Add another tally to the count of GOP presidential hopefuls who will not be participating in what is shaping up to be a lackluster “kickoff” candidate debate on Thursday in South Carolina: Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., unceremoniously announced in a Fox News Sunday appearance that she will bypass the network’s cosponsored event.
The news isn’t entirely surprising. The requirements for debate participation include having an established exploratory committee, something Bachmann has consistently said would happen “by June.” Prodded on Sunday by Fox News host Chris Wallace, Bachmann crystallized the vague sentiment she’s expressed in recent weeks.
“I’m not making my formal announcement either way until June,” she said. “So I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to be in the first official debate, which Fox will be sponsoring.”
Though Fox News told National Journal as recently as Friday that Bachmann was still “50-50” in deciding whether or not to take the plunge, comments from her camp left little doubt that she would decline to join Rep. Ron Paul of Texas; former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the early-primary state.
“Her understanding is that if she did take the stage on May 5, she would essentially be declaring her candidacy,” Bachmann spokesman Doug Sachtleben told National Journal last week. “It’s been a careful consideration for her, but she’s said pretty clearly that she won’t be making any sort of decision until [around] June, and there’s no reason to question that at this point.”
Bachmann also told Wallace that her role this weekend in New Hampshire’s Presidential Summit on Spending and Job Creation, sponsored by the tea-party-affiliated Americans for Prosperity Foundation, served effectively as a litmus test for her primetime skills against the other likely candidates. Also appearing were former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, pizza magnate Herman Cain, and Pawlenty and Santorum.
Bachmann and her fellow participants “were back-to-back with each other and all on the same topic and all being asked questions,” she said. “So I’ve already been there, done that.”