Image: Bachmann
Jeff Haynes  /  REUTERS
Rep. Michele Bachmann addresses a gathering of supporters to formally launch her campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, in her childhood hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, June 27, 2011.
updated 6/28/2011 8:00:51 AM ET 2011-06-28T12:00:51

Outspoken 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 sun-splashed historic mansion in Waterloo, Bachmann told a crowd of more than 100 family members, friends, supporters and others that 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."

The three-term Minnesota congresswoman railed against the Democrat she hopes to oust — President Barack Obama.

"We can't afford four more years of Barack Obama," she said.

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Bachmann steered clear of specific proposals she'd advance as president, a day after suggesting that the concerns over averting a debt crisis were "scare tactics" that could be solved by paying only the interest on U.S. obligations while lawmakers work on a deal to cut spending as part of a new debt ceiling. The idea has been dismissed as unworkable by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

She reminisced about her childhood in a Democratic household — and her own volunteer work for Democratic President Jimmy Carter's 1976 campaign. But she made clear her allegiances long ago shifted, stressing her tea party connections.

"The liberals, and to be clear I am not one of those, want you to believe the tea party movement is just the right wing of the Republican Party," she said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

Video: Bachmann: ‘I intend to be the nominee’ (on this page)

As a new Iowa poll this past weekend signaled she'll be a force in the state that opens the Republican 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 also-rans.

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 prone to missteps.

First Thoughts: Bachmann's turn for overdrive

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.

Striking a less contentious tone, Bachmann told the Iowa crowd.

"Our problems don't have an identity of party, they are problems that were created by both parties," she said, adding, "Americans aren't interested in affiliation, they're interested in solutions."

Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann (on this page)

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.

Some at Monday's event said they were giving her a hard look and could see supporting her at February's caucus.

Marv Dillavou, a firearms salesman, said he's not ready to commit to a candidate but likes what he's seen from Bachmann.

"I'm happy to see a serious female candidate. She's very accomplished," Dillavou said. Critics, he added, "make too much of every word, every innuendo gets blown out of proportion. It's good that she speaks her mind."

Cedar Falls retiree Terrye Kizlyk was also impressed.

"She speaks from here," Kizlyk said, pointing to her heart.

Story: Would Perry-Bachmann fight be too far right?

Bachmann's political 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 cuts.

She's staunchly conservative on social issues, too, calling for more abortion restrictions and constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage.

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.

Dubbing herself a "constitutional conservative," Bachmann said she would bring a vastly different philosophy to the White House.

"I don't believe that the solutions to our problems are Washington centric, I believe they are every American centric," she said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Bachmann: ‘I intend to be the nominee’

Photos: The political life of Michele Bachmann

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  1. President George W. Bush campaigns with state Sen. Michele Bachmann in Wayzata, Minn. during her first Congressional race in August 2006. (Evan Vucci / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. As a state senator, Bachmann proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. She is pictured here speaking during a Senate hearing at the Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. in 2006. (Janet Hostetter / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Helen LaFave, right, Bachmann's lesbian stepsister, speaks to the media at the Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. LaFave attended the 2006 hearing at which Bachmann presented her amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Her partner of 18 years, Nia Wronski, is seen at left. (Janet Hostetter / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Bachmann walks on stage during the second day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in September 2008. (Win McNamee / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Bachmann attracted national attention when she said that Democratic nominee Barack Obama "may have anti-American views" during an interview on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews in October 2008. (MSNBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Bachmann participates in the launching of the Republican National Committee's "Fire Pelosi" bus tour on September 15, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Bachmann, a leading critic of the Obama-backed health care law, lobbies for petitions calling for repeal of Obamacare in January 2011 on Capitol Hill. (Tim Sloan / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Bachmann rankled some Republicans when she gave a "Tea Party" response to the president's State of the Union address in 2011. Critics said she detracted from the standard GOP response, which was given by House budget chief Rep. Paul Ryan. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) (C), her husband Marcus Bachmann (R) and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad listens to Bachmann's introduction prior to her speach at the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC Watchdog Reception January 21, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa. Bachmann spoke to Iowa's largest anti-tax group amidst speculation that she will run for president as a Republican candidate in 2012. (Steve Pope / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Bachmann looks at a cake commemorating the 100th birthday of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington in February 2011. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Bachmann speaks at a rally by home school advocates in in Des Moines, Iowa in March 2011. More than 1,000 home school advocates rallied on the steps of the Iowa Statehouse, cheered on by three potential Republican presidential candidates who joined their cause. (Charlie Neibergall / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Rep. Michele Bachmann, speaks to supporters during her formal announcement to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, June 27, 2011, in Waterloo, Iowa. Bachmann was born in Waterloo. (Charlie Neibergall / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Republican U.S. presidential candidate and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann waves to supporters after speaking during the Iowa straw poll in Ames, Iowa Aug. 13, 2011. Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll with 29% of the vote, edging out Rep. Ron Paul by 152 votes, or 28%. (Daniel Acker / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A police officer guards Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann after protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement drowned out her foreign policy speech on Nov. 10, 2011 in Mt Pleasant, South Carolina. About 30 people rose in unison and began shouting during Bachmann's address aboard the USS Yorktown and then marched out peacefully. (Richard Ellis / Getty Images Contributor) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Rep. Michele Bachmann is joined by her husband, left, during a news conference formally ending her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination on Jan. 4, 2012 in West Des Moines, Iowa. Bachmann made the decision after a poor finish in the 2012 Iowa caucuses. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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