WATERLOO, Iowa – She may represent Minnesota in Congress, but U.S. Rep Michele Bachmann made it clear to the citizens of Waterloo Sunday night that Iowa is her true home.

Speaking to a packed house at the Electric Park Ballroom on the eve of her presidential campaign kickoff, Bachmann highlighted her Iowa roots and urged attendees to support her in the Ames Straw Poll this August. Bachmann lived in Waterloo until she was a teenager.

The congresswoman from Minnesota’s Sixth District focused primarily on her family members and the city of Waterloo, while largely sidestepping policy matters.

“I want you to know, everything I needed to know, I learned in Iowa,” Bachmann said.

As for Minnesota? Bachmann recalled the moment her mother told her they were moving north, because of her father’s new job.

“She told me that we were going to move to this exotic, faraway place – I had hardly ever heard of it before – called Minnesota,” Bachmann said. “That would put fear in the heart of any Iowan.”

Bachmann said the Ames Straw Poll is “a big deal" and told the crowd that “you will be the ones who will determine who will lead this great nation in the future.”

Several political veterans in the crowd said the turnout for Bachmann’s speech was much larger than for other candidates who have passed through Waterloo this season, including Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. The event was heavily publicized on local radio stations.

“I don’t think we’ve had anybody from Waterloo run for president in either party before, so I think that makes a difference,” said Dawn Young, who is active with the Black Hawk County Republican Party.

Bachmann’s appearance in the small banquet hall was surrounded by fanfare. Vendors sold buttons outside with slogans like “Give ‘em hell Michele” and “Bachmann for President.” Crowds circled around Bachmann as she spoke on an elevated stage, just beside campaign tents and a large “Michele Bachmann for President” poster.

Sheila Reiland, from Iowa City, attended Bachmann’s rally on Capitol Hill before the health care vote. Wearing a “Team Bachmann” t-shirt, she waited to meet Bachmann and thank her for running.

“It takes a lot of courage to do this,” Reiland said. “And I really feel like she’s speaking for me and for my values.”

Bachmann said she will outline her “vision .. for turning this country around" at the official campaign kickoff Monday morning at 9 a.m. in downtown Waterloo.

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