Forget the fervent chatter speculating that Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann is considering launching a campaign to challenge Sen. Amy Klobuchar for the Minnesota U.S. Senate seat in the next national election cycle. Think bigger.
ABC News has learned that Bachmann, R-Minn., also is seriously weighing whether to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012.
A source close to the three-term congresswoman said Bachmann will travel to Iowa this month for multiple meetings to seek advice from political forces there and party elders close to the caucus process before coming to a final decision regarding a potential presidential run.
Bachmann, a native of Waterloo, Iowa, also is set to deliver a keynote speech at an Iowans for Tax Relief PAC fundraiser Jan. 21 in Des Moines, Iowa.
According to an invitation to the fundraiser obtained by ABC News, tickets cost $25 per person or $40 per couple, and donors are able enhance their standing by coughing up $1,000 to become an honorary "host" or by donating $250 to become a "watchdog." Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Iowans for Tax Relief PAC, a political action committee working to elect pro-taxpayer Iowa legislators.
Bachmann's appearance in the Hawkeye State later this month will be her third trip over the past eight months to the significant early-caucus state, and last week she was featured at another GOP fundraiser in Michigan -- also an early primary state.
Although aides in Bachmann's congressional office said she has received frequent encouragement from supporters to challenge President Obama next year, they would not confirm quite yet that she officially was throwing her hat into the ring.
However, Bachmann's senior staff did admit the Minnesotan is not ruling out a presidential campaign.
"Nothing is off the table," Bachmann chief of staff Andy Parrish told ABC News when asked whether the Iowa trip signaled Bachmann's intent to run for president. "The congresswoman is excited about her first trip to Iowa this year."
Bachmann has about $3 million cash on hand in her campaign war chest left over from her re-election campaign to the House of Representatives last fall. That race against Minnesota state senator Tarryl Clark was the most expensive contest in the 2010 congressional midterm elections, with Bachmann shattering congressional fundraising records by hauling in $13.4 million.
While stumping with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Minneapolis last April, Bachmann predicted that "two years from now, President Obama will be a one-term president," and that the country would elect Palin to the White House in 2012.
Now, it appears that Bachmann is conducting a bit of soul searching to determine who she believes would actually be the best challenger to Obama in 2012.
After last November's election, Bachmann told ABC News that she believed she has been an effective advocate on the national and local levels while "pointing out the deficiencies with President Obama and [House] Speaker Nancy Pelosi's policies."
"If you look at the wrong track, right track numbers, the American people don't feel like they were heard and that was evident at the ballot box [in the midterm elections]," Bachmann said. "I've spent a lot of time in these last, really, four years making the case on a national level against their policies but also in turn offering our positive solutions."
It is not known how soon Bachmann will finalize her decision on whether to seek the GOP nomination for president.
Bachmann, the founder and chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus, is scheduled to be a guest on ABC News' political webcast "Top Line" on Friday.