Bachmann in 2012: "I'm In," Will Soon Form an Exploratory Committee

| Thu Mar. 24, 2011 9:52 AM EDT
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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the tea party darling with a seemingly endless supply of colorful quotes (health care reform, she once said, was like "reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom"), is looking more and more like a 2012 presidential candidate. She's paid multiple visits to Iowa, courting the state's conservative kingmakers. And she's earned the praise of fellow GOP hopefuls like former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who announced this week he was taking the first official step toward entering the race by forming a presidential exploratory committee.

The latest Bachmann news suggests more than ever that she's planning a 2012 bid. Asked about her 2012 plans in an interview with ABC News, she responded, "I'm in." In the race? "I'm in for 2012 in that I want to be a part of the conversation in making sure that President Obama only serves one term, not two," she explained.

But if Bachmann sounded like she was hedging her bets with ABC, a new revelation, reported by CNN, makes it look like a Bachmann candidacy is a foregone conclusion:

CNN has exclusively learned that Rep. Michele Bachmann will form a presidential exploratory committee. The Minnesota Republican plans to file papers for the committee in early June, with an announcement likely around that same time.

But a source close to the congresswoman said that Bachmann could form the exploratory committee even earlier than June so that she could participate in early Republican presidential debates.

"She's been telling everyone early summer," the source told CNN regarding Bachmann's planned June filing and announcement. But the source said that nothing is static.

"If you [debate sponsors] come to us and say, 'To be in our debates, you have to have an exploratory committee,' then we'll say, 'Okay, fine...I'll go file the forms.'"

Could Bachmann be the candidate to energize an otherwise unexciting Republican field in 2012? She would bring to the race a massive amount of support from the far right and the tea party, but she's almost as polarizing as Sarah Palin, once approvingly called the "second most hated Republican woman" by Fox News host Sean Hannity. That will play well in the Republican primaries, where hardline conservatives like Mike Huckabee tend to have more success, but in a general election, it's difficult to see Bachmann mounting anything like a serious challenge to President Obama.

Indeed, you have to imagine that Democrats are giddy at the prospect of a Bachmann 2012 candidacy. This is, after all, the lawmaker who thought the Revolutionary-era battles of Lexington and Concord took place in New Hampshire, not Massachusetts; who believes in intelligent design and says evolution has never been proven; and who wants to privatize social security. Somewhere, probably Chicago, David Axelrod is smiling.