Washington (CNN) – Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is increasingly serious about joining the wide-open race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
And a growing number of conservative activists, legislators and political operatives in key states stand ready to help her if she does.
Bachmann, the chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus, arrives in New Hampshire on Friday for a two-day barnstorm of the first-in-the-nation primary state, her first foray there since floating her potential White House candidacy back in January.
News of the trip immediately stirred up grassroots excitement: A Bachmann-headlined fundraiser Saturday for the New Hampshire GOP was re-located to a larger venue because of "a very strong initial interest in this event," according to a state party official.
Bachmann has already met with prominent interest groups and well-placed officials in early caucus and primary states of Iowa and South Carolina, where both Tea Partiers and Republican regulars have been impressed by her easy rapport with conservative crowds.
The trips are having an acute impact on Bachmann's thinking about the presidential race, those around her say.
"She is leaning more toward doing it," one Republican close to Bachmann told CNN. "The people she's meeting on the ground, they love her. She is definitely more encouraged when she makes these trips."
Bachmann's political advisers are quietly laying the groundwork for a dark horse campaign should she choose to join the Republican fray at some point in the spring or early summer, when she has said she will make a final decision about the race. She is returning to Iowa later this month, and has scheduled a swing through the South Carolina low country in April.
"She is seriously considering running and getting a full team lined up and making sure it's the right one," said Ryan Rhodes, the chairman of the Iowa Tea Party. "It will be different than everyone else. She will have a very good team behind her if she does decide to run."
Asked about her organizational efforts, Bachmann's chief-of-staff, Andy Parrish, reiterated that his boss is giving serious thought to running. But he would not comment on specific political outreach.
"If the congresswoman decides to do run, she is going to do it her way, and her way has never been the establishment way," Parrish said.
But both Parrish and Bachmann's media consultant, Ed Brookover, have recently started calling state party officials and other key political players in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, multiple Republican sources told CNN.
Bachmann and her team, though, appear to be taking a non-traditional approach to the caucus and primary game by seeking out potential staffers and volunteers from a farm team of newly energized Tea Party activists, rather than relying on an established corps of operatives and consultants to run the effort.
"Some aspects have to be traditional," said the source close to Bachmann. "You've got to have a media guy, you've got to have your political guy and your message guy. Then there is the non-traditional side. If she runs, you will see a grassroots campaign that looks like none you've ever seen before. It will make Barack Obama's effort pale in comparison."
The source said Bachmann's political shop has lately received an influx of resumes, including several from operatives who have worked for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the past.
If Palin decides not to seek the White House and leaves her supporters without a candidate in the race, Bachmann - with her similarly unabashed brand of conservativism - would be a clear beneficiary.
Already, Bachmann's few months of spadework have paid dividends in Iowa. Republican state Sen. Kent Sorenson, a leading Tea Party figure in the state, told CNN he plans to support Bachmann if she runs.
"There is a void out there that needs to be filled," Sorenson said. "I hope she decides to run. She is somebody that has the credentials to fire up the grassroots. She would be someone who could unite different factions of the party. She is a strong fiscal and social conservative."
Bachmann has Iowa roots - she was born in Waterloo – and is also close with Rep. Steve King, her colleague in the House who represents a conservative swath of western Iowa but has a dedicated grassroots following across the state.
Though Bachmann was not among the five potential candidates at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's annual spring forum on Monday, King won cheers from the audience of evangelicals when he plugged Bachmann's outspoken opposition to President Barack Obama's health care law.
Bachmann, if she runs, would still need to raise huge sums to compete against higher-profile candidates in the field, like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. And winning the nomination would almost certainly require a top-three finish in the Iowa caucuses.
But the idea is not so far-fetched.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad recently marveled at the crowds Bachmann can draw and said a contest featuring both her and Palin would "break all records" for caucus turnout.
Republicans in the early states have also been struck by her energy and work ethic.
After an early-morning budget vote on February 18, Bachmann boarded a pre-dawn flight out of Washington for a whirlwind tour of South Carolina featuring six different events - some large, some intimate - with donors, GOP activists and evangelical leaders.
Bachmann addressed two influential conservative groups - the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women and the Spartanburg County Republican Party - and earned multiple standing ovations at both receptions.
"Her messaging is completely in line what the conservative base believes and feels right now," said South Carolina GOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd. "People do not get standing ovations with activists unless the message is on target."
At another closed-door gathering of conservative activists prior to the Spartanburg GOP event, Bachmann received a laying-on of hands from four local Christian leaders who prayed for her protection, according to a person in the room who witnessed the moment.
Sheri Few, a South Carolina Republican activist who said she has volunteered "hundreds of hours" organizing Bachmann's travels through the state, said Bachmann's combination of personal charisma and conservative convictions would make her an immediate contender for the nomination.
"Several people told me before she came here that they had seen on her on television, that they liked her and were interested in her," Few told CNN. "But after hearing her speak they were convinced she is exactly what our country needs right now. Hearing her in person, she seems to really connect."