Rep. Michele Bachmann became the first post-Iowa casualty on Wednesday when the Minnesota congresswoman ended her presidential campaign after a dismal sixth-place finish in the caucuses.
“The people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, and so I have decided to stand aside,” Bachmann said at a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa.
Bachmann technically suspended her campaign, a move that permits her to continue to raise and spend funds.
She used her concession speech to take aim at President Obama’s policies, including his signature health care reform law. To defeat the president, she said, Republicans must rally behind the eventual GOP nominee.
“What the Congress had done and what President Obama had done in passing 'Obamacare' endangered the very survival of the United States of America,” she said. “I will continue fighting to defeat the president’s agenda of socialism.”
Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart told reporters that the congresswoman reached her decision on Wednesday morning after consulting with family members and senior staffers. "She saw that they coalesced around the other candidates. And she just didn’t have it in her heart to continue, given the way the people spoke last night,” Stewart said.
Bachmann, who this summer topped the Ames straw poll, limped across the Iowa finish line with only 5 percent of the vote, putting her dead last among the major GOP candidates. Despite several well-regarded performances in debates, she had trouble persuading voters that she would be an electable option against Obama.
“Iowa opens the door for some people and closes the door for others, and for very few people does it leave it slightly ajar. And with the outcome of the race, it shut the door on her,” said former Bachmann pollster Ed Goeas. “Her ability to break into the upper tier and stay there was dependent on her finishing strong in Iowa, and that didn’t happen.”
Reacting to her decsion, caucus winner Mitt Romney told reporters in Manchester, N.H., "She was a great candidate. We'll miss her."
Bachmann had served as a surrogate of sorts for Romney, eagerly attacking rivals such as Rep. Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum while the former Massachusetts governor largely concentrated his fire on Obama.
A darling of the tea party movement, Bachmann was one of the first candidates to surge to the top of the Iowa polls -- only to be replaced by a virtual merry-go-round of conservatives who each caught fire for a few weeks before flaming out. Santorum won the conservative ticket out of Iowa with a close second-place finish to front-runner Romney, losing by eight votes.
Stewart said Bachmann has not made a decision on whether to endorse one of her former rivals.
Goeas said the congresswoman will now have to decide whether she wants to defend her House seat in a tough Minnesota district. She spent more than $11 million defending her seat in 2010, helping to make it the most expensive House race in the country, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group.
Sarah B. Boxer, Ron Fournier, and Rebecca Kaplan contributed