Rep. Bachmann 'not ruling out' bid for president

Bachmann victory
Rep. Michele Bachmann speaks to a crowd after winning her congressional race against DFL candidate Tarryl Clark at the Sheraton in Bloomington, Minn. on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010.
MPR Photo/Caroline Yang

Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann is not denying that she's considering a run for president in 2012.

In a written statement, Bachmann's spokesman told Minnesota Public Radio News that Bachmann's focus is on "serving the people of Minnesota's 6th district," but that Bachmann "is not taking anything off the table concerning the future."

Until now, former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty was the Minnesota name in the mix for 2012. Political analysts say Bachmann could have a variety of motives for floating her name now.

ABC News first reported Bachmann is seriously considering a run for president, and will soon be sounding out Iowa Republicans on the idea.

Michele Bachmann, who represents Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, is no stranger to national politics. She is a frequent guest on national television news programs, and has been vocal in her opposition to President Obama's administration.

The latest development seems to contradict comments that Bachmann made just a few days ago, when she said she wasn't planning to seek higher office.

"I'm not looking at the U.S. Senate, I'm certainly not looking at the U.S. presidency," Bachmann said in an interview Sunday on WCCO-TV. "But I am weighing in on the bigger national picture of where our nation is going."

Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin, left, waves to the rally crowd after a campaign appearance for Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Wednesday April 7, 2010 in Minneapolis.
AP Photo/Jim Mone

Like Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP candidate for vice president, Bachmann is a favorite among tea party enthusiasts. Her highly quotable and sometimes inaccurate remarks on TV and radio have made her just as unpopular among liberals.

Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier said he's surprised Bachmann has entered the mix of possible presidential candidates, because of Tim Pawlenty's potential interest in the race. He said having two candidates from one state would likely cause problems for both of them.

"So it certainly presents some difficulties for Gov. Pawlenty," Schier said.

Bachmann will take away attention from Pawlenty, who's about to embark on a national book tour -- and who, Schier said, is eager to build his national profile. Schier said he's convinced Pawlenty is not happy with the Bachmann buzz. A Pawlenty spokesman declined to comment.

Comparisons between Bachmann and Sarah Palin are also inevitable, partly because they appeal to the same audience, according to Jessica Taylor, editor of The National Journal's House Race Hotline. Taylor said if Palin were to run for the White House, Bachmann would probably not pursue a campaign.

"This is certainly a helpful way for her to announce she's there, and has to be taken account of."

Taylor also said some of the statements that have helped to make Bachmann so popular with her supporters could work against her in a larger audience.

"She could raise some concerns," Taylor said. "She has a history of saying some controversial things. She's a very controversial figure, even within the Republican Party."

Bachmann's national reputation helped her raise more money by far than any other member of Congress during the 2010 election cycle -- almost $13.5 million.

Last year, Bachmann formed a tea party caucus in the House of Representatives, and she had ambitions to become a member of the House leadership. But her candidacy for that position didn't get very far, and she pulled out of the running.

Tea party leaders complained last month when she was passed over for a place on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Those moves indicate that Bachmann's celebrity has not necessarily translated to political clout, according to Steven Schier.

"It's not clear to me that she's going to be able to get the magnitude of support she needs to be a serious contender," Schier said.

Drake University political scientist Dennis Goldford said the timing of the Bachmann presidential campaign news, coming on the day Republicans took control of the House, is worth noting.

"She certainly wants to assert leadership of the tea party movement, and the tea party folks are a challenge not just to Democrats but to establishment Republicans," Goldford said. "Whatever happens to a presidential bid, this is certainly a helpful way for her to announce she's there, and has to be taken account of."

Bachmann will be courting Republicans in Iowa later this month. So will Tim Pawlenty.