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Published January 03, 2012, 10:01 AM

Bachmann predicts surprise amid ominous Iowa signs

URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, fighting low expectations in the Iowa caucuses, is dismissing predictions that a poor showing could effectively doom her campaign.

By: BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press

URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, fighting low expectations in the Iowa caucuses, is dismissing predictions that a poor showing could effectively doom her campaign.

"We think people are going to be very surprised with what the vote is tonight. We're confident," Bachmann said after addressing an assembly of suburban high school students Tuesday morning. "We're moving on. We're moving forward because this election is far from over. This is the opening chapter. Tonight is the first vote. We've got a long road to go."

Bachmann spent the morning before the big vote deflecting questions about her staying power, sounding a similar message in multiple interviews in which she called herself the "one true conservative" in the GOP contest.

At the school, she signed a pledge crafted by Iowa Rep. Steve King to repeal the new national health insurance law. King is influential among Iowa conservatives but has remained neutral in the race.

Once seen as the candidate to beat in the state's lead-off nomination contest, the Minnesota congresswoman and Iowa native planned to make her final appeal for support at a caucus site in Black Hawk County, where she spent the first years of her life. Her schedule ahead of the night's voting was packed with interviews on Iowa airwaves and with conservative radio shows nationally.

Every recent poll has Bachmann in last place heading into the caucuses, a far cry from her summer win in a state GOP straw poll. But top campaign advisers vowed she would prove the recent surveys wrong by activating a support network built through her visits to small towns and churches in every corner of Iowa.

She said she is banking on "silent support" not detected in polling. Bachmann has touted her backing by more than 200 pastors, many of whom she believes will turn out their entire congregations on her behalf.

The campaign also sent emails to Republicans in all 99 Iowa counties with Bachmann issuing a tailored greeting while surrounded by locals. Her state chairman, Iowa state Sen. Brad Zaun, said there hadn't been any "what if" conversations should the vote bear out the poll numbers.

Even after a grueling few weeks, Bachmann projected no outward signs of defeat. She exhibited her usual pep and smiled continually throughout a 6,000-plus-mile, 10-day sprint through Iowa, including stops where crowds were thin.

From Iowa, Bachmann planned to head straight to South Carolina, which hosts the first Southern primary, on Jan. 21. She won't arrive in New Hampshire, which holds a primary next week, until the weekend for a couple of nationally televised debates.

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