It is no secret that the most enthusiastic encouragement of a presidential bid by Sarah Palin comes from the Obama White House. No Republican with her level of name recognition polls worse than Palin in a head-to-head race with the Democratic president. Indeed, fresh surveys by Public Policy Polling suggest that in much of the country Palin "would would lose by the biggest margin of any Republican Presidential nominee since Barry Goldwater."

This, of course, only makes Palin more appealing to the true believers on the Republican right.

But what if the former governor of Alaska chooses to step back from presidential politics in the face of the controversy surrounding her "don’t retreat, reload" targeting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords? Or what if Palin simply decides she would rather peddle ghostwritten books and plot a career as the Arctic Oprah?

Where could conservative crackpots turn? Would the whacked-out right be left without a presidential prospect of its own?

Not necessarily.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the wild-eyed Minnesotan who is so extreme that members of the House Republican Caucus rejected her for a leadership position in the new Congress, makes the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential nominee look like a mainstream moderate. And Bachmann is dramatically more ambitious than the Grizzly Grandma.

How much more ambitious?

She’s heading to Iowa—the first GOP caucus state—on January 21 to deliver a series of speeches as part of what she refers to as a "repeal President Obama in 2012" campaign swing.

Might that also be the beginning of a "Bachmann for President" bid?

"I am going to Iowa—there’s your answer. I am going to Iowa," replied Bachmann, when the founder of the House Tea Party Caucus was asked whether this trip to the first-caucus state (her third in a year) might mark the beginning of a run for the GOP’s 2012 presidential nod.

That’s not a formal announcement. But the conservative fund-raising champion (who banked $13.2 million for her 2010 re-election bid) does say she wants to "make the case why Obama should not have a second term and why we need a courageous constitutional conservative as our nominee and what their agenda will be moving forward. That’s what I want to talk about in Iowa."

What will decide it for her? Bachmann offered an answer in 2009, at another point when her comments stirred talk of a presidential run. "If I felt that’s what the Lord was calling me to do, I would do it," she replied in her usual rambling style. "When I have sensed that the Lord is calling me to do something, I’ve said yes to it. But I will not seek a higher office if God is not calling me to do it. That’s really my standard. If I am called to serve in that realm I would serve."

How might Bachmann get the signal?

What if Palin announced that she was not running? What if all the Republicans were left with was the usual crowd of also-rans and out-of-work former governors, senators and mayors: Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty?

What if no one was crazy enough for the crazies? Would Michele Bachmann answer the call?

OK, that’s a silly question.

Here’s a serious one: Where do you think her campaign headquarters will be in Des Moines? Downtown or at that strip mall out on East 14th Street?

Like this Blog Post? Read it on the Nation’s free iPhone App, NationNow.
NationNow iPhone App