WASHINGTON -- It's been a long five years since tea party groups started popping up in opposition to President Barack Obama's agenda. In that time, tea party supporters have succeeded at shifting the Republican Party to the right, helping to win the U.S. House of Representatives for the GOP and setting up the past three years of divided government and gridlock.
Meanwhile, the one-time "queen of the tea party," 6th District Rep. Michele Bachmann, has seen her star fall precipitously.
At a conference in Washington Thursday sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots to celebrate the party's fifth anniversary, Bachmann was relegated to warm-up status, delivering a 10-minute speech at 9:30 a.m. to supporters, while rising stars and likely presidential candidates, Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, got prime speaking slots.
Still, Bachmann clearly relished her time in the spotlight telling the crowd, "what you did for America was stellar," referring to the tea party's role in helping unseat former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2010.
But after going all-in to defeat Obama in 2012 and failing, and now finding itself under attack from establishment Republicans for pushing the GOP into unpopular positions, some of the tea party's energy appears to have ebbed.
"At a defeat, when things don't go our way, sometimes we can tend to take our marbles and want to go home. Every been there? Ever felt like that?" Bachmann asked the audience this morning. She plans to step down from Congress at the end of her term after facing multiple campaign finance probes.
Bachmann wasn't the only Minnesotan highlighted by the Tea Party Patriots. Immediately preceding Bachmann's speech, state Rep. Cindy Pugh, R-Chanhassen, told the crowd how she had been uninvolved in politics until 2009 when she started attending tea party rallies, a path that eventually led to her successful bid for office in 2012.
"Thanks to the tea party and thanks to all of you, I have found my voice," said Pugh, who also helped found the Southwest Metro Tea Party.