U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) fundraising ability would be a big asset in 2012 . (Darren McCollester/GETTY IMAGES)

The Minnesota conservative raised $1.7 million for her congressional reelection campaign and an additional $500,000 for her PAC. Campaign funds could be transferred to a future presidential campaign; PAC funds could not.

That means altogether she raked in $2.2 million in federal donations. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney raised $1.9 million alogether in the same time period, mostly through his Free and Strong America PAC.

Bachmann raised $250,000 in just the last 48 hours of the reporting period, which ended Thursday night.

The strong first quarter showing for Bachmann comes on the heels of her raising $13.5 million for her 2010 campaign, by far the largest total compiled by any House challenger or incumbent on the ballot last November. By comparison, Bachmann took in $810,000 in the first quarter of 2010.

What’s now become clear is that Bachmann has an ability to translate her national conservative celebrity into cash. And in what looks like a very crowded primary field for the 2012 Republican nomination, that ability should not be overlooked.

(Bachmann has not yet announced for president; she has said only that she is likely to form an exploratory committee to begin raising cash for such a bid by this summer.)

Money, while important in any political race, has not always proven determinative in past contests. For example, Romney far outspent Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 primary campaign but ultimately lost the nomination.

Bachmann is clearly using her fundraising abilities to build buzz and momentum for a presidential bid. Once she gets into the race — assuming she does — she will have to prove to voters that she is more than a fundraising dynamo.