Image: To match Special Report USA-CAMPAIGN/TEAPARTY
KEVIN LAMARQUE  /  Reuters
Rep. Michele Bachmann speaks at the Tea Party Patriots "Continuing Revolution" rally on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 31.
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updated 5/27/2011 9:08:47 AM ET 2011-05-27T13:08:47

Republican Michele Bachmann is making plans for a presidential campaign announcement next month in Waterloo, Iowa, the city where the Minnesota congresswoman was born.

Bachmann trickled out the details in a conference call with reporters Thursday night but said she could still reverse course and sit out the 2012 White House campaign.

Bachmann was supposed to speak in person at a GOP dinner in downtown Des Moines, but a vote in Washington turned the appearance into a video message. Hundreds of Republicans watched her via a blurry, choppy Internet feed, where she profusely apologized for her absence and offered a rain check. The feed briefly cut out but aides quickly dialed back in.

Story: The 2012 GOP presidential field
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Bachmann went on to speak about fighting terrorism, defending America's founding documents and opposing legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling.

The Minnesota congresswoman says she has staff lined up in the states that start the presidential nominating process: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

She says strong fundraising and other indicators make her confident about making a run.

It was a bizarre scene for an almost-campaign announcement.

Reporters huddled around a Des Moines hotel podium where Bachmann spoke from Washington.

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"The announcement will be made in Iowa, and it will be made in Waterloo," Bachmann said, adding that her Iowa birthplace would give her "every advantage a girl would want to have."

Palin-Bachmann overlap?
Asked if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's decision would have any bearing on hers, Bachmann said she was acting "independent of what any other candidate decides, no matter which candidate gets in and which candidate gets out."

Of the Palin-Bachmann political overlap, Bachmann said: "I don't believe that any two candidates are interchangeable. Each one of us brings our own unique skill sets into this race."

If there's any state where Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann could stir the Republican race for president, it's Iowa.

Story: Romney sets date to announce presidential run

Waterloo gives her a home-field advantage of sorts. The Tea Party, the GOP's most energized segment, loves her. So do social conservatives, who cheer her forceful advocacy of gay marriage bans, abortion restrictions and home-school rights.

All are certain to play well with a GOP caucus electorate filled with Christian evangelicals who are emboldened by the clout they wielded in 2008 when they helped former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee win the caucuses.

Huckabee decision leaves void in 2012 GOP field

Yet if she does run, Iowa Republicans say she'll have to invest time courting them in intimate settings, not just drop by for big speeches. She scrapped a Thursday night trip to Des Moines, where she was to attend a GOP dinner, so she could be in Washington for a vote on anti-terrorism legislation.

"It's too important for her to miss that vote," her spokesman, Doug Sachtleben, said. Bachmann still planned to make remarks via video hookup.

Bachmann hoped to arrive in Iowa in time for events on Friday, including a lunchtime speech in Davenport.

Advisers: Bachmann inclined to run
The three-term congresswoman will announce her 2012 plans as soon as next week, and advisers describe her as inclined to get into the race.

While in Iowa this week, Bachmann was due to hold private meetings with pastors, business leaders and elected officials. Sachtleben said it wasn't immediately clear which of the events would still occur. She was also planning to meet with supporters who have been building a network to facilitate a 2012 bid.

Story: Pawlenty launches 2012 White House bid

"I don't think it's a matter of if she's going to run, I think it's when she's going to announce," said state Sen. Kent Sorenson, a Tea Party Republican who would take a lead role in a Bachmann campaign. "The people in Iowa are chomping at the bit and ready for her to jump in with both feet."

She would join a wide-open GOP field that's becoming clearer with each passing week. Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, is among those still considering a run, and her candidacy would affect Bachmann because the two would compete for the same pool of voters in Iowa.

If Palin were to run, "Bachmann's star is going to fade," said Jeff Jorgensen, chairman of the Pottawattamie County GOP in western Iowa.

Another top Republican takes pass on presidential bid

But Palin isn't in the race, leaving Huckabee's network of supporters and donors in Iowa up for grabs. Bachmann has made no secret of her attempts to fill the void the Baptist minister left in the race, and suggested in interviews after he bowed out that she was more likely to run.

Fundraising
Bachmann aides say she would run a populist campaign much like Huckabee's, but with an asset he lacked: the ability to raise enough money to compete in states beyond Iowa if she were to win it. She's raised more than $2.5 million since she's been flirting with a White House bid.

She urged her donor base Wednesday to help her meet a $240,000 goal in the 24 hours leading up to her Des Moines speech.

"My family and I are prayerfully considering what the next 18 months or so may bring," Bachmann wrote in an email pitch. "We've seen incredible support pouring in; the Team Bachmann momentum is building and very encouraging as we look to our next steps."

She'll need more than money to prevail in Iowa, where voters have come to expect personal and repeated outreach from candidates before making their picks.

Activists say that while she's forged strong bonds nationally with the libertarian-conservative network, she doesn't have a local lock on tea party support.

"There's certainly no way she's going to come into Iowa and sweep up the entire tea party movement. There's no way that's going to happen," said Charlie Gruschow, a founder of the Des Moines Tea Party. He's the Iowa state director for former pizza magnate Herman Cain's campaign, and said Texas Rep. Ron Paul also is attractive to Tea Party members.

Bachmann is certain to face competition for values voters from former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both of whom are stressing their faith and records on issues such as opposition to abortion.

Scott Bailey, president of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, said while Bachmann's experience with home-schooling her own children gives voters "an initial interest and makes them want to know more," the connection won't automatically translate into caucus support.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explainer: The 2012 GOP presidential field

  • A look at the Republican candidates hoping to challenge Barack Obama in the general election.

  • Rick Perry, announced Aug. 13

    Image: Perry
    Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry

    Mere hours before a major GOP debate in Iowa (and a couple of days before the high-interest Ames straw poll), the Perry camp announced that the Texas governor was all-in for 2012.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas governor.

    While some on ground in the early-caucus state criticized the distraction, strategists applauded the move and said Perry was giving Romney a run for his money.

    Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career

    He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

  • Jon Huntsman, announced June 21

    Image: Jon Hunt
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman

    Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made his bid official on June 21 at at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former governor of Utah.

    He vowed to provide "leadership that knows we need more than hope" and "leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems."

    The early days of his campaign were clouded with reports of internal discord among senior staffers.

    Slideshow: Jon Huntsman Jr.

    Huntsman, who is Mormon, worked as a missionary in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. But his moderate credentials — backing civil unions for gays and the cap-and-trade energy legislation — could hurt him in a GOP primary. So could serving under Obama.

  • Michele Bachmann, announced on June 13

    Image: Michele Bachmann
    Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
    Rep. Michele Bachmann

    Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman announced during a June 13 GOP debate that she's officially in the running for the Republican nomination.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Minn. congresswoman.

    Bachmann tells The Associated Press she decided to jump into the 2012 race at this time because she believed it was "the right thing to do."

    She's been criticized for making some high-profile gaffes — among them, claiming taxpayers would be stuck with a $200 million per day tab for President Barack Obama's trip to India and identifying New Hampshire as the site of the Revolutionary War's opening shots.

    Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann

    But Bachmann's proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

  • Rick Santorum, announced on June 6

    Image: Rick Santorum
    Charlie Neibergall  /  AP file
    Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum

    A staunch cultural conservative vehemently against abortion and gay marriage, the former Pennsylvania senator hopes to energize Republicans with a keen focus on social issues.

    He announced the launch of a presidential exploratory committee on FOX News, where he makes regular appearances. He make his run official on June 6 in Somerset, Pa., asking supporters to "Join the fight!"

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Pennsylvania senator.

    No stranger to controversy, Santorum was condemned by a wide range of groups in 2003 for equating homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. More recently, Santorum faced criticism when he called Obama’s support for abortion rights “almost remarkable for a black man.”

    Slideshow: Rick Santorum's political life

    Since his defeat by Democrat Robert Casey in his 2006 re-election contest — by a whopping 18 percentage points — Santorum has worked as an attorney and as a think-tank contributor.

    A February straw poll at CPAC had him in twelfth place amongst Republicans with 2 percent of the vote.

  • Mitt Romney, announced on June 2

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Paul Sancya  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

    The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate has spent the last three years laying the foundations for another run at the White House — building a vigorous political action committee, making regular media appearances, and penning a policy-heavy book.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Mass. governor.

    In April, he announced, via YouTube and Twitter, that he'd formed an exploratory commitee. Romney made his run official in Stratham, N.H., on June 2.

    The former CEO of consulting firm Bain & Company and the president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney frequently highlights his business background as one of his main qualifications to serve as president.

    Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics

    To capture the nomination, Romney will have to defend the health care overhaul he enacted during his governorship — legislation that bears similarities to the Obama-backed bill despised by many conservatives. He'll also have to overcome the perception of being a flip-flopper (like supporting abortion rights in his 1994 and 2002 bids for office, but opposing them in his '08 run).

    In the first quarter of 2011, he netted some $1.8 million through his PAC "Free and Strong America."

  • Herman Cain, announced on May 21

    Image: Herman Cain
    Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
    Talk show host Herman Cain

    Cain, an Atlanta radio host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has support from some Tea Party factions.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Atlanta radio host.

    An African-American who describes himself as a “citizen’s candidate,” he was the first Republican to form a formal presidential exploratory committee. He officially entered the race in May, telling supporters, "When we wake up and they declare the presidential results, and Herman Cain is in the White House, we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!"

    Prior to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Cain rehashed the birther theory, telling a Florida blogger, “I respect people that believe he should prove his citizenship ... He should prove he was born in the United States of America.”

  • Ron Paul, announced on May 13

    Image: Ron Paul
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Rep. Ron Paul

    In 2008, Texas congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian rallying cry — and his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — did not fall on deaf ears. An idiosyncratic foe of the Federal Reserve and a passionate advocate for limited government, Paul mounted a presidential run that was characterized by bursts of jaw-dropping online fundraising.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas congressman.

    Slideshow: Ron Paul

    He officially launched his 2012 campaign in New Hampshire, saying, ""The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building ... Our time has come."

    In the first quarter of 2011, raked in some $3 million through his various political organizations.

  • Newt Gingrich, announced on May 11

    Image: Newt Gingrich
    John M. Heller  /  Getty Images file
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

    The former speaker of the House who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Gingrich remains a robust presence on the GOP stage as a prolific writer and political thinker. In recent years, Barack Obama has provided a new target for the blistering critiques Gingrich famously leveled at President Bill Clinton.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former speaker of the House.

    In early May, he made his 2012 run official. "I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run," Gingrich wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

    But a month later, the campaign was practically in ruins — with his campaign manager, spokesman, senior strategists all resigning en masse. Most cited issues with the "direction" of the campaign. But Gingrich vowed to press on.

    Slideshow: Newt Gingrich

    Also at issue: Gingrich’s personal life could make winning the support of social conservatives thorny for the twice-divorced former lawmaker. In a damning interview earlier this year, Esquire quoted one of Gingrich’s former wives describing him as a hypocrite who preached the sanctity of marriage while in the midst of conducting an illicit affair.

    Additional obstacles include his recent criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering" and reports of a $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry company.

  • Gary Johnson, announced on April 21

    Image:Gary Johnson
    Jim Cole  /  AP
    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson

    The former New Mexico governor took a big leap in late April, not by announcing an exploratory committee, but by actually announcing his official candidacy. “I’m running for president of the United States,” he told a couple of supporters and cameramen gathered for his announcement outside the New Hampshire State Capitol.

    He's a steadfast libertarian who supports the legalization of marijuana. He vetoed more than 700 pieces of legislation during his two terms as governor.

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