JOHNSTON, Iowa — Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann made it clear Friday that she was leaning toward a presidential run, saying on an Iowa public affairs program the she felt a "calling" to seek the Republican nomination.
Bachman repeated her plan to announce her presidential plans next month in Waterloo, Iowa, where she was born and lived as a child before moving to neighboring Minnesota. But it sounded as though her mind was largely made up.
"I've had this calling and tugging on my heart that this is the right thing to do," Bachmann said during a taping of the public television program, "Iowa Press."
"People want something new and different and that's one thing I've established with my voting record," she said.
Bachmann said her decision won't be altered by whether other candidates enter the race. There has been a recent flurry of speculation that former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin would seek the nomination, a move that could reduce Bachmann's strength among social conservatives and tea party activists.
"The decision I make is completely unique and unrelated to any other candidate," Bachmann said.
Bachmann planned to hold private meetings with pastors, business leaders and elected officials during her Iowa visit, and she was scheduled to speak at a Friday gathering in Davenport. She had been scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a Republican dinner on Thursday in Des Moines, but she was forced to address the audience via video link because a vote in Congress delayed her trip.
Bachmann has made five visits recently to Iowa, where caucuses begin the presidential nominating process. She also has held events in other early nominating states, including New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Those events have left her optimistic about a White House run, she said.
"We're coming very close now," said Bachmann. "We're very excited about the progress we've made."
Bachmann said fundraising has gone well, and she has hired staff in each of the early nominating states. She added that she feels comfortable with the one-on-one style of campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, pointing to her success in building grass-roots networks of activists.
"We've had great grass-roots support and were looking forward to building on that," Bachmann said.
She stressed that her status as an Iowa native would be an advantage as she builds a caucus campaign.
"I think that is the great gold standard to be a native Iowan," Bachmann said. "I think it's a distinct advantage because I have that sensibility. I often tell people that everything I need to know I learned in Iowa."
She assessed the Republican field, declaring former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the leading candidate at this point.
"The media has stated that the front-runner is Mitt Romney and I think that is true," she said.
Asked about a special congressional election in New York that has been the focus of attention because a Democrat won a seat held by Republicans for decades after a campaign focused on proposed cuts to Medicare, Bachmann said she wasn't overly concerned.
"There was a failure in the messaging about what we need to do," she said.
Is Texas guv running?
HOUSTON — The ritual of reporters asking Gov. Rick Perry if he is running for president and getting a firm no has become so entrenched in Texas that jaws dropped Friday afternoon when Perry abruptly changed his tune.
Asked at a bill signing if he would think about a presidential run after Memorial Day, Perry said without a hint of irony: "Yes, sir. I'm going to think about it." Then a couple of beats later, he smiled and added, "But I think about a lot of things."
— N.Y. Times News Service
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