MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (AFP) – Michele Bachmann, a Congresswoman championed by the Republicans' Tea Party wing, announced she had formally filed her candidacy in the 2012 presidential election.

Bachmann used the start of the Republicans' first big televised debate to make the announcement.

"I filed today my paperwork to seek the office of the president of the United States," she said as the debate with six other candidates seeking the Republican nomination got under way.

The Minnesota lawmaker is among the highest profile candidates backed by the ultraconservative Tea Party movement.