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Who Will Be The Next Bachmann?

It turns out there are lots of right-wing loonies to choose from.

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With Rep. Michele Bachmann’s impending retirement, the Tea Party vacuum grows. Allen West, Joe Walsh, Jim DeMint, Ron Paul and now Bachmann are gone. Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are off of cable news.

So who will be the next Bachmann — both a hero to the right and villain to the left? We asked Tea Party and conservative activists, as well as the liberal operatives and bloggers who loved to hate her (and love to watch their traffic numbers and fundraising dollars spike when they write about her). Everyone agreed that Bachmann is probably irreplaceable. She was an unequaled lightning rod and cash cow, both for herself and for Democratic groups that used her name as a shorthand for everything wrong with the GOP in email solicitations, so she leaves big shoes to fill.

You probably already know Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Steve King and some others, but here’s our best guess about names you might not know but will start seeing more often at places like both CPAC and MSNBC, in no particular order:

Steve Stockman (Texas): He’s been around for a while, but Stockman’s star is rising as he seems to be stepping into the void left by retiring or ousted Tea Partiers. He has one of  the most colorful and prolific Twitter feeds of any member of Congress (even giving away  free AR-15s). He’s the guy who  invited Ted Nugent to the State of the Union Address (he had to  vow ahead of time that he wouldn’t interrupt the speech); he’s introduced  legislation to prohibit schools from instituting “gun free zones” in the wake of Sandy Hook; he’s  threatened to impeach Obama over gun control; he’s  compared Barack Obama to Saddam Hussein; he’s  dissed transgender people; he’s  mocked a fellow congresswoman’s sartorial choices, etc. etc. Definitely a buy.

Tim Huelskamp (Kansas): Elected in 2010 to represent the “Big First” congressional district — over half of Kansas — the social conservative lawmaker has made himself a villain of the LGBT community for saying he would oppose marriage equality  even if his son came out as gay and for saying employment protections “ reward homosexual behavior.” He also hates ”racist” Planned Parenthood, comparing it to “pro-slavery forces.” He was  one of only nine lawmakers to vote against any form of the Violence Against Women Act. As for the GOP’s attempts to reach out to the “so-called ‘Hispanic voter,’” that’s “very distracting and  very discouraging,” he has said. He might be more Rick Santorum than Michele Bachmann, but should get more attention.

Matt Salmon (Arizona): Salmon had a similar experience to Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, but when his own son came out as gay, Salmon  stood by his opposition to marriage equality. Like Huelskamp, he was also one of only nine lawmakers who  opposed the Violence Against Women Act. He’s also introduced a term limits congressional amendment and called for  shutting down the government. Salmon was elected in 2012, but to a seat he had previously occupied but left in order to run for governor against Janet Napolitano. An experienced politician, he may keep his head down if can help it.

Ted Yoho (Florida): We haven’t heard much from this freshman yet, but the fact alone that he beat powerful incumbent Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns — who had endorsements from Ron Paul, Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann, and Allen West — and is “ the least experienced House freshman” should put him on the list. Tea Party groups are excited about his potential. A wildcard, stay tuned.

Ron DeSantis (Florida): Tea Party activists have high hopes for this former Navy SEAL and prosecutor who comes straight out of the conservative movement after spending years writing books and articles for conservative publications like the National Review, the Washington Times, the American Spectator, Human Events, and the American Thinker. A smart thinker with a strong resume, he may not want to end up as a liberal target.