers will be watching closely next week when federal campaigns release their year-end financial reports to see Bachmann's financial status.
Bachmann also dismissed a recent poll that found a majority of Minnesotans said that she should step down. Voters in her district "are very positive about the service that I've given them," she said. "I've gotten tremendous response from the people all across the Sixth District."
Even as Bachmann announced her re-election plans, she bristled at questions about her political ambitions, the presidential race and her place in Congress. At one point, a press aide interrupted the interview to say Bachmann wanted to talk only about President Obama's State of the Union address and district topics like the proposed St. Croix River crossing.
Bachmann rejected any suggestion that her presidential bid, which focused heavily on her Iowa roots, might have damaged her prospects in Minnesota. "What people recognize is that I've worked extremely hard on their behalf," she said.
She lauded the U.S. Senate's approval on Monday of the St. Croix River crossing, a premier project for her district and one championed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Final passage awaits a long-delayed vote in the House.
"I have been at the forefront of that effort to make sure that it successfully goes through," Bachmann said. "People see that I have laid it on the line."
Democrats have attacked Bachmann for her frequent absences from Congress and for a long string of missed votes over the past year as she pursued the GOP nomination for president.
"Michele Bachmann has done absolutely nothing for the people of Minnesota's Sixth District in the last year," state DFL Chairman Ken Martin said on Wednesday. "Since September 2011, she has missed over 90 percent of the votes in Congress. Instead, she was flying around the country and catering to her Tea Party friends as part of her failed bid for president."
Bachmann said that "when I go back to Minnesota on a regular basis, people tell me how thrilled they are by the service I've been giving them."
State GOP Chairman Pat Shortridge said in a statement that Bachmann "has worked extremely hard on behalf of Republican principles for the past three terms in Congress" and "continues to fight for limited, constitutional government, personal freedom, traditional values and a strong and secure America. We are thankful to have her on our side."
Bad poll numbers
Bachmann, 55, took the Republican establishment by storm with a Tea Party- fueled insurgency that gave her an unexpected victory in August's Iowa straw poll. But she struggled after that, and when she placed last in the Iowa caucuses earlier this month, Bachmann ended her campaign.
Since then, Bachmann has laid low, leading to speculation that she might aim at a U.S. Senate run, either against Klobuchar, who faces re-election this year, or against Democrat Al Franken, whose term ends in 2014.
Bachmann's decision to run for re-election came a day after a Public Policy Polling survey found that 57 percent of Minnesotans held an unfavorable view of her compared with 34 percent who viewed her favorably. The survey said 37 percent said she should run again while 57 percent said she should not.
Bachmann declined to talk about potential divisions within the House GOP caucus, particularly those between the House Tea Party Caucus she leads and the Republican leadership, which she criticized last year in a high-stakes budget deal that raised the national debt ceiling to avert a government shutdown.
Bachmann said she toured her district last week talking to business leaders, making clear that she is not softening her criticism of President Obama's policies on energy, the economy and health care, which she derided as "socialist." She called Obama's speech to Congress on Tuesday night "fairly extreme and highly partisan" and noted that he offered no defense of his health care overhaul.
Bachmann minimized the prospect of continuing congressional gridlock as Republicans and Democrats clash over Obama's 2012 agenda.
"I think the Republicans are not interested in blocking," Bachmann said. "What they'd like to do is to be able to open up job creation. I don't see any desire on the part of Republicans here in Washington to be political."
Kevin Diaz is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau.