I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Palinista voices suddenly cried out in terror and were silenced.

Bachmann has already met with prominent interest groups and well-placed officials in early caucus and primary states of Iowa and South Carolina, where both Tea Partiers and Republican regulars have been impressed by her easy rapport with conservative crowds.

The trips are having an acute impact on Bachmann’s thinking about the presidential race, those around her say.

“She is leaning more toward doing it,” one Republican close to Bachmann told CNN. “The people she’s meeting on the ground, they love her. She is definitely more encouraged when she makes these trips.”…

But both Parrish and Bachmann’s media consultant, Ed Brookover, have recently started calling state party officials and other key political players in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, multiple Republican sources told CNN…

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad recently marveled at the crowds Bachmann can draw and said a contest featuring both her and Palin would “break all records” for caucus turnout.

She did six events in South Carolina in a single day last month. She’s an amazing fundraiser, she has impeccable tea-party credentials, and, as noted, she seems to be aggressively cultivating GOP activists in the early primary states to form a nascent organization. And don’t forget that Bachmann’s not only an Iowa native but pals with Steve King. Which prompts the question: Why would/should a grassroots conservative prefer Palin to her? Palin has higher national name recognition, but the gaps between candidates on that metric will narrow as the primaries get going. And there are advantages to being relatively unknown: Bachmann has the luxury of being able to make a first impression with many voters that Palin, Romney, and Huckabee don’t.

One thing that Palin has that Bachmann doesn’t is executive experience, but I’d be curious to know how many voters consider two and a half years as governor a huge advantage over four years in Congress. If this were anyone else, I’d argue that Palin could out-fundraise them, but Bachmann is a fundraising force of nature. And as for authenticity, here’s what Palin herself told the BBC she considered important in weighing whether to run:

JL: What are the considerations at the moment? What are the things that you are weighing up?

SP: Well, understanding that Obama has already said he’s going to rake in and spend $1bn (£615.4m) in this race. Money is certainly going to be a consideration. And then just the idea of, will the American electorate be ready for someone a bit unconventional, in terms of a candidate who will call it like she sees it, and who will not be beholden to special interests or such obsessive partisanship as to let a political machine get in the way of just doing what’s right for the voters.

That’s Bachmann to a T, isn’t it? Unconventional: Check. Calling to call it like she sees it: Check. Unwilling to let a political machine get in her way: Are you kidding? Remember when she challenged Jeb Hensarling for leader of the Republican conference, despite the fact that virtually the whole House leadership was behind him? Didn’t she deliver an alternate rebuttal to the SOTU on behalf of tea partiers right after conservative rock star Paul Ryan delivered the official rebuttal for the GOP? The Times wrote an entire story back in November about her power among grassroots righties and the GOP caucus’s powerlessness in stopping it. Seriously, then, why Palin instead of her?