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Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who formally launched her bid for the Republican presidential nomination in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, today, begins with the wind at her back, but also lingering questions about her sometimes bizarre personality.

She referenced her Iowa upbringing as many times as possible in the speech, going so far as to say, “Everything I needed to know I learned in Iowa,” and that, “I want you to know how grateful I am, how thankful I am for Waterloo, for this wonderful, decent, God-fearing community.”

She was a bit overzealous when she told Fox News in an interview prior to the announcement that the late actor/director John Wayne was from Waterloo as well and that she had his spirit.

What she didn’t seem to realize was that the John Wayne from Waterloo was John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer executed in 1994 for committing some 33 murders; the movie star was from Winterset, a few hours away.

The Des Moines Register, which accurately predicted both the Democratic and Republican winners in the January 2008 caucuses, released its first poll on Saturday, showing Bachmann at 22 percent support, second only to frontrunner Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, at 23 percent. Romney led in early Iowa polls in 2007 before being upset by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Bachmann’s campaign is being run by Ed Rollins, who steered Huckabee’s effort last time around.

Her appeal to the Evangelical and Tea Party base in the state is undoubtedly strong, in part because of statements like those she made on the Sunday talk show circuit yesterday.

Asked by Bob Scheiffer on “Face the Nation” whether she felt God wanted her to seek the presidency, she essentially said yes.

“I became a Christian at 16 years old, I gave my heart to Jesus Christ and since that time I’ve been a person of prayer. When I pray, I pray believing that God will speak to me and give me an answer to that prayer, and so that’s what a calling is. If I pray, a calling means that I have a sense from God which direction I’m supposed to go. It means I have a sense of assurance about the direction I think that God is speaking into my heart that I should go,” she said.

Speaking more to the Tea Party set–she founded their caucus in Congress–she stood by a 2005 statement where she asserted that eliminating the minimum wage would “wipe out” unemployment, and said it would be on the table in economic policy discussions should she win the presidency.

The minimum wage was established at the federal level by Franklin Roosevelt in 1938.

But the Sunday appearances and a widely-hailed debate performance in New Hampshire recently are part of an orchestrated effort to control her appearances and boost her gravitas, stepping back from some of her more outrageous statements, including her 2008 claim that there are “Anti-American” members of Congress and, more recently, that the U.S. Census requires her only to tell the government the number of individuals living in her home, which is false.


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