(Reuters) - U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann will compete in the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday, which start the Republican state contests to pick a candidate to oppose President Barack Obama in 2012.
Here are a few facts about her.
* Bachmann was once a Democrat and staffer for Jimmy Carter's 1976 presidential campaign. Her political conversion came while reading "Burr: A Novel" by Gore Vidal that she found "snotty" and disrespectful of the founding fathers. She has said she also became disillusioned with Democrats' support for abortion rights.
* Bachmann, 55, was the first Republican woman to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Congress. The founder and head of the House Tea Party Caucus, Bachmann was one of the first elected officials to court the conservative Tea Party movement - a key factor of the Republicans' strong gains in the 2010 congressional elections. Bachmann consistently calls for cutting government spending, repealing Obama's healthcare reform law, and reforming the tax code.
* Bachmann's values have been a source of controversy. A born-again Christian, she once commented that as a wife she must submit to her husband. Gay rights groups have said her husband offered therapy to "cure" homosexuality in the Christian counseling center that he runs.
* Although Bachmann, a lawyer, has performed well in some debates, she also has a history of gaffes and controversial statements. She once called North Korea an ally of the United States and has said if she were president she would shut down a non-existent U.S. embassy in Iran. Before the 2008 election she suggested Obama had anti-American views and suggested "anti-American" members of Congress be investigated.
* Bachmann got into a fight with rival candidate Newt Gingrich in a Republican debate. When Gingrich said Bachmann had her facts wrong, Bachmann demanded respect from him. "I am not a student of his. I am a serious candidate for the presidency and I think it is important that I be treated as an equal on that stage," she said.
* Bachmann and her husband have five children and have cared for 23 foster children. She once worked as a tax attorney.
* Bachmann shot to the top of polls of Republicans in August after winning the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, but later suffered from staff departures and fundraising troubles. By the end of December, her popularity had dwindled in the state.
(For complete coverage of the U.S. presidential election, see (Reporting by Lily Kuo; Editing by Eric Beech)