In the same poll, Franken also topped Bachmann by a 54 percent to 40 percent margin in a hypothetical general election matchup — an early indication of the uphill climb the congresswoman would face in a statewide race.

Still, Bachmann would almost certainly be a strong contender to win a contested primary, and political opponents have underestimated her strengths in the past.

“I think if Bachmann decided to run, she’d be the favorite to win the nomination,” said Minnesota political analyst Larry Jacobs. “Whether she can win statewide is a bigger question and the question she will be thinking hard about.”

Despite her reputation as a conservative flame-thrower with a penchant for attention-grabbing gaffes, Bachmann is widely regarded among Minnesota political watchers as a savvy operator. And no one doubts that she could again raise enormous sums of money in a personality-driven general election battle that would draw tremendous attention outside the state.