Michele Bachmann, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, moved into the top tier of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination last month with her win in the Iowa straw poll, an early test of strength in the 2012 race.

Bachmann is one of the Republican contenders who will participate on Wednesday in a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in southern California.

Here are a few facts about her:

* Bachmann, 55, is founder and head of the House Tea Party Caucus. She was one of the first elected officials to court the Tea Party, which helped fuel Republican gains in the 2010 congressional elections with calls for spending cuts and reduced government and denunciations of Obama's healthcare law.

* Bachmann was once a Democrat and worked on Jimmy Carter's 1976 presidential campaign. The first time I ever went to Washington, D.C., I went to dance at Jimmy Carter's inaugural ball, Bachmann said last year. She said the turning point came while she was reading a snotty Gore Vidal novel, Burr, that she said mocked the founding fathers and made her realize she must be a Republican. She also became disillusioned with Democrats' support for abortion rights and their economic policies.

* A mother of five who has been a foster parent to 23 other children, Bachmann launched her political career as an advocate for charter schools and a critic of high taxes.

* Bachmann's views, heated rhetoric and fiery attacks on President Barack Obama have won her fans among conservative activists and donors. She raised more than $13 million for her 2010 House campaign, more than any other House candidate. She has fallen back from second into third place in most opinion polls since Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the race in August. She received a blow at the weekend when her campaign manager and his deputy stepped down.

* Before deciding to pursue the presidency, Bachmann, a born-again Christian, said she had been praying for guidance on whether to run.

* Although she has performed well in early Republican debates, she has a history of gaffes and over-the-top rhetoric. Bachmann's long stare into the wrong camera while giving the Tea Party's response to Obama's State of the Union address in January was widely lampooned.

* Before the 2008 election she said Obama may have anti-American views and suggested that anti-American members of Congress be investigated.