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Bachmann makes official 2012 presidential announcement

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Bachmann makes presidential bid official
  • Rep. Michele Bachmann has formally announced her presidential candidacy
  • Bachmann made the announcement in Iowa -- home of the first caucuses
  • Bachmann is considered a long shot, but is a Tea Party favorite
  • She was virtually tied with Mitt Romney in Iowa in a recent Des Moines Register poll

(CNN) -- Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann formally announced her candidacy for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination Monday during an appearance in Waterloo, Iowa -- the city where she was born.

Bachmann, a 55-year-old Tea Party favorite currently serving her third term in the House, told a crowd of supporters that Barack Obama's presidency has been a failure. She promised to lead a new conservative revolution characterized by smaller government and a lower federal debt.

"Make no mistake about it: President Obama is a one-term president," Bachmann declared. "Together we can rein in all the corruption and waste that has become Washington and instead leave a better America for future generations."

Bachmann blasted Obama's controversial 2009 economic stimulus plan, telling the crowd that "spending our way out of this recession hasn't worked."

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Echoing Ronald Reagan's famous refrain, the congresswoman asserted that "more than ever, Washington is the problem."

"The real solutions will come from our businesses, our communities, our schools and the most basic and powerful unit of all -- our families," she proclaimed.

While making a direct appeal to the Tea Party's deficit hardliners, Bachmann also made a pitch to religious conservatives, praising the country's past military victories in part by citing a line from the Bible: "Greater love hath no man than this, but that he lay down his life for his friend."

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt dismissed Bachmann's claim she could lead a new economic recovery, arguing that "her policies would erode the path to prosperity for middle class families."

Most political analysts consider Bachmann's candidacy for the GOP nomination a long shot at best, as front-runner Mitt Romney cranks up a formidable campaign operation and fundraising machine. Few House members have proven to be nationally viable candidates in the past.

On Sunday, Fox News Channel's Chris Wallace asked Bachmann if she's a "flake" -- a question the congresswoman said she found insulting. Wallace later apologized.

Regardless, Bachmann appears to have considerable appeal among Republicans in Iowa, which will host the nation's first caucuses next winter. She finished a statistically insignificant one point behind Romney in a Des Moines Register Iowa poll released Saturday night.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and familiar face from his 2008 bid, was favored by 23% of the likely Iowa caucus-goers, while Bachmann was favored by 22% of respondents.

Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain -- like Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite -- received 10%, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas each got 7%.

Bachmann, according to a number of observers, is believed to be banking on heavy support among Iowa's influential evangelical voters to give her a breakthrough victory in Iowa and establish her as the main GOP alternative to Romney, who is still struggling to overcome skepticism among conservatives.

To help accomplish that task, Bachmann has assembled a team of veteran political operatives.

Among others, she hired Ed Rollins, who directed Reagan's landslide re-election bid in 1984 and managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 2008 effort, to run her operation.

She has also brought in top-flight Republican talent like pollster Ed Goeas, who was working with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour before Barbour decided not to seek the nomination. The congresswoman has also brought on board message maven Brett O'Donnell, who worked for President George W. Bush and for Sen. John McCain's 2008 campaign.

O'Donnell coached McCain running mate Sarah Palin before her high-stakes vice-presidential debate.

Also aiding Bachmann are veteran consultant Bob Heckman, who has deep ties to the conservative movement; former McCain campaign web guru Becki Donatelli; and Tom McGill, a fundraiser for Bush's 2004 campaign and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's 2008 bid.

Asked about the steep challenge ahead, Bachmann boasted Sunday that she has a "titanium spine for doing what we need to do."

She also stressed her sincerity -- a characteristic supporters hope will allow the congresswoman to draw a stark contrast with Romney, who is accused of being a politically opportunistic flip-flopper on abortion and other key issues.

"What people know about me is I do what I say and I say what I mean," Bachmann said on Fox. "I think people recognize I'm very sincere in what I say."

Bachmann, who backs deep spending cuts to balance the federal budget, became defensive when asked Sunday about a Los Angeles Times report on federal money that benefited her family -- including nearly $30,000 for a counseling clinic operated by her husband and almost $260,000 for a family farm.

The money didn't directly benefit her family, she explained, saying the $30,000 was for training employees, and the farm that got the $260,000 was owned by her father-in-law, so she and her husband didn't get any of it.

Asked about another hot-button issue -- same-sex marriage -- Bachmann said she supported both the right of states to pass laws on the matter and the superseding authority of a federal constitutional amendment on the issue.

Bachmann said New York's state legislature and governor have the right under the Tenth Amendment to legalize gay marriage, which they did Friday night and early Saturday. But, Bachmann added, she also backs a federal constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

In the end, Bachmann said, it would be better to settle the matter with citizens voting on a constitutional amendment rather than Supreme Court justices issuing a decision.

Asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" whether she believes homosexuality is a choice, Bachmann said it was up to individuals to make their own decision and that she wasn't judging anyone on the issue.

She described herself as a Christian who gets guidance in her life and political career through prayer.

She also challenged the widespread assertion -- backed by the White House, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and a host of economic analysts -- that a failure to raise the current $14.3 trillion federal debt ceiling by August 2 would have potentially dangerous economic consequences.

"It is scare tactics," Bachmann said, adding that the government takes in plenty of money to pay the interest it owes on federal debt and avoid default.

In that case, she conceded, other spending such as funding for the military would have to be cut.

CNN's Alan Silverleib, Tom Cohen, and Peter Hamby contributed to this report