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.
"If we want to kill Obamacare, we must do it in 2012," she said Friday night. "We must repeal President Obama in 2012."
Given there isn't a clear front-runner for the 2012 nomination, 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."
Paulsen, who had 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 described Bachman as a politician who is willing to "spell out clear positions and take the consequences" and 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.
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