WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Outspoken congresswoman and tea party
favorite Michele Bachmann cast herself as the "bold choice" for
the Republican presidential nomination as she formally kicked off
her campaign Monday in her Iowa home town.
Outside a historic mansion in Waterloo, Bachmann said she is
waging her campaign "not for vanity," but because voters "must
make a bold choice if we are to secure the promise of the future."
As a new Iowa poll this past weekend signaled she'll be a force
in the state that opens the GOP nomination contest, Bachmann hopes
to reshape the GOP field and how she's viewed by voters. After the
formal Iowa kickoff, she planned to shift her focus to New
Hampshire and South Carolina, other early voting states with
traditions of separating the viable contenders from the political
Bachmann, 55, has many wondering if the edgy side that turned
her into a conservative star will be the one she shows on the
presidential campaign trail. Her say-anything approach has earned
her a loyal following but also plenty of guff from detractors who
see her as a fringe politician. Past missteps have only redoubled
her me-against-the-world view of politics.
"Her trick is going to be to maintain that boldness and to
somehow rein it in and discipline it so it works for her and not
against her," said GOP pollster Mike McKenna, who isn't working
for any 2012 presidential candidates.
In March, she famously flubbed Revolutionary War geography. She
told a group of students and conservative activists in Manchester,
N.H. "You're the state where the shot was heard around the world
in Lexington and Concord." Those first shots of the Revolutionary
War were fired in Massachusetts, not New Hampshire. She later
admitted she made a mistake.
For this campaign, she has surrounded herself with no-nonsense
veterans of national politics, some of whom have deep ties to the
political establishment Bachmann typically eschews. They include a
trio of Eds: campaign manager Ed Rollins, pollster Ed Goeas and
consultant Ed Brookover. In Iowa and New Hampshire, she's recruited
aides who worked on the campaigns of previous presidential hopefuls
Mike Huckabee and John McCain.
Bachmann, a three-term Minnesota lawmaker, insists the larger
political stage won't mean a new, less-provocative style.
"I've been consistent, nothing but consistent," she said. "I
don't say things for political value. I'm authentic in what I
Bachmann's unswerving style provides a sharp contrast with the
more measured way of 2012 rivals, such as former Govs. Mitt Romney,
Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman and former House Speaker Newt
Gingrich. Others vying for the nomination are ex-Sen. Rick
Santorum, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and businessman Herman Cain.
Possible late entrants include Texas Gov. Rick Perry and 2008
vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
A Des Moines Register poll published Sunday showed Bachmann and
Romney far out front of the others in Iowa.
Bachmann's own climb has been swift, brushing off a school board
race defeat just 12 years ago and moving rapidly from Minnesota's
state Senate to Congress. In Washington, Bachmann vaulted to
prominence by trying to block and now promising to repeal President
Barack Obama's health care law. She has also tangled with GOP House
leaders over her concerns they are too timid on federal spending
She's staunchly conservative on social issues, too, calling for
more abortion restrictions and constitutional amendments to ban gay
In her latest national introduction, Bachmann has played up a
softer side by highlighting her role in raising five children and
23 foster kids. But she's also gone hard at Obama, laying federal
debt and deficits at his feet and accusing him of pushing the
nation toward socialism.
David Strom, a Republican long involved in Minnesota politics,
said it would be a mistake for Bachmann to sand down her edginess.
"She's not a maneuverer. At the end of the day she is going to
distinguish herself by going out there and trying to draw people to
her. I don't think she will try to become more nuanced as
politicians tend to do," he said.
Those who have opposed Bachmann say she doesn't budge on her
views, even in tough races.
Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg, who lost to her in a 2008
congressional race, said he was frustrated that the more
controversial Bachmann came off, the stronger she seemed to get.
Her comments often fuel a fundraising machine that netted her $13.5
million for her last election.
"She can say something that's just outrageous and just
completely wrong and move on and never skip a beat," Tinklenberg
Given the rise of the tea party movement, there may be even less
reason for her to slide toward the political middle. Tea party
members are seeking purity from the GOP candidates and have reacted
skeptically to those largely linked to the party power brokers,
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)