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Michele Bachmann touts Iowa roots, Tea Party credentials in campaign kickoff


Updated at 11:05 a.m. ET

Rep. Michele Bachmann officially kicked off her presidential campaign today near her childhood home in Iowa, where she touted her "Iowa values" as a constitutional conservative with a Christian background.

"I know what it means to be from Iowa--I know what we value here, and I know what's important," Bachmann said from her home town of Waterloo.

The Republican, who moved to Minnesota in sixth grade, referenced her elementary schools, her childhood home, and her grandfather's grave, which were all a short distance away from her speech. When she lived in Waterloo, Bachmann said, Americans carried more optimism and less public debt.

"Times have changed here in Waterloo, but the people still have the same spirit we Iowans have come to exemplify," she said. "But our government keeps getting bigger making it tougher for us to pass on that life, causing our jobs to go overseas and spending more of the money we make, while we keep less of it."

She continued, "We have to recapture our founders' vision of a constitutionally conservative government if we are to secure the promise of the future."

Bachmann's official announcement comes just one day after her strong showing in a Des Moines Register poll of Iowa Republican voters. She won 22 percent of the vote, a statistical dead heat with frontrunner Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor took 23 percent.

Bachmann has assumed the mantle of the top Tea Partier in Congress, as head of House Tea Party Caucus. She embraced that affiliation today, defending the Tea Party as a diverse movement.

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"The liberals... want you to think the Tea Party is the Right Wing of the Republican Party. But it's not," she said. "It's made up of disaffected Democrats, independents, people who've never been political a day in their life, libertarians, Republicans. We're people who simply want America back on the right track again."

Bachmann's staunchly conservative and sometimes controversial remarks have made her a favorite among convervative voters. A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that 54 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of the congresswoman, and among supporters of the Tea Party movement, her favorability stands at 57 percent. The Des Moines Register poll revealed that of the GOP presidential candidates, Bachmann has the highest favorability rating among Iowa Republicans at 65 percent.

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Her Tea Party appeal has translated into strong grassroots campaign fundraising, enabling Bachmann to bring in $13.5 million for her 2010 race, the AP reported -- more than any other candidate for Congress.

That money, as well as the excitement she generates, will make Bachmann a serious presidential candidate -- at least through Iowa, where her social conservatsm will be a strong selling point in the nation's first presidential nominating contest.

Still, the Iowa caucuses are more than seven months away, and her opponents have plenty of controversy surrounding Bachmann to draw from. The congresswoman is known for making comments that either stretch the truth or come off as incendiary.

On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, host Bob Schieffer asked Bachmann about her comments that President Obama has some "anti-American" views. She admitted that there are "a lot of things I wish I would have said differently, of course."

Bachmann continued to play fast and loose with the facts on "Face the Nation," misleadingly suggesting Mr. Obama's health care reforms are costing the nation 800,000 jobs.