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Evan Vucci, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, from Minn., speaks during a stop at her campaign headquarters on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 in Urbandale, Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Michele Bachmann is desperate for a late lift in Iowa and the Minnesota congresswoman is increasingly stressing a distinction in the Republican presidential field: She's the only woman competing for the nomination.

She's made the gender card central to her closing argument. She's urging voters to embrace the idea of a "strong woman in the White House" and is molding herself as "America's Iron Lady" in the vein of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

That carries as much risk as potential reward because some of the religious conservatives she's courting have traditional views about gender roles.

Iowa has never elected a woman as governor or to its congressional delegation.

Bachmann seldom underscored gender early in her campaign. But she's been hitting the theme hard as Tuesday's caucuses near.