WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann ended a brief flirtation with presidential politics on Friday by removing her name from the 2012 presidential straw poll at this weekend's Values Voter Summit.
The decision came amid attacks from her Democratic challenger, state Sen. Tarryl Clark, who accused Bachmann of pursuing national ambitions and turning her back on the Sixth Congressional District that she's represented for two terms.
Bachmann's spokesman, Sergio Gor, said Bachmann's name was taken off the ballot because "she's running to represent the Sixth District. That's her No. 1 focus right now, her No. 1 goal. She's not running for president."
Bachmann and Gov. Tim Pawlenty were included in the poll along with more than a dozen other top GOP figures. But Pawlenty, who is wrapping up a trade mission in Asia, withdrew his name earlier this week, and Bachmann had her name taken off the list by Thursday evening.
Their withdrawals averted what would have been an awkward showdown between the two leading Minnesota Republicans with national profiles. Only Pawlenty, however, is gearing up openly for a potential run in 2012.
Clark's campaign sent out a fundraising e-mail Friday morning soliciting donations off Bachmann's summit appearance. The e-mail declared: "Michele Bachmann is considering running for president."
Gor said the decision to remove Bachmann from the straw poll was made before Clark's e-mail was sent, though the e-mail went out before it was publicly known Bachmann wasn't on the ballot.
The annual summit, hosted by Family Research Council Action, drew most of the early 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as well as newly minted Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, who rode to victory through the Tea Party.
Bachmann also spoke Friday, telling the crowd of more than 2,000 that she was "giddy" about the upcoming midterm elections, and calling the president's thinking "infantilism."
The Tea Party was "the largest political movement we have seen in modern times," said Bachmann, who started the Tea Party caucus in Congress.
Pawlenty said he removed his name from the straw poll because he is on an Asian trade mission.
"We didn't think it would be appropriate to participate otherwise in the event," he told reporters on a conference call from Tokyo.
Jeremy Herb • 202-408-2723