Political star Michele Bachmann works convention crowdby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
TAMPA, Fla. — Eight months after she left the presidential race, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann still retains a celebrity-like following among many Republicans.
That was clear once again, as Bachmann made the rounds to various tea party movement and pro-life groups at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
Earlier this week, Bachmann met with Minnesota's RNC delegation as they were finishing breakfast and beginning their daily meeting. At the podium, Bachmann said nothing about Mitt Romney but had high praise for her U.S. House colleague Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. She looked and sounded like the presidential candidate she once was as she whipped up the crowd.
"How many in this room agree with that principle: we are taxed enough already?" Bachmann asked. "The second principle is: government needs to stop spending more money than what it takes in. How many in this room agree with that?"
Interviewed moments before her speech, Bachmann expressed cautious confidence about her reelection to Congress in Minnesota's 6th District. Asked about a future presidential campaign, Bachmann said she "had no intention other than running for my seat in Congress."
"You know I'm not thinking about that at all. The only thing I'm thinking about right now is running for my seat in Congress. Because I ran for president of the United States because I saw all the problems that America had and I believed that I had the vision and leadership to be able to accomplish that goal," Bachmann said. "But I'm more than happy to be fully supportive of the Romney-Ryan ticket, and I see that that the battle remains and that's why I'm running."
Standing on hotel patio in windy downtown St. Petersburg, Fla., Minnesota delegate Kimlinh Bui of Eden Prairie said she doubted Bachmann has lost her national ambitions.
"I think when someone has the bug, it's hard to let go," Bui said.
Bui said she thinks Bachmann is an asset to Minnesota's congressional delegation, but that she might have problems if she tries again to run for president.
"I don't know what her chances are. I wouldn't be terribly optimistic about them," Bui said. "There's a lot of bad press out there."
Inside the lobby of another Tampa-area hotel, North Carolina Republican Jean Pitts said she hopes Bachmann considers another presidential run.
"I think she's used this campaign and her past experience as just that — as a first-step. I think she's a smart cookie," Pitts said. "I really do and I think she's got a lot on the ball and has a lot to offer."
Ralph Reed, leader of the influential Faith and Freedom Coalition, said Bachmann's future is up to her. Reed's group mobilizes on behalf of social issues, such as opposition to legalized abortion and to same-sex marriage.
"Look, Michele Bachman's a star. She's a great champion for our conservative principles," Reed said.
And Reed said Bachmann has proven she can win. He cited her Ames Straw Poll victory in August 2011. He noted her ability to raise a lot of money. And he said that it is not unusual for failed GOP nomination contenders to make comebacks.
"Ronald Reagan didn't win the nomination on his first try, Bob Dole didn't win it on his first try, Mitt Romney didn't win it on his first try," Reed said. "So she'll get another bite at the apple if she wants it."
At the convention, Wyoming delegate Ogden Driskill said Bachmann's poor showing in the Iowa caucuses leaves her in a difficult position to run again for president. Despite that setback, Driskill said Bachmann helped shift the focus of the national GOP to reducing government spending.
"I personally like her but I don't think it's in the cards for another presidential bid," Driskill said. "She hasn't gained the national support to be a legitimate candidate for president."
It would have been nice to see Bachmann in a more prominent role at the convention, Driskill said. But Bachmann, unlike Minnesota's other 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, was not offered a place on the speech roster.
- Morning Edition, 08/29/2012, 7:20 a.m.