Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told ABC News today that she deserves to be elected chairwoman of the Republican Conference in the next Congress, mainly because of her role as the face of the Tea Party movement that helped propel the Republican majority in the next House.
"I think that deserves a seat at the table in leadership, and deserves recognition. And, quite frankly, I believe that I represent that extreme hard worker, and I think that's identified by the traveling I did, the speaking I did, the money I've raised, the candidates that I've helped and the rallies that I've organized," Bachmann said. "I think a person would be hard-pressed to find another member who has done that level of work within the conference. That's not to say I'm everything. I'm not, but I think that I've contributed mightily to this electoral victory."
Bachmann is matched in a leadership race against Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who announced last week that he was also seeking the conference chair position. Hensarling, who was re-elected to serve his fifth term in the House, is widely viewed as one of the most conservative members of the House but is not as closely associated with the Tea Party as Bachmann, who founded the congressional Tea Party Caucus last summer.
Bachmann, from Stillwater, won re-election to a third House term with 53 percent of the vote, defeating a well-financed challenger in Tarryl Clark, a state senator from St. Cloud, in the most expensive House race in the nation.
Bachmann worked throughout her campaign to expose Clark's prominent campaign surrogates, such as President Obama, former President Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, to motivate her own supporters to donate to the Bachmann campaign.
The message was apparently well-received. Bachmann told ABC News she'd raised $3.65 million during the month of October, pushing her total fundraising haul for this election cycle to more than $13.75 million.
"I believe that historically I am the No. 1 fundraiser in the history of the House of Representatives [for one cycle]," Bachmann said. "That's an extraordinary amount of money, and it came with an average donation of $45 per donation. And we have well over 100,000 people that donated to my race, so I have a fairly wide broad swath of support of a constituency across the nation who sees mine as an authentic, sincere credible voice that they can trust in giving them accurate information what's happening in Washington, D.C."
In the showdown for GOP conference chair, Hensarling has the support of presumptive Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the outgoing conference chairman, and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, likely the next chairman of the House Budget Committee.
While the race for the conference chair position is the GOP's only high-profile battle for a House leadership position in the next session of Congress, Hensarling said the campaign to collect support so far has not been malicious.
"Michele is a good friend, and we kind of committed to each other that this would be the friendliest race in conference history. Hopefully, it's living up to its billing," Hensarling said. "I'm confident that I'm gonna win, and she very well may be confident she's gonna win. And we'll see. We'll see what happens next week."