Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is inching closer to a 2012 presidential run, affirming on Thursday night that she will make a decision about forming an exploratory committee early this summer.
"The decision is not made yet. I want to be clear about that," she told "On the Record" Thursday night. "But if we do make the decision, we are looking at the early part of summer."
An outspoken social conservative and Tea Party Caucus member, Bachmann has spent much of the past two months drumming up support in early primary states Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
"We have inched closer," she said of a bid for the presidency. "I think because of that, we've been making trips to various early primary states to talk about the conversation about 2012. I think we have moved a step closer at this point. We are looking at the Iowa straw poll in August. In order to be part of that, we'll have to make a decision about an exploratory committee."
Bachmann's appeal to values voters, along with her direct mail and online fundraising prowess demonstrated in 2010's House reelection campaign, could make her a contender for the same voters attracted to potential 2012ers and fellow social conservatives Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Rick Santorum.
But Bachmann contends she is looking for more broad-based support. "My strategy is to talk to all people in the early states, not just one segment," she said when asked if she was courting the home school enthusiasts and evangelical segment in Iowa that largely flocked to Huckabee in 2008.
On former Governor Palin and former Senator Rick Santorum, Bachmann said, "I love both of them. I know both of them...they are great people. I think we'll have a very good, broad bench of candidates to put forward." She added, "What I bring to the table is the fact that I'm a fighter. I'm authentic. I'm the same person when I campaigned as I am when I'm elected to public office."
And though the Minnesota lawmaker separated herself from mainline conservatives in January by offering her own Tea Party rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union address, Bachmann stresses her appeal isn't too narrow to make her competitive in the 2012 playing field.
"Remember, the Tea Party is a coalition of America. It is made up of Democrats and independents and people who aren't political, libertarians, conservatives, and Republicans," she said. "It is a very broad swath of Americans."
Bachmann says she is spending her primary state visits focusing on issues that concern conservatives across the board - fiscal responsibility and combating the president's federal health care law. "Everyone is worried about out of control spending," she said. "And what I'm hearing from people in Iowa is that they want us to repeal and defund Obamacare."
She also had a few strong words for the president on Libya. "There's so much incoherence from the administration now, it is difficult to comprehend what their thinking was in going forward with this," she said. "I would not have gone in with United States soldiers, particularly not without consulting Congress and without making the case to the American people."
As for whether her own potential bid for the White House is off to a rocky start after she misplaced Lexington and Concord in New Hampshire during a speech there, Bachmann said, "I made a mistake. I was happy to admit my mistake and move on - happy to do that. That's old news now. I'm just looking forward to what we have going forward."