DES MOINES, Iowa — Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann will bring her tea party message and possible presidential ambitions to Iowa on Friday night, speaking before an influential anti-tax group that shares many of the Republican's views.
Bachmann will be the keynote speaker at a reception in Des Moines by Iowans for Tax Relief, joining prominent Iowa Republicans including Rep. Steve King. The event comes just weeks after Bachmann acknowledged she was considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination, a process that begins with the Iowa caucuses in February 2012.
Ed Failor Jr., president of Iowans for Tax Relief, noted the group wasn't endorsing any potential presidential candidate, but he was excited about hosting Bachmann.
"We're an organization that has always believed that the status quo has failed us," Failor said. "Michele Bachmann is one of those people who says the status quo doesn't matter."
Besides speaking at the anti-tax event, Bachmann planned separate meetings with Iowa politicians, including Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and Republican state House Speaker Kraig Paulsen. Bachmann wasn't immediately available to answer questions about her visit on Friday, but the meetings indicate she could be laying the groundwork for a caucus campaign.
"It shows she wants to be a serious player in the national debate," said Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht. "She's doing a fundraiser for a taxpayer group that's full of energized, enthused and active caucus goers. It sends a clear signal she wants in the debate."
The Iowa caucuses launch the presidential nominating process, offering intense media attention to the winner and often sinking the candidacies of those who finish poorly. Barack Obama's surprising win in Iowa was seen as a key to his success in overcoming Hillary Clinton's advantages in name familiarity and fundraising to win the Democratic nomination.
But unlike 2008, potential candidates have so far spent less time in the state.
That could be changing. Besides Bachmann, possible candidates planning stops in Iowa in the next few weeks include former U.S. Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Bachmann has agreed to return to Iowa in April to give a series of lectures as part of a forum organized by an evangelical Christian group that has invited a number of potential presidential candidates.
Although other politicians have longer records than Bachmann, few get as much attention as the three-term congresswoman from a largely suburban Twin Cities district. Bachmann's outspoken style and strong statements have made her a frequent guest on cable television and radio talk shows, and she has been among the most enthusiastic supporters of the tea party movement, endearing her to those activists.
Bachmann has criticized Obama and Democrats for an economic stimulus package she called an "abject failure." She also made opposition to the health care law a major talking point as her star rose along with the tea party movement.
It also doesn't hurt that Bachmann was born in Waterloo, Iowa, where she lived until moving as a child to neighboring Minnesota.
Given there isn't a clear front-runner, activists said Bachmann would have a legitimate chance in the caucuses should she opt to mount a campaign.
"It's been a wide-open field," said Bob Haus, a longtime Republican strategist who worked on Fred Thompson's failed caucus campaign in 2008. "There are a lot of people who are looking at it."
Failor said his group invited Bachmann because she brings energy and excitement to the debate over shrinking government.
"She's passionate," said Failor, who ran President George W. Bush's Iowa field operation leading to the 2004 election. "A lot of politicians do what they do to get elected. Michele Bachmann seems to do what she wants to do because she cares."
That energy and enthusiasm could give Bachman a boost in Iowa, where Republican activists seem focused on candidates who not only are conservative but can beat Obama in 2012. It also could serve her well in a marathon caucus campaign, which typically stretches through the summer and winter with never-ending stops in small Iowa towns where candidates are expected to take all questions and shake any hand thrust forward.
"She cares and we need somebody who can catch fire like her," said Failor.
Paulsen, who planned to meet with Bachmann on Friday afternoon, said he would encourage her to spend time in Iowa.
"At this point my advice to her would be to go out and meet some people," Paulsen said. "She brings strengths to the race, but everybody brings strengths. What's unique about Iowa is you've got to go out and meet people."
Steve Scheffler, a member of the Republican National Committee and president of the Iowa Christian Alliance, said Bachmann asked to meet with him during her visit, but they couldn't arrange a time.
Scheffler, who described Bachman as a politician who is willing to "spell out clear positions and take the consequences," seemed confident that he would have plenty of chances to meet with the congresswoman during future trips to Iowa.
"I'll catch up to her next time she comes through," he said.