MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A narrow re-election win last November has kept Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann out of the spotlight in recent months. But she got a warm welcome when she stood before the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in suburban Washington, D.C.

She talked about the conservative movement being one of “care and compassion.” It wasn’t the Michelle Bachmann many of us are used to seeing.

“We’re a growing movement of people who care about all Americans,” Bachmann said.

Larry Jacobs, political science professor at the University of Minnesota, says Bachmann has re-appeared in new packaging – but what’s inside has not changed.

“We’ve got a more caring Michelle Bachmann, but selling the same conservative platform,” Jacobs said. “It looks to be very much the same sort of stick to the 2nd Amendment with no compromises, a fairly hard attack on government bureaucracy and an unrelenting challenge to President Obama for being missing in action – particularly in regards to Benghazi in Libya.”

She drew supportive booing from the crowd when criticizing the way the White House is run, claiming the first family has a lavish lifestyle.

“We are also the ones who are paying for someone to walk the president’s dog,” Bachmann said.

In terms of policy or politics, the congresswoman didn’t change her position. But her effort to soften the edges of her brand of conservatism is something Jacobs sees the GOP trying to do as well.

“I think there is a rebranding effort. I think there is an effort to soften the message. But I think the product is the same,” he said.

Jacobs expects Bachmann to pay more attention to the people she serves in Minnesota, while spending less time attacking the politics of her rivals.

The DFL is already gearing up to challenge Bachmann for her seat in 2014. The committee chair said they’re raising money for Jim Graves’ second campaign. Graves hasn’t publicly announced if he’ll run again.

Reg Chapman