Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a 2012 presidential candidate, departs… (Emmanuel PARISSE/AFP/Getty…)
Reporting from Waterloo, Iowa — Michele Bachmann returned to the town where she was born on the eve of her official campaign kick-off, saying the values she learned here are why she is running for president.
“Everything I needed to know I learned in Iowa,” she told more than 500 people who attended a homecoming party for in a ballroom at the National Cattle Congress. “This is where it all began. Tomorrow, I’m going to speak to the nation. Tonight, I want to speak to all of you.”
The Minnesota congresswoman spoke for more than 20 minutes, but her remarks were largely sentimental rather than political.
Photos: Potential 2012 GOP candidates
“I want you to know how grateful I am, how thankful I am for Waterloo, for this wonderful, decent, God-fearing community,” she said. “I’m just filled with pride when I think of what Waterloo put into our family and all of us. That’s why I wanted to come back tonight, share my heart with you, to say this is what we need more of.”
The party, where supporters ate pulled pork sandwiches and macaroni salad as they waited for Bachmann to take the stage, was the first event in her multi-day, multi-state announcement tour.
The timing was fortuitous -- on Sunday, a new poll of likely Republican caucus participants showed that Bachmann is neck-and-neck with GOP front-runner Mitt Romney in Iowa. The state will be vital in her campaign for the GOP nomination.
(Earlier in the day, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," the "tea party" vanguard denied assertions in a Los Angeles Times report that said that she and her husband had been the beneficiaries of government mental health program funds and farm subsidies.)
Bachmann said she would leave policy prescriptions for her formal campaign announcement on Monday. Instead, she spoke of her upbringing in Waterloo, from her mother making her then-favorite sandwich – lettuce and mayonnaise on Wonder bread – for trips to the park, the family’s annual outing to the Cattle Congress, and shedding tears when she learned that the family was moving to Minnesota because of her father’s career.
“The tears did not dissuade my mother. We moved to Minnesota, that’s where we went, but in my heart this was home,” she told the crowd, which included her husband, four of their five children, her mother, mother-in-law, siblings, aunts, cousins and other relatives. Earlier in the day, she visited the home where she grew up, and the church where she was baptized.
Bachmann urged the crowd to support her in the Ames Straw Poll in August, and to volunteer for her campaign. She didn’t mention her GOP rivals for the nomination, and she barely mentioned President Obama, saying his name once as she closed her speech.
“This is our time, this is our year, this is when we’re coming together and we’re going to take Waterloo, Iowa, the sensibilities of this land and we’re going to go forward and in 2012, Barack Obama will be a one-term president!” she said.