By BRIAN BAKST and PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Tea party favorite and Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is feeling pressure from the political calendar to rush a decision on a White House bid and may announce her intentions as early as May, one of her top advisers said Thursday.
Bachmann, a third-term congresswoman from Minnesota, could form a presidential exploratory committee before two televised Republican debates scheduled the first week of May, said Ed Brookover, a Bachmann adviser.
"I'm not sure the debate is what's going to make our final decision," he said. "Is it a factor? Yes."
Other Republicans familiar with Bachmann's thinking said all signs point to a White House run. They insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations with Bachmann and her advisers.
For her part, Bachmann played coy.
"I'm in for 2012 in that I want to be a part of the conversation in making sure that President (Barack) Obama only serves one term, not two, because I want to make sure that we get someone who's going to be making the country work again. That's what I'm in for," Bachmann told ABC News.
"But I haven't made a decision yet to announce, obviously, if I'm a candidate or not, but I'm in for the conversation."
Bachmann spokesman Doug Sachtleben would only say the congresswoman would make a decision about a White House run by summer.
Bachmann was in Iowa on Wednesday courting evangelical home-school advocates, and was being escorted around the state by state Sen. Kent Sorenson, who told The Associated Press he would run her political operation in the state if she enters the race. Bachmann's allies have been visiting office space around Des Moines for a potential headquarters and have consulted with veterans of past caucuses about operatives and consultants who are still available.
Bachmann is a strong fundraiser; she collected a whopping $13 million for a re-election bid she won handily by 13 percentage points. She helped candidates and committees in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina - the traditional early nominating states - raise cash.
While she has no formal organization in any of those states, her appearances have generated enthusiasm among the party's conservative base. She has twice met with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and is scheduled to appear at an Iowa conference for conservatives this weekend, organized by Republican Rep. Steve King.
The Republican presidential field has been slow to form compared to past election cycles as familiar names such as Sarah Palin mull bids and other potential hopefuls like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich work behind the scenes on their candidacies. The harsh media spotlight and the expense of a full-scale campaign operation deterred Republicans from early announcements in the expected race against Obama, who is certain to raise hundreds of millions of dollars.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty took an initial step this week, creating an exploratory committee.
In an interview with the AP on Thursday, freshman Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he would seek the presidency if his father, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, doesn't.
Bachmann's sudden rise has grown out of frequent appearances on cable TV shows and a propensity to make provocative statements that cut through the political clutter, even if they're not always on the mark. She helped found a House Tea Party Caucus last summer, which strengthened her ties to the day's hottest political movement of activists who rail against spending, regulations and taxes.
This month, she flubbed basic history, telling New Hampshire activists they were from the "the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord." The Revolutionary War's first shots came next door in Massachusetts.
Earlier this year, she also mistakenly praised the nation's founding fathers, who she said "worked tirelessly until slavery was no more."
In January, she gave a Tea Party Express response to Obama's State of the Union address. Complete with charts and a stern message about spending excesses, the televised speech was remembered mostly for a technical glitch that had Bachmann looking into a different camera. "Saturday Night Live" mocked it; Bachmann made joked about it during her next big speech.
Bachmann, 54, has five children with husband Marcus, a therapist. On top of raising her own children, Bachmann has also parented 23 foster children.
Elliott reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Mike Glover contributed from Des Moines, Iowa.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)