But her adversaries—or, at least, rivals—aren’t limited to the left. There’s Sarah Palin, with whom journalists are convinced she has frosty relations, and fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty, now running for president. About Ms. Palin the congresswoman shrugs, “People want to see a mud-wrestling fight. They won’t get it from me because I like Sarah Palin and I respect her.” As for whether Mr. Pawlenty was a good governor, “I really don’t want to comment.”

Ever ready to cite stories from American history, Ms. Bachmann notes with a grin that the last House member to be elected president was James Garfield in 1880. If she were to take her shot, she’d run on an economic package reminiscent of Jack Kemp, the late congressman who championed supply-side economics and was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. “In my perfect world,” she explains, “we’d take the 35% corporate tax rate down to nine so that we’re the most competitive in the industrialized world. Zero out capital gains. Zero out the alternative minimum tax. Zero out the death tax.”