The American presidential credentials of Tea Party favourite Michele Bachmann came under damaging scrutiny yesterday, when former aides claimed she repeatedly suffered from "incapacitating" migraines and a tape recording emerged in which she said the end of the world was nigh.
The Minnesota congresswoman has surged to the front of the Republican primary race in recent weeks, attracting criticism for her strident anti-homosexual views and former membership of a controversial evangelical church.
But her new prominence has prompted former advisers to express doubt that her migraines would allow her to sit in the Oval Office, or even last a full campaign.
"As president, when she's in crisis management mode, is she going to have the physical ability to withstand the most difficult challenges facing America?" a former employee told 'The Daily Caller' website. "It's a careful choice of words I used: 'incapacitated'."
Mrs Bachmann (55) suffers attacks on average once a week and can be put out of action for days at a time, the advisers said. Migraines are said to have landed the candidate in hospital on at least three occasions and require heavy medication.
"When she gets them, frankly, she can't function at all," said one adviser.
The report on her illness has further armed Mrs Bachmann's critics both inside and outside the Republican Party, who see her as too extreme to be a mainstream candidate and as someone guaranteed to lose to President Barack Obama in 2012.
A recording is widely circulating on the internet of a prayer she is said to have delivered in 2006 at a ministry run by Bradlee Dean, a controversial preacher who has called for homosexuals to be locked up.
Predicting "we are in the last days" and declaring "the harvest is at hand", an apparent allusion to the belief that God will take saved Christians from the Earth and leave non-believers behind to face never-ending torment.
"The day is at hand, Lord, when your return will come nigh. Nothing is more important than bringing sheep into the fold, than bringing life into the new kingdom," she prayed.
Mrs Bachmann has toned down her religious rhetoric since running for president, and is focusing her campaign on opposing the president on health care and government spending.
But her religious views helped attract conservative voters in Minnesota when she was first elected, along with her opposition to gay marriage and homosexuality.
The mother of five once lamented that "the gay and lesbian lifestyle" was a life of "personal bondage", while her husband Marcus has likened youth tempted by homosexual experimentation to "barbarians". (© Daily Telegraph, London)