Michele Bachmann Picks Up 'Support' From Tea Party Express

Tea Party Express will "support" Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign for president, the group announced Monday. But that's not a full-fledged endorsement, the national Tea Party organization clarified.

"While the Tea Party Express has not endorsed a presidential candidate at this time, Michele Bachmann garners strong Tea Party support because of her work and commitment to restoring fiscal responsibility to Washington, D.C.," Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer said, according to Roll Call.

The move is a boost for the Bachmann campaign, which has been carrying out a frenzied operation to visit the state's 99 counties ahead of the Jan. 3 caucuses. She's hoping to bolster support among the Hawkeye State's most conservative voters, who hold heavy sway in the first-in-the-nation contest.

Kremer's announcement also marks somewhat of a change of tone from the Tea Party, which hasn't coalesced around Bachmann despite her conservative credentials. Earlier this month, Bachmann finished behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a straw poll conducted by the national Tea Party Patriots group. And earlier this year, another Tea Party group, American Majority, called on Bachmann to quit the race and open up breathing space for what they described as more viable Republican presidential candidates.

Tea Party Express appears to be subscribing to a different mentality than American Majority, as Kremer argued that the primary process would benefit from having more competition during the early stages.

"The Tea Party Express is committed to finding and endorsing the strongest conservative candidate to take on President Barack Obama next year. In order to develop the best candidate, we must allow for a competitive process in Iowa and the early primary and other caucus states," Kremer said. "Let's let the voters in Iowa choose the leading candidates to go forward from the many excellent candidates we have."