By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Kevin Diaz, staff writers

Michele Bachmann Wednesday morning announced in Iowa that she would suspend her presidential campaign after a disastrous finish in the first-in-the-nation caucus voting on Tuesday.

“Last night the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, so I have decided to stand aside,” she said, putting her campaign in the past tense

She walked through the history of the country and criticized "ObamaCare" in her much-awaited announcement before confirming her departure from the race.

"I am not motivated in this quest by vain glory," she said this morning in her West Des Moines news conference. The sudden stop came after she fought through just one early state's contest.

Bachmann did not outline her future political plans Wednesday. “I look forward to the next chapter in God’s plan," she said.

Bachmann had said she would fight on after winning just 5 percent in the Iowa caucuses but changed course, canceling her planned South Carolina stops.

Some of her campaign staffers stood misty-eyed around her after her announcement.

“It’s natural disappointment, but not devastation,” said her oldest son, Lucas Bachmann, a doctoral student in Connecticut.

Hugs were exchanged all around after she read a scathing statement critical of Obama administration policies that she said are “based on socialism (that) are destructive to the very foundation of the Republic.”

But the end came after a summer surge last year and a quick decline from front-runner status, amid staffing problems, a flub over the HPV virus and a twisting race that lent shine to other candidates.

Over the course of her run, she lost a campaign manager, a top national aide, her entire New Hampshire staff and, in the closing days of the Iowa race, her Iowa state chairman to Ron Paul and her state political director.

Throughout the presidential campaign, she brushed aside questions of whether she would run for re-election in Minnesota's 6th congressional district. That district will be redrawn with this year's redistricting, leaving it unclear exactly which constituents she would have and who she would run against should she decide to campaign in Minnesota. During her race, she repeatedly stressed her Iowa roots, which could rub Minnesota voters the wrong way.

"She has made it pretty clear to the people of Minnesota's Sixth that she is an Iowan," said Jack Tomczak, a former Bachmann staffer, now a talk radio host and Bachmann critic.

The MInnesota DFL was gleeful about Bachmann's potential return to the Gopher State. Democratic distaste for her has long helped DFLers raise money.

“We welcome her back to Minnesota,” said state DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin, suggesting that her long absence would be an issue any congressional opponent could use against her. “She has been gone so long, her constituents have forgotten about her.”

Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart said Bachmann is still mulling her political future.

“She just made up her mind to do [drop out]  this morning,” she said. “So in terms of what’s next she just really doesn’t know.”

Stewart called it an emotional decision for Bachmann.

“She prayed about it and thought about it all night long,” Stewart said. “This morning it was clear to her this was the right step to take.” 

Bachmann vowed to “continue fighting to defeat the president’s agenda of socialism,” but did not answer questions about whether she would run again to keep her seat in Congress from Minnesota’s Sixth District.
Nor did she make any endorsements. In recent weeks, some Iowa evangelicals had urged her to get behind Christian conservative Rick Santorum in order to unify social conservatives in the race. 

The end means that the image of a race presumed to include two Minnesota candidates was erased by Iowa voters twice.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty ran for president but dropped out after a disappointing third place finish in an Ames Iowa straw poll in August. Bachmann won that poll of Iowa Republicans and Pawlenty landed a distant third, after Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

Like Pawlenty, Bachmann had struggled to finance her presidential campaign. Though Bachmann has been a prodigious fundraiser in Congress, she reported only $1.5 million in presidential campaign coffers at the end of September, and her organization was $500,000 in debt.

She completed a grueling 99-county bus tour of Iowa in recent weeks, but she did not have the cash to mount any television advertising until Monday, in the last 24 hours of the Iowa race.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who took some glory from Bachmann last summer, had also said he planned to re-assess his campaign at home in Texas Tuesday, after getting just 10 percent in the Iowa race. By Wednesday morning, just as Bachmann was making her announcement, CNN was reporting that Perry would stay in the race and campaign in South Carolina, skipping the primary in New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, former Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum, who, like Bachmann and Perry, made explicit appeals to social conservatives, is gearing up for a New Hampshire run. He came in a very close second to Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus vote. Romney, a clear favorite in New Hampshire, won the Iowa race by 8 votes out of more than 120,000 votes.

The former Mass. governor was quick to praise Bachmann upon her exit.

"She ran a campaign to advance the principles of limited government that I hold dear. Michele is a friend and a strong competitor. Her tenacity on the campaign trail and her fierce intelligence in the debates have left me no doubt that, as advertised, she does indeed have a titanium spine. Michele inspires millions of Americans by the way she has lived her life, raised her family and served her country," he said in a statement.

For her part, Bachmann remained mum on her plans as she worked her way through a throng of reporters to take a last ride on her blue campaign bus.

“It’s been a wonderful ride,” she said, stepping on to the bus. “Thank you, everyone.”