Rep. Michele Bachmann is set to formally kick off her presidential campaign Monday at 9:00 a.m. from her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa.
After Bachmann makes her announcement, she heads to the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.
A new Des Moines Register poll of 400 likely caucus-goers shows Bachmann virtually tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for first place in Iowa — and there are people you may not expect who are hoping Bachmann does well in Iowa.
When Bachmann jumped into the 2012 GOP presidential race at that Republican presidential debate two weeks ago in New Hampshire, the landscape of the race for the White House changed significantly. Within days one national poll of likely Republican primary voters had Bachmann behind only Romney and well ahead of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Bachmann clearly has a base of supporters within the Republican Party, said Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. But he said there are all kinds of people backing Bachmann for different reasons.
"There are many motives for supporting a candidate or in fact rooting for a candidate," he said.
Take Democrats, for example. Bachman's tea party rhetoric about big government and out-of-control spending infuriates many of them, but Sabato said many Democrats who want to see President Barack Obama re-elected next year are delighted with all of the attention Bachmann is getting.
"They think she would make a very weak general election candidate, somebody that Obama could easily beat because she's perceived as being too far to the right by those swing voters who make the difference in a November election," he said.
But it's not just Democrats who are celebrating Bachmann's candidacy, Sabato said. He said some moderate Republicans may think a candidate like Bachmann could help Romney by diluting the support of his other Republican challengers and enhancing his image as a mainstream frontrunner who would be acceptable to independent voters in the general election.
"Inevitably, the nominating process will come down to a choice between Romney and probably one other candidate," Sabato said. "They would much prefer that the other candidate would be, let's say unacceptable to most Republicans as opposed to a mainstream candidate who might actually beat Romney."
Bachmann dismisses the notion she's too polarizing and unelectable. Following a recent appearance in Minneapolis, Bachmann said what she called her "common sense, post-partisan" message is attracting support from across the political spectrum.
"People are hearing what I'm saying and they agree with it," Bachmann said. "It's not polarizing, it's new and different and it's very threatening to President Obama."
"A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH"
While many Democrats might dismiss Bachmann as a viable general election candidate, some who have closely watched her ascent are taking her candidacy very seriously.
"I think a lot people over the years have really underestimated Michele Bachmann, and we're not going to make that mistake," said Ken Martin, the chairman of the Minnesota DFL Party.
"A lot of people in the past have really underestimated her to the point that she's surprised them both in her first run for the state Senate and, you know, her subsequent runs for Congress," Martin said. "She's a force to be reckoned with and we're certainly not going to take her lightly."
The person Bachmann is hurting the most in the GOP nomination battle is Pawlenty. The former Minnesota governor was the first to declare his candidacy and has been working relentlessly to build support, but he's stuck in the single digits in most polls.
"It's well known that the Pawlenty camp, the loyalists, are just furious that another candidate from Minnesota is cutting into his national support," said Sabato from the University of Virginia.
"In lots of ways it makes it more difficult for him to use that regional card in Iowa and Pawlenty simply has to do well in Iowa," Sabato said. "He either has to win or some in a very close second. If he doesn't do well in Iowa, his campaign is cooked."