- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. | Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, a tea party favorite, 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.

Mrs. 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, an 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 Mrs. Bachmann’s thinking said all signs point to a White House run. They insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations with Mrs. Bachmann and her advisers.

For her part, Mrs. Bachmann remained coy.

“I’m in for 2012 in that I want to be a part of the conversation in making sure that President 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,” Mrs. 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.

Mrs. 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.

Mrs. 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 with 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 Mr. 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 AP on Thursday, freshman Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, said he would consider a presidential run only if his father, 2008 candidate and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, doesn’t run. Rand Paul, a tea party sensation, said he has not made a decision but is being urged to make a run for the White House.