- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, is the keynote speaker at a GOP event in the early presidential caucus state of Iowa later this month, and a spokesman said Wednesday that Mrs. Bachmann, a tea party favorite, has “not ruled out” a bid for president.

“Nothing’s off the table for her,” said Andy Parrish, Mrs. Bachmann’s chief of staff. “She’s looking forward to traveling to Iowa for the fundraiser, and you know, she’s looking forward over the next year to traveling and sharing the story of why we can’t re-elect Barack Obama as president.”

Mr. Parrish wouldn’t say when Mrs. Bachmann would decide, but he said she won’t be affected by the decisions of former Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty or former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whom Mrs. Bachmann previously has called a good 2012 prospect.

Mrs. Bachmann did not immediately respond to a request for comment made to her office.

Mrs. Bachmann, who has drawn a national following with frequent guest appearances on cable and network news shows, broke fundraising records with an $11 million haul en route to winning her third term in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District. She also founded the congressional tea party caucus.

Mrs. Bachmann, 54, is a native of Waterloo, Iowa, but as a child moved with her family to Minnesota. On Jan. 21, she will deliver the keynote speech at the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC Taxpayers Watchdog Reception in Des Moines — an event co-hosted by U.S. Rep. Steve King and other prominent Iowa Republicans.

Mr. Parrish wouldn’t say whether Mrs. Bachmann would talk presidential politics with state GOP leaders. He said she made several trips to Iowa in 2010, and while he wouldn’t reveal specific travel plans in the coming months, he said she could end up in other early caucus or primary states.

Mrs. Bachmann also has been mentioned in recent weeks as a possible U.S. Senate candidate against Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar in 2012.

While popular with party activists, Mrs. Bachmann has struggled to parlay that into Capitol influence. Last month, she abandoned a bid for a top post in the House Republican conference after Speaker John A. Boehner and other prominent colleagues backed her opponent.

Mrs. Bachmann and Mrs. Palin, who also hasn’t hinted at a timetable for her presidential decision, presented themselves as ideological allies at a Minneapolis rally last April. At the time, Mrs. Bachmann suggested Mrs. Palin would be a strong 2012 contender while Mrs. Palin similarly lavished praise on Mrs. Bachmann.

Mr. Pawlenty, whose two-term stint as governor ended earlier this week, has laid the groundwork for a presidential campaign and made frequent trips to Iowa and other key states in recent months.

He has promised a decision in the next few months and probably stands to lose the most if Mrs. Bachmann jumps in. They share the same geographical base, and the fiery Mrs. Bachmann generally has inspired a more fervent following among both religious and fiscal conservatives than the low-key Mr. Pawlenty.

A spokesman for Mr. Pawlenty did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Though they’ve maintained a cordial public relationship as the state’s two most prominent elected Republicans, Mr. Pawlenty and Mrs. Bachmann have not been seen as close political allies.

In September, both pulled their names from a Values Voters Summit straw poll of potential 2012 GOP contenders. Mr. Pawlenty cited his inability to attend because of an Asia trade mission. Mrs. Bachmann spoke at the event but dropped from the poll after her then-opponent suggested she had bigger goals on her mind than her congressional seat.

Asked if the GOP presidential race would have room for two Minnesota Republicans, Mr. Parrish deferred: “I can’t answer that because the decision hasn’t been made.”

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