WATERLOO, Iowa (AFP) – Michele Bachmann’s Republican presidential nomination bid received a boost with a poll showing her virtually tied with party frontrunner Mitt Romney in the key state of Iowa.
The Iowa caucuses in early February are the first electoral event in the US presidential nomination process. They can, as in 2008 for then-Democratic White House incumbent Barack Obama, prove a springboard for success if followed up by good showings in primary votes in other states.
Bachmann, an Iowa-born congresswoman from the state of Minnesota, garnered 22 percent support among likely caucus participants compared to Romney’s 23 percent, according to the poll organized by the Des Moines Register newspaper. Radio talk show host Herman Cain, who once ran the Godfather’s Pizza chain, finished third with 10 percent.
Before her dramatic Iowa opinion poll results, Bachmann had averaged just seven percent of the vote in June surveys, far behind former Massachusetts governor Romney (26 percent), according to analyst Nate Silver.
Hours before formally kicking off her presidential bid on Monday, Bachmann spoke to hundreds of local residents in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, stressing the state’s important role in determining the Republican presidential nominee in next year’s elections.
“I need you, will you help me?” she asked the supportive crowd.
Carole Deeds, who went to the rally wearing a hat adorned with tea bags — a reference to the ultraconservative Tea Party movement — liked what she heard.
“We need common sense values, we know she believe in the American individual, and she’s a responsible mother,” Deeds told AFP.
The right-wing firebrand’s latest poll results show she is a serious contender for the Republican nomination, especially after she emerged as a clear victor in the first major debate among Republican presidential hopefuls on June 13.
After the formal campaign launch Bachmann will begin a campaign tour that will also take her to the states of New Hampshire and North Carolina.
Bachmann, who organized the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, stepped boldly into the 2012 White House race to challenge Obama by stealing the show at the Republican debate.
“Since the debate, people have paid attention and they’ve recognized that I am very serious about what I want to do, because the country is on the wrong track,” Bachmann told “Fox News Sunday.”
“My goal is to turn the economy around and have jobs created,” she added, describing her intention to “fully repeal” the health care reforms that are the cornerstone achievement of Obama’s presidency.
On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday Bachmann brandished her Christian credentials.
“I am a Christian, as is my husband. I became a Christian when I was 16 years old. I gave my heart to Jesus Christ,” said Bachmann.
The God-talk is an appeal to the Christian base of the Republican party — and puts her in contrast with Romney and candidate Jon Huntsman, both of who are Mormon. Christian fundamentalists have long mistrusted Mormons.
Bachmann’s rival Sarah Palin, a Tea Party superstar who was the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has kept people guessing on a possible presidential run. In her absence, Bachmann hopes to sew up the sizeable support of the party’s conservative wing.
Like Palin, the 55-year-old Bachmann is capable of blunders, including a claim that the first shots of the American Revolutionary War took place in New Hampshire, not Massachusetts.
She is the only woman so far to have declared a Republican bid, and despite remaining relatively unknown to the broader US public, her telegenic image could generate greater appeal.
As an example of the added scrutiny she now faces, the Los Angeles Times reported that the acclaimed fiscal conservative had benefited from government funds and federal farm subsidies. Bachmann deflected the allegations, neither she nor her husband had benefitted from public funds.