2012 Sweepstakes: DeMint Out, Bachmann In?

Posted: Mar 24, 2011 2:51 PM
It's time to update your 2012 presidential brackets, folks.  One (barely) rumored dark horse has reiterated that he won't throw his hat into the ring next year:

[Sen.] Jim DeMint has ruled out a run for president in 2012, choosing instead to focus his growing political power on helping to elect more conservatives to the Senate next November, according to sources close to the South Carolina senator.

While DeMint has done little to suggest he wanted to run for president, a scheduled trip this weekend to Iowa where he will address a conservative conference organized by Rep. Steve King had stoked speculation that the South Carolina Republican might be interested in running.

As one staunch conservative confirms that he's out of the mix, another is reportedly testing the waters and may announce an exploratory committee within months:

CNN has exclusively learned that Rep. Michele Bachmann will form a presidential exploratory committee. The Minnesota Republican plans to file papers for the committee in early June, with an announcement likely around that same time.

But a source close to the congresswoman said that Bachmann could form the exploratory committee even earlier than June so that she could participate in early Republican presidential debates.

"She's been telling everyone early summer," the source told CNN regarding Bachmann's planned June filing and announcement. But the source said that nothing is static.

Some have surmised that Bachmann is happy to allow presidential buzz to percolate as she develops a war chest to run for Senate -- implying that she has no real intention of gunning for the White House.  This CNN report certainly makes it sound like she's pretty serious about pursuing the bigger prize:

Meanwhile, CNN has also learned that Iowa Republican state Sen. Kent Sorenson will likely be hired to be Bachmann's political director for the state - and that Bachmann aides hope to have a complete team together for Iowa by this weekend.

Regardless of one's feelings about a prospective Bachmann presidential bid, she will be something of a player because (a) she's a red-meat conservative, which appeals to a large chunk of the base, and (b) she's a fundraising dynamo:

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s historic 2010 fundraising haul topped $13 million, according to post-election campaign finance reports released today.  Bachmann raised $13.2 million in the 2010 cycle — $12.8 million coming from individuals — and spent nearly $11 million on her successful reelection campaign against state Sen. Tarryl Clark.

She already has a substantial sum of campaign money in the bank, and the cash keeps pouring in:

In a sign she’s gearing up for some sort of race in 2012, Rep. Michele Bachmann has already raised north of $100,000 since the Nov. 2 election through the end of 2010.

Bachmann had just shy of $2 million in the bank at the end of 2010 – money she could use for her own reelection, a Senate run or a presidential bid.

For a Minnesota Congresswoman, those are staggering figures.  Although her Washington office staying mum on today's report, Bachmann has linked the story on her political Facebook page -- hardly a denial, especially in light of her playful introduction of the link:  "Read a little something on CNN..."