Michele Bachmann 2012: Republican Presidential Candidate

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann , R-Minn., waves as she arrives for a Republican Presidential debate Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in Tampa, Fla.

Rep. Michele Bachmann sure knows how to cause a stir, for better or for worse. No other Republican presidential candidate, save possibly rival Rick Perry, has generated the passion or the controversy that the Minnesota congresswoman has stirred up since entering the race.

Take her announcement itself. Bachmann stole the show at the June 13 GOP debate in New Hampshire when, within minutes of the start of the debate, she announced that she had filed paperwork to launch her campaign for the White House. And so began "Bachmania": If Sarah from Alaska had hogged the media spotlight in 2008, then Michele from Minnesota followed suit in 2011.

Two months later, Bachmann surged to victory in the Ames Straw Poll, the first real test of a candidate's mettle before the nation's caucuses and primaries kick off in the winter. While some critics question the importance of Ames -- since its founding in 1979, only two of the five straw-poll winners have gone on to become the GOP nominee -- no one can doubt the message that Bachmann sent that day to the Republican party that she's a force to be reckoned with.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise. Bachmann has always done things her own way, on her own terms. She became the first Republican woman elected to represent Minnesota in the House of Representatives five years ago, winning the seat in the Sixth Congressional District that includes several suburbs of the Twin Cities.

Before that she served for six years as a Minnesota state senator. She has become the darling of the Tea Party movement in Congress, railing against federal spending, trying to repeal President Obama's health care overhaul and establishing the Tea Party Caucus in 2010.

It's not only in her professional life that Bachmann has bucked convention, but in her personal life as well. She and Marcus, her husband of more than 30 years, have cared for 23 foster children, to say nothing of the five children of their own. She has a degree in tax law. She once worked for the IRS.

Despite her successful start to the race for the White House, topped off by her victory in Iowa, Bachmann's campaign has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. Marcus came under fire in June for running a Christian counseling clinic that encouraged homosexuals to "pray away the gay."

She had to convince voters in July that her "ability to function effectively has never been impeded by migraines" after a report surfaced that she was at times "incapacitated" by the headaches. In August -- days before the straw poll -- Newsweek used a less-than-flattering, wide-eyed photo of her for a cover story on her bid for president, with the headline "The Queen of Rage."

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