Michele Bachmann showed Hamilton County residents a glimpse of the Tea Party favorite who won the Ames Straw Poll three months ago. The Minnesota congresswoman roused a crowd of 45 likely caucus goers with a detailed and substantive town hall meeting.
Bachmann has seemed like a different candidate since August 13. She rose to the front of the pack following a terrific performance in her first debate in mid-June. Bachmann’s campaign was able to consolidate Tea Party, social conservative and home schooler support. However, a quick fall from Iowa frontrunner was precipitated by gaffes on trivial subjects like John Wayne’s birthplace. Once Rick Perry entered the race, he seized all the momentum. Bachmann’s reaction was to try to upstage Perry in his Iowa debut. That backfired.
Since her triumph in Ames, Bachmann’s poll numbers have spiraled down to single digits. She is an afterthought in the debates. Her former campaign manager is openly criticizing her. The Waterloo native needs a boost quickly. The Iowa Caucus is just a month and a half away. Michele Bachmann’s only chance at the presidency is a victory here.
This week, Bachmann’s campaign unveiled a new website pointing out the inconsistencies and less than conservative stances of some of her opponents. However, the best way for a Bachmann rebirth is to deliver the goods in face-to-face meetings with Iowans the way she did in Webster City on Wednesday.
“She’s fired up and I think she knows what she’s talking about,” said attendee Polly Doolittle. “She’s much more animated in person and shows she knows the issues. She’s a smart lady.” Doolittle was part of the Organize4Palin effort in Iowa and is undecided on her presidential choice.
Bachmann showed up on time, which is an improvement from most of her campaign stops. She immediately worked the room, shaking every hand. Her common “I’m an Iowan” refrain started the speech and she reminded the crowd of her Hawkeye State roots 10 times.
Bachmann spoke for about 15 minutes before taking questions from the audience. She said illegal immigration costs Iowa households $1,000 per year. “In a Bachmann administration, I will build a fence on the southern border, we’re going to end welfare payments to illegal aliens and we’re going to make English the official language of the United States.” She was rewarded with two rounds of applause for those statements.
She also scored points with the crowd by ripping President Obama for his recent decision to delay approval of the Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 elections. “He foolishly make a that decision to kick that can down the road for his own political benefit,” Bachmann said. “He is the king of crony capitalism. He is the king of paying off his friends.” She added that the oil pipeline would have generated 700,000 barrels of oil per day and created 20,000 new jobs. Bachmann also warned that Obama’s delay will result in the oil going to China instead of the United States.
During the question and answer session, Bachmann said she favors a flat tax, but failed to provide specifics. “Rates are part of it,” Bachmann said. “They would be lower than what it is now, but I haven’t come out with an exact number.”
Longtime activist Roger Hughes said that was the one weakness in Bachmann’s Webster City stop. “I thought when she got into the tax policy she wasn’t clear and concise and allowed for the group to take her a little off base,” Hughes said. “Her foreign policy statements were short and to the point. Clearly, she fired them up today, which is what you have to do. They don’t go out in the middle of a snow storm to caucus for you unless you fire them up and she did.”
Bachmann played up her foreign policy credentials, as well as her social conservative beliefs. She hit all the right notes with a crowd that concurred with almost everything she said. “I thought she did very well and I think she was received very well by the people,” said Hamilton County central committee member Becky Kepler. Following her speech, the audience gave Michele Bachmann a standing ovation.
The Minnesota congresswoman spoke briefly with reporters following the event. She might have stepped into some trouble while criticizing fellow GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich for his ties to government sponsored mortgage lender Freddie Mac. Gingrich is now among the frontrunners in the field but is facing tough questions about his ties to Freddie Mac.
“Well Fannie and Freddie as you know have been the epicenter of this financial meltdown in this country and whether former speaker Gingrich made $300,000 or whether he made $2 million, the point is that he took money to also influence senior Republicans to be favorable toward Fannie and Freddie,” Bachmann said. “While he was taking that money, I was fighting against Fannie and Freddie.”
However, Bachmann’s attacks on Gingrich reveal some hypocrisy. She received campaign contributions from Freddie Mac’s political action committee in 2007 and 2008. This is one line of attack that Bachmann should avoid using in the future.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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