With less than a year left in her fourth and final term in Congress, it's a little early for an exit interview, but not too early to get the views of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) on issues dear to a "founding mother" of the Tea Party movement and on how to beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, if the Democrat decides to run.
Bachmann remains confident and resolute despite many political setbacks. We met in her office while much of Congress was fleeing the Capitol Building ahead of a major storm that eventually dumped a foot of snow on Washington. The snow was a big deal to residents of the nation's capital, but little more than flurries to a Minnesotan like Bachmann.
Bachmann is made of sterner stuff and has time and time again stood up for her social and economic principles, refusing to compromise on them despite sometimes strong opposition from within her own party's leadership.
She retains her Christian and conservative worldview, calling it a "grid" through which she sees everything. I note that a majority of her colleagues and much of the rest of the country seem to have a different "grid" and cite as examples the growth and cost of government and the failure of conservatives to slow what they regard as the cultural slide.
"That's the reality we work in, but so what?" she says. "That doesn't deviate from my responsibility ... but you continue to have to go forward, even if you don't see the results."
Why does she think little has stopped the cultural slide, even when Republicans control all three branches of government, as they did for a time during the George W. Bush administration?
"It's because of their worldview," she responds, implying it isn't enough to be a Republican, or even conservative. For a truly conservative agenda to advance, she believes, voters will have to send to Washington more people with a biblical worldview. That is a difficult task, given the growing secularization of the country, especially; it appears, among the young. She acknowledges "politics is downstream from culture. It merely reflects what is going on (in society)."
If Republicans nominate a male presidential candidate in 2016, how should he run against Hillary Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee?
Bachmann was the only female GOP candidate in the race when she ran for president in 2012. She says, "Two things that need to be done: Remind people (Clinton) is seeking to become commander in chief (and look at) how she has operated in the past with these types of responsibilities. She was in charge during the Benghazi debacle. If a person reads the Senate Intelligence (Committee) report and the House Foreign Affairs (Committee) report released (last) week, it is damning for Hillary Clinton."
Bachmann says Clinton testified before Congress that she was "aware" of the deteriorating conditions in Benghazi but did nothing. "She has a real problem when it comes to Benghazi," says Bachmann. Clinton, she adds, must answer for what happened.
In addition, she says, Clinton is "the godmother of Obamacare," trying "behind closed doors" to push through something similar when Bill Clinton was president.
Maybe such an approach will work, but would the lure of the "first female president" overcome these concerns in voters' minds? Bachmann says: "Effectively she would be Obama's third and fourth term in office." That might scare enough people to vote for the Republican nominee.
Bachmann says a lot of people "aren't ready" for a female president. "I think there was a cachet about having an African-American president because of guilt." (Presumably she means because of slavery and the lengthy denial of civil rights to blacks.) "People don't hold guilt for a woman," she says, adding that while people vote for women for virtually every other office "I don't think there is a pent-up desire" for a woman president.
She says while Obama was "new and different," Hillary Clinton has been around a long time and is less likely to stir the juices as Obama did.
It may be time to test that theory.