MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is the keynote speaker at a GOP event in the early presidential caucus state of Iowa later this month, and a spokesman said Wednesday that the tea party favorite has “not ruled out” a bid for president.
In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Bachmann would not say directly if she is or isn’t running. WCCO’s Esme Murphy asked Bachmann, is it fair to say you are leaving the door open for a run for the presidency?
“What I’m doing is focusing not necessarily on personality, on who the nominee will be,” replied Bachmann. “What I am focusing on is a commitment to ensuring that we will be able to return to American exceptionalism in allowing people to have the American dream restored so I will be speaking about that on into the future.”
“Nothing’s off the table for her,” said Andy Parrish, Bachmann’s chief of staff, earlier in the day. “She’s looking forward to traveling to Iowa for the fundraiser, and you know, she’s looking forward over the next year to traveling and sharing the story of why we can’t re-elect Barack Obama as president.”
Parrish wouldn’t say when Bachmann would decide. But he said she won’t be affected by the decisions of fellow Minnesota Republican Tim Pawlenty or former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whom Bachmann has previously called a good 2012 prospect.
Bachmann, who has drawn a national following with frequent guest appearances on cable and network news shows, broke fundraising records with an $13 million haul en route to winning her third term in Minnesota’s 6th District. She also founded the congressional tea party caucus.
“In many ways it’s not a surprise,” said Hamline University political analyst Dr. David Schultz. “In many ways she’s at the peak of her popularity right now.”
NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Edgar Linares Reports
Schultz says Bachmann won big in her congressional race and is at the crest of the Tea Party movement.
“She is maybe looking at this as her best shot to run for the presidency. Although, it is a huge leap to go from the House of Representatives as a third-termer to the President of the United States,” said Schultz.
Bachmann, 54, is a native of Waterloo, Iowa, but as a child moved with her family to Minnesota. On Jan. 21, she will deliver the keynote speech at the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC Taxpayers Watchdog Reception in Des Moines — an event co-hosted by U.S. Rep. Steve King and other prominent Iowa Republicans.
Parrish wouldn’t say whether Bachmann would talk presidential politics with state GOP leaders. He said she made several trips to Iowa in 2010, and while he wouldn’t reveal specific travel plans in the coming months, he said she could end up in other early caucus or primary states.
Bachmann has also been mentioned in recent weeks as a possible U.S. Senate candidate against Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar in 2012.
While popular with party activists, Bachmann has struggled to parlay that into Capitol influence: Last month, she abandoned a bid for a top post in the House Republican conference after Speaker John Boehner and other prominent colleagues backed her opponent.
As for attracting strong independent voters, Schultz believes that’s doubtful.
“She’s won big in a congressional district that’s very conservative. And even within the Republican Party she seems to have a more contentious relationship with the more moderates of the Republican Party,” said Schultz.
Schultz also added this maybe good news for democrats because it could potentially pit Bachmann against Palin.
“Palin seems to the major darling of a lot of the Tea Party movement in the United States, and has more name recognition. Right now you still have to give a nod to Sarah Palin,” said Schultz, “potentially dividing the Tea Party and making it easier for Democrats and perhaps moderate Republicans to do well in 2012.”
Bachmann and Palin, who also hasn’t hinted at a timetable for her presidential decision, presented themselves as ideological allies at a Minneapolis rally last April. At the time, Bachmann suggested Palin would be a strong 2012 contender while Palin similarly lavished praise on Bachmann.
Pawlenty, whose two-term stint as Minnesota governor ended earlier this week, has laid the groundwork for a presidential campaign and made frequent trips to Iowa and other key states in recent months.
He has promised a decision in the next few months, and probably stands to lose the most if Bachmann jumps in. They share the same geographical base and the fiery Bachmann has generally inspired a more fervent following among both religious and fiscal conservatives than the low-key Pawlenty.
A spokesman for Pawlenty did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Though they’ve maintained a cordial public relationship as the state’s two most prominent elected Republicans, Pawlenty and Bachmann have never been seen as close political allies.
In September, both pulled their names from a Values Voters Summit straw poll of potential 2012 GOP contenders. Pawlenty cited his inability to attend because of an Asia trade mission. Bachmann spoke at the event, but dropped from the poll after her then-opponent suggested she had bigger goals on her mind than her congressional seat.
Asked if the GOP presidential race would have room for two Minnesota Republicans, Parrish deferred: “I can’t answer that because the decision hasn’t been made.”
WCCO-TV’s Esme Murphy Reports