IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Republican candidate Michele Bachmann spent Saturday shaking hands in diners and strolling through Cedar Rapids' bustling farmers market as she tried to capitalize on her early popularity in the state that kicks off the presidential campaign season.
An Iowa native, the tea party favorite ranked nearly even with Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney in a recent poll of Republicans likely to participate in the state's lead off caucuses next year. But just six weeks before Iowa's closely-watched straw poll, she has done little to campaign or set up an organization here.
Sheila Reiland of Iowa City told Bachmann's campaign chairman during a stop at a Maid Rite restaurant in Marshalltown that she signed up last week to volunteer for the campaign but hadn't heard from organizers. Kent Sorenson, a state senator, admitted having a lot of catching up to do after the Legislature adjourned Thursday.
"She is my candidate, and I want to do what I can to help her," said Reiland, a registered nurse and recent transplant from the Chicago area. "But I haven't heard anything back."
"You will be hearing from us," he promised.
Bachmann had been weighing a bid for the 2012 Republican nomination since January but only began raising money toward a campaign last month. She also has yet to build up her campaign organization, just weeks away from the Aug. 13 straw poll in Ames that's seen as an early test of support.
She focused Saturday on photo opportunities designed to increase her name recognition, including greeting more than 100 people at the Bluebird Diner in Iowa City. While many were there to see her, others were regulars in the Democratic-leaning neighborhood.
"We need all of you. Bring all the people you can," Bachmann said, working the bustling breakfast spot. "We need your help. Come to the straw poll."
Sorenson said Bachmann will be back in Iowa at the end of next week.
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