Iowa: Iowa may be fertile ground for GOP's Bachmann; Rep. says she feels a 'calling'

By Brian Bakst

Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Republican Michele Bachmann is making plans for a presidential campaign announcement next month in Waterloo, Iowa, the city where the Minnesota congresswoman was born.

Bachmann trickled out the details in a conference call with reporters last week but said she could still reverse course and sit out the 2012 White House campaign.

Bachmann was supposed to speak in person at a GOP dinner in downtown Des Moines, but a vote in Washington turned the appearance into a video message. Hundreds of Republicans watched her via a blurry, choppy Internet feed, where she profusely apologized for her absence and offered a rain check. The feed briefly cut out but aides quickly dialed back in.

Bachmann went on to speak about fighting terrorism, defending America's founding documents and opposing legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling.

The Minnesota congresswoman says she has staff lined up in the states that start the presidential nominating process: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

She says strong fundraising and other indicators make her confident about making a run.

It was a bizarre scene for an almost-campaign announcement.

Reporters huddled around a Des Moines hotel podium where Bachmann spoke from Washington.

"The announcement will be made in Iowa, and it will be made in Waterloo," Bachmann said, adding that her Iowa birthplace would give her "every advantage a girl would want to have."

Asked if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's decision would have any bearing on hers, Bachmann said she was acting "independent of what any other candidate decides, no matter which candidate gets in and which candidate gets out."

Of the Palin-Bachmann political overlap, Bachmann said: "I don't believe that any two candidates are interchangeable. Each one of us brings our own unique skill sets into this race."

If there's any state where Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann could stir the Republican race for president, it's Iowa.

Waterloo gives her a home-field advantage of sorts. The tea party, the GOP's most energized segment, loves her. So do social conservatives, who cheer her forceful advocacy of gay marriage bans, abortion restrictions and home-school rights.

All are certain to play well with a GOP caucus electorate filled with Christian evangelicals who are emboldened by the clout they wielded in 2008 when they helped former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee win the caucuses.

Yet if she does run, Iowa Republicans say she'll have to invest time courting them in intimate settings, not just drop by for big speeches.

The three-term congresswoman will announce her 2012 plans as soon as next week, and advisers describe her as inclined to get into the race.

"I don't think it's a matter of if she's going to run, I think it's when she's going to announce," said state Sen. Kent Sorenson, a tea party Republican who would take a lead role in a Bachmann campaign. "The people in Iowa are chomping at the bit and ready for her to jump in with both feet."

She would join a wide-open GOP field that's becoming clearer with each passing week. Tea party favorite Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, is among those still considering a run, and her candidacy would affect Bachmann because the two would compete for the same pool of voters in Iowa.

If Palin were to run, "Bachmann's star is going to fade," said Jeff Jorgensen, chairman of the Pottawattamie County GOP in western Iowa.

But Palin isn't in the race, leaving Huckabee's network of supporters and donors in Iowa up for grabs. Bachmann has made no secret of her attempts to fill the void the Baptist minister left in the race, and suggested in interviews after he bowed out that she was more likely to run.

Bachmann aides say she would run a populist campaign much like Huckabee's, but with an asset he lacked: the ability to raise enough money to compete in states beyond Iowa if she were to win it. She's raised more than $2.5 million since she's been flirting with a White House bid.

Published: Tue, May 31, 2011

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