Tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is very close to tossing her hat in the ring for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination and may announce her candidacy in May rather than June, as initially expected.
Bachmann also revealed Tuesday that she has spoken with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee since his decision not to run, but she would not disclose what they discussed.
The recent announcements of Huckabee and business mogul Donald Trump that they would not run appear to have created a political void that a social and fiscal conservative such as Bachmann possibly could fill.
A former federal tax attorney, Bachmann sounded as if she were on the verge of announcing her candidacy.
“Our phones have been ringing off the hook,” Bachmann told Fox News on Tuesday afternoon. “Our Facebook has been lit up. Our donations are pouring in. And people are saying, ‘Michele, jump in, we want you to run.’”
So strong is the groundswell from the grass roots, she said, that she may accelerate her timetable for revealing her plans.
“We had announced earlier we had been looking at a June entry date, for a decision one way or the other, about this race,” said Bachmann, who has made several recent trips to early GOP primary states. “Possibly, we may move that up.”
Bachmann, founder and chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus, could prove to be a formidable force in Iowa, where social conservatives are very influential. She told Fox that she has received “overwhelming” support during recent visits there.
Among the enthusiastic phone calls that Bachmann says she’s received: unnamed political gurus boasting national reputations who are encouraging her to run.
“I’ve had former presidential advisers call me and say, ‘Michele, you should consider jumping in,’ she told Fox.
GOP strategist and consultant Roger Stone tells Newsmax that Bachmann “has to be taken seriously in this field.”
He adds: “She is the only woman, assuming [Sarah] Palin doesn’t run. She has a natural base in the tea party. And that tea party base allows her to raise enough money to be competitive in the early states.”
Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron first broke the news Monday that “senior insiders” close to Bachmann were saying she is now “very likely” to run for president. But Bachmann will have to overcome several serious hurdles.
“Conservatives like, respect, and admire Michele Bachmann,” conservative direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie tells Newsmax. “But most do not feel that she can become a top-tier candidate with a serious chance to get the presidential nomination.”
Only once has a sitting member of the House ascended to the presidency: James A. Garfield in 1880. But the rise of new media and the 24-hour cable news cycle may have changed that political calculus.
Bachmann is one of the most often interviewed, most heavily quoted members of Congress. In much the same way that the mainstream media often singled out former Alaska Gov. Palin, Bachmann has become a lightning rod for frequent left-wing attacks. But her background as a member of Congress and an attorney has made her a more difficult target.
Another obstacle would be the $1 billion that some say President Barack Obama can be expected to spend on his campaign.
Bachmann has proven herself to be one of the GOP’s best fund-raisers. For her 2010 campaign, she amassed a $13.5 million war chest — more than any other member of the House.
In the first quarter of this year, her campaign fund and PAC raised $2 million. That exceeded the $1.9 million raised by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s PAC in the same period.
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post observed: “What’s now become clear is that Bachmann has an ability to translate her national conservative celebrity into cash. And in what looks like a very crowded primary field for the 2012 Republican nomination, that ability should not be overlooked.”
In her interview with Fox on Tuesday, Bachmann sounded every bit the eager candidate.
“I’m a fighter, first of all,” she said. “And I’m a very strong constitutional conservative, and I believe that we need to have someone who will be a fighter to run against Barack Obama in 2012.
“I’m a former federal tax litigation attorney,” she said. “My husband and I started and we’ve run a successful company. We’re business people, we’re job creators, and we’ve also raised 28 children in our home. We’ve raised 23 foster children in addition to our five children.
“I have a unique skill set and background, and I believe more than anything what we need to do is a very bold move to put our country back on track again. That’s what people are looking for. They’re fearful about the future, and fearful that their children won’t do as well as they did,” she said.
Bachmann told Fox she will decide independently of whether Palin enters the race.
After expressing her heartfelt admiration for Palin, Bachmann told Fox: “I have said previously that whoever gets into the race will not make my decision one way or another. My decision is made on a host of independent factors.
“My family and I have been looking at this, my board of advisers has been looking into this decision for months. It’s a momentous decision, it will change lives forever. So we’ve been weighing the cost, and now we’re at the point where we’re coming much, much closer to making that decision.”
Bachmann acknowledged “there will be a cost” involved in any presidential campaign, so her team is still formulating her strategy.
“I wouldn’t want to do this unless we plan to be successful,” she said. “I clearly believe that Barack Obama could be a one-term president, that he can be beat. But we have to do it right, we have to be smart.”
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