Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has singularly achieved what the rest of her colleagues only dream of doing but never will: breaking out of the anonymity of 435 House members to become a national political figure in her own right and a candidate for the presidency.
She didn't do it by ascending the ranks of the House Republican leadership or by championing legislative crusades. No major piece of legislation bears her name. She has piled up no political IOUs by doing favors and playing by party rules. She chairs no committees.
Since she won her 6th District seat in 2006 -- the first Republican woman elected to the U.S. House from Minnesota -- she has been in a hurry to make her mark. She soon learned that she wasn't going to become known by sitting through hours of tedious, inconsequential hearings, or listening to boring House debate, or pursuing a go-along-to-get-along career and patiently waiting her turn.
And she soon learned that in the Old Boys Club in the House she wasn't going to be handed anything, either. So over these past six years, she became a fixture on virtually every cable television and broadcast network talk show in the business, denouncing President Obama's health care law, bashing his trillion-dollar deficits and big government in general.
She embraced the tea party movement from its birth, organized and keynoted its rallies at the Capitol, and became the leader of tea party-backed lawmakers who won House seats in 2010.
Her tireless efforts made her widely popular among the GOP's conservative base, though she was still seen as an outsider and to some degree a loose cannon among many in the GOP's leadership ranks. After she audaciously made an unexpected bid in January for the House Republican Conference chairmanship, the No. 4 post in the party's hierarchy, she withdrew her name in the face of certain defeat.
When House Speaker John Boehner picked Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the powerful Budget Committee chairman, to deliver the GOP response to Obama's State of the Union address, she decided to deliver her own response on behalf of the Tea Party Express. She had another purpose in mind, and that was to tell her party's leaders, "Don't ignore me."
With tea party support from across the country and a growing campaign war chest (raising $1.7 million in the first three months of this year, the most of any House member behind Boehner), she set her sights on running for president.
But could she match the heavy hitters among the crowded field of candidates, including former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the party's front-runner?