Could Michele Bachmann become the first female president of the United States?

If you uttered the above about 24 months ago, many inside the Washington beltway would have dismissed your idea as outlandish, or, at minimum, as the stuff of amateur postulating.

However, two scant years and a sluggish economic recovery with high unemployment later, Bachmann, a Congresswoman from Minnesota, has ascended to top-tier status in the Republican Party's race for the 2012 nomination.

According to a Des Moines Register survey, Bachmann is the first choice of 22% of the likely Iowa Caucus attenders, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Meanwhile, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the first choice among 23% of the probable caucus goers.

Political operatives and other campaign professionals closely monitor the Iowa checkpoint, as even though it is not electorally the same as a secret-ballot primary, it does provide the first reading on what's on American voters' minds in an organized setting.

Why has Bachmann's star risen? First, she's become the unofficial spokesperson for the conservative/libertarian Tea Party faction of the Republican Party. Second, Bachmann has displayed an ability to connect with the typical person and his/her concerns. A former tax lawyer, and foster parent of 23 children, has Bachmann displayed both earthiness and a lack of pretense that's caught fire in an American electorate that believes elites in Washington and on Wall Street have let the nation down, particularly in their response to the financial crisis.

To be sure, Bachmann is not without demerits. Her initial desire to have members of Congress investigated for what she asserted were un-American actions, and her philosophically inadequate response to MSNBC Hardball Talk Show Host Chris Matthew's probing as to Who in the Congress is un-American? Who is guilty of unpatriotic actions? concerned some Americans - who viewed Bachmann as seeking to 'demonize' her opponents and engage in demagoguery. For that she lost points, as, in general, Americans want public officials to solve problems, not to point fingers.

Hence, if Bachmann can stay constructive and substantively demonstrate that she has viable and credible answers to the nation's many problems, and can avoid name calling and other negative campaign tactics, she could secure the Republican Party's nomination for president in 2012.