Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann announced Wednesday that she is suspending her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The conservative provocateur finished a disappointing sixth in Tuesday's caucuses in Iowa, with just 5 percent of the vote.
"Last night the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice," Bachmann said at a mid-morning news conference in West Des Moines. "So I have decided to stand aside."
Bachmann's hopes had been pinned on doing well in the Hawkeye State, where last summer she briefly soared in state polls and, in mid-August, won the Iowa Republican Party's presidential straw poll in Ames.
"I will stand for life. I will stand for marriage. I will stand for you to keep the fruits of your own labor," she told the crowd then.
Bachmann, 55, was riding high. A Christian conservative who founded the Tea Party caucus in Congress, she had burst onto the national scene last January with her own Tea Party response to the president's State of the Union speech. "The Tea Party is a dynamic force for good in our national conversation," she said then.
So she came into the much-watched straw poll boosted by Tea Party excitement and looking strong in statewide surveys of likely Republican caucus-goers.
Bachmann, born in Iowa, had outshone her low-key fellow Minnesotan, former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who ended his own run after a poor showing in the straw poll.
And in her first presidential debate performance in June, Bachmann was seen as unexpectedly polished and confident, a possible successor to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a strong female GOP candidate.
But the three-term congresswoman's straw-poll success would prove the high point of her campaign. Texas Gov. Rick Perry picked the day of her win to announce his highly anticipated candidacy for the Republican nomination.
He wasn't the only one to steal Bachmann's thunder: A progression of other candidates — from Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum — proceeded to overtake Bachmann as the Christian conservative alternative to consistent Republican front-runner Mitt Romney.
But Bachmann compromised her own chances with numerous missteps, misstatements and fabrications along the way. Bill Adair of the fact-checking website PolitiFact says Bachmann's statements have been rated false much more frequently than those of any of her opponents.
"She definitely has far more 'false' and 'pants on fire' ratings than any other presidential candidate. They account for about 60 percent of all the ratings we've done," he said. "I don't think any other presidential candidate comes close to that."
She asserted during a debate that a vaccine against HPV, a sexually transmitted disease found to cause cervical cancer, was potentially dangerous. She went further in television interviews during which she recounted a conversation with a Tampa mother whose daughter had received the vaccination.
"She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection. And she suffered from mental retardation thereafter," she said on the Today Show in September. "It can have very dangerous side effects."
Bachmann's claims so alarmed the American Academy of Pediatrics that it took the unusual step of issuing a statement repudiating what is characterized as "false statements" about the vaccine.
Bachmann was also pressed by CBS newsman Bob Schieffer in June to defend her claim that President Obama had issued just one drilling permit during his time in the White House.
"A lot of your critics say you have been fast and loose with the truth," Schieffer said, noting that PolitiFact had rated only one of 23 recent statements as completely true. "How do you answer that criticism?" he asked.
That impression of Bachmann preceded her presidential run. A go-to conservative on cable news programs, she has dismissed carbon dioxide as harmless gas and questioned the patriotism of both President Obama and members of Congress.
Bachmann likes to say she has a titanium spine. And she showed no hesitation in taking on her Republican opponents during debates. That included Gingrich, who was widely seen as treating her with condescension during the final debate before the Iowa caucuses when he noted her frequent factual errors.
"I'm a serious candidate for president of the United States, and my facts are accurate," Bachmann shot back during the Fox News debate in December. Later, she accused Gingrich of treating her like a student.
As she bowed out Wednesday, Bachmann made clear she plans no disappearing act. She repeatedly lashed out at "Obamacare" and vowed to continue the fight to repeal it, as well as Dodd-Frank, the financial regulation act passed in 2010.
She called the laws "destructive to the very foundation of the Republic."
"I didn't tell you what the polls said that you wanted to hear," she told voters. "I didn't try to spin you."
Bachmann said it's important for the Republican Party to rally around a strong candidate who could continue to fight for her issues, but she did not endorse any of the other contenders.
If Bachmann throws her support to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, it could help consolidate the backing of social conservatives behind one candidate.
"I have no regrets. None whatsoever," she said. "We never compromised our principles. We leave this race knowing we ran it with utmost integrity."