Michele Bachmann's formal announcement of her candidacy for president was met with this response from Florida tea partiers: Amen.
The Minnesota Republican congresswoman, who officially launched her campaign in Iowa, has been a tea party standard bearer since the birth of the movement two years ago and now it appears to be paying off.
Bachmann is tied with national Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses and she's running in second place in Florida, according to new polls that show her well ahead of Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman.
"None of the guys are really exciting. I'm excited now," said Apryl Marie Fogel, a tea party organizer from Melbourne and Republican consultant. "She has charm, but she's also tough ... and she's going after the grass roots of the party."
In her speech Monday in Waterloo, Iowa — her childhood hometown — Bachmann harkened back to the ideals that launched the original Boston tea party.
"I want my candidacy for the presidency of the United States to stand for a moment when we the people stand once again for the independence from a government that has gotten too big and spends too much and has taken away too much of our liberties," Bachmann said.
Bachmann was dismissed by some in national circles as an also-ran candidate until the June 14 Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, where the telegenic candidate wowed pundits, stood out as the only Republican woman to seek the White House since Elizabeth Dole in 2000 and announced that she filed paperwork to start her presidential bid.
After the debate, Bachmann's Florida poll numbers shot up from 7 percent to 17 percent, putting her just 10 percentage points behind Romney, according to Public Policy Polling, a firm that typically polls for Democrats and liberal groups.
Bachmann does even better against Romney in Florida if Sarah Palin decides not to run. More than two-thirds of Palin voters favor Bachmann, while Romney pulls only a fifth.
What's remarkable about her popularity is that she has yet to visit the Sunshine State.
Public Policy Polling's analyst, Tom Jensen, said Bachmann pulls her strongest support from staunch conservatives, while Romney receives just enough support from them and more from moderate conservatives to remain in the lead.
"Mitt Romney has something to worry about if Palin doesn't run and if Herman Cain continues to fade," Jensen said. "It's in Romney's interest for the conservative vote to split as much as possible."
Bachmann made a name for herself in Minnesota for her staunch opposition to gay rights and gay marriage. That's good politics in Iowa, an early-vote state. A Des Moines Register newspaper poll found that Republican caucusgoers are more opposed to candidates who favor gay marriage than those who raise taxes or support a government-mandate to purchase health insurance. The poll showed Bachmann and Romney were virtually tied.
Unlike the last major Christian conservative candidate for president, Mike Huckabee, Bachmann plans to make a strong showing in Florida. Here, she'll have a strong base, according to Tom Gaitens, a co-founder of the Tampa Tea Party and director for FreedomWorks in Florida.
"She stood by us from the beginning, she's a tea party member," said Gaitens. "She's not the tea party candidate — but that's because there's not just one tea party. It's a movement."