Will Michele Bachmann’s Migraines Become A Campaign Headache?

Speculation about Michele Bachmann's health continues.

Notwithstanding her statement yesterday, it doesn’t appear that we’re quite done with the questions that arose yesterday regarding Michele Bachmman’s medical history. First, Politico was out this morning with a story corroborating the claims made by the former aides quoted in The Daily Caller on Tuesday:

In confirming several incidents first reported Tuesday by The Daily Caller, a conservative online publication, POLITICO found new details of the effect migraines have had on Bachmann’s performance and their pervasive impact on her congressional office.

  • In March 2006, migraines Bachmann suffered in the aftermath of an appendectomy prolonged her recovery from surgery, causing her to suspend her campaign and miss a week of work in the Minnesota state Senate, where she served at the time.
  • A migraine attack in May 2010 forced Bachmann to retreat to her congressional office and lie down in the dark. She managed to attend early afternoon congressional votes before flying to California to attend two political events, but she was in pain much of the time and sought emergency treatment. When Congress reconvened the following Tuesday, Bachmann missed a day of votes.
  • In July 2010, Bachmann missed eight House votes while being treated and released for a migraine by a Washington hospital. Her staff at the time said an unspecified illness was the reason for the missed votes. The attack caused her to cancel a campaign trip. According to her own account, it took her four days to recover.

One former top Bachmann staffer, who denied being a source of the Daily Caller report, told POLITICO the congresswoman’s migraines were so prevalent that the entire office and campaign staff — even interns — knew about the problem.

“Within the Bachmann team, this was not a secret about her headaches and the problems and doors going closed. It could be anyone from an intern to a chief of staff that could be aware of this,” the staffer said.

This staffer said it was a common for the congressional office to literally go dark when Bachmann had a migraine.

This afternoon, ABC News reporter Brian Ross, who ended up in a scuffle yesterday when he tried to ask Bachmann follow-up questions about the migraines, is out with additional reports corroborating the claims made in the original report:

An insider who once worked with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R- Minn.) told ABC News he believes her migraine headaches have been a persistent and vexing problem for years, often forcing the congresswoman to cancel meetings, shut her office, turn off the lights and lie down until they pass.

“You’re probably talking once every two to four weeks where she would have severe headaches, and at times it would be more frequent,” the former insider told ABC News, speaking on the condition he not be identified because he was concerned about retribution. “They would come on in a matter of minutes. She would be down on her couch with the lights off and unable to function.”


[The former aide] said he was surprised the campaign was attempting to portray the medical condition as innocuous. He said the headaches occurred so often that Bachmann’s scheduler had frequent conversations with the medical offices in the House of Representatives in order to be able to respond quickly with medication.”We had many occasions where there would be a stressful situation — they were almost always stressful situations,” the Bachmann insider said. “We would have lights out. Close the office, shut the lights and she would lay in the office and try and recover. Everyone from interns on up knew about it.”

Cearly, Bachmann’s attempt to dodge the issue yesterday is not going to stop the speculation, nor is it going to stop people from talking. And even Republicans like Karl Rove are saying that the Bachmann campaign needs to get out in front of this story fast, before it begins to look like they are covering something up:

“For the Bachmann campaign, this is the first big challenge.

It’s evidence of what happens when you jump up into the top ring of these polls, and the kind of scrutiny that you get.

It’s going to be important for her to get her doctors out there quickly to provide medical records and to provide the reassurance that people are going to want to have that this is not a serious issue.”

Rove is, of course, entirely correct here (yes, that’s right, I’m agreeing with Karl Rove, mark the day on your calendar), and it’s pretty much the same thing that I said yesterday. If Michele Bachmann suffers from a medical condition that causes her to need to disengage from her duties in order to recover, and if, as the reports have stated, that condition is often brought on by stress, then I don’t see how that cannot be something the public has a right to know about. Arguing, as some have, that it’s meaningless or, more ridiculously, that bringing up the fact that a woman has migraine problems is somehow a form of sexism, is simply silly. Michele Bachmman is running for the Presidency of the United States, a job in which one is never really off duty. Allegations that there might be a reason she cannot peform the job are surely relevant.

Michele Bachmann has been thrust into the top tier of the race for the 2012 race for the GOP nomination. She can’t hide on the back bench this time.


FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PJ says:

    Who will be the first commenter comparing staying away from a vote because of a migraine with voting present?
    Or did I preempt that with this comment?

  2. PJ says:

    I’d also like to point out that this is obviously a despicable attack by the Beltway Elite, Bachmann should respond by run as a third party candidate.
    If she’s unable to run on a Tea Party ticket, I would suggest any of these names:
    Boneset Tea Party, Butterbur Tea Party, or Catnip Tea Party.

  3. Drew says:

    I hear she has bunions, too. Who knows? Maybe even corns! Out with her. Right now.

    I mean, seriously people, in addition to migraines and bunions, she doesn’t have what everyone knows is the absolutely necessary qualifier for becoming President: wasting your education and your career as a community organizer.

  4. Mr. Grouchypants says:

    Has Bachmann missed a lot of votes because of migraines? I would guess that if she were prone to incapacitation that her voting record would give some indication of that.

  5. Michael says:

    As bad as migraines can be, it’s not like they’re life threatening or going to cause a significant interruption in her ability to act as President (I’m sure you can find other legislators who have missed an equal number of votes because of illness, Irritable Bowl Syndrome would cause about the same inconvenience to a President).

    I mean, come on people, Bachmann is about the worst candidate for President for so many legitimate reasons. Migraines aren’t even the biggest problem in her own head.

  6. ponce says:

    I used to suffer from migraines, so I can sympathize.

    It’s not like you’re unable to make decisions while you have one.

    In fact, lying on a couch in the dark thinking about things can lead to some real insights.

  7. Fiona says:

    While there are plenty of other reasons not to vote for Bachman, the possibility that she has frequent debilitating headaches, brought on by stress, that render her unable to work is serious enough to warrant further investigation. It is definitely something that the public has a right to know. That this information has been raised by opponents within the Republican elite who’d like to get her out of the race doesn’t negate its significance.

  8. Barb Hartwell says:

    Migraines are painful and debilitating,and if they are brought on from stress why would she want to run for president? She has other problems keeping her from becoming POTUS, SHE`S CRAZY!

  9. Mike Monroe says:

    Really??? If this is the best anyone has they are really digging deep. So of all the little secrets that exist in Washington, a migraine is the issue. Not the booze, drugs, interns and all the real problems/secrets that exist with the political elite

  10. Rob in CT says:

    This (if it’s even true) is low on my list of reasons I don’t support Bachmann. Waaaaaay low.

  11. MM says:

    @PJ: Drew, apparently.

  12. Drew says:


  13. An Interested Party says:

    @Drew: Speaking of waste, at least Bachmann and her husband know how to waste your tax dollars on farm subsidies and Medicaid payments for praying the gay away…