CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Michele Bachmann has a new message for conservative Republicans: "We can't settle."
Speaking on Monday to a crowd of about 50 in a hotel ballroom here, the GOP presidential hopeful reiterated her new campaign theme more than 10 times in her stump speech. "Of all years, this is the year where we don't have to settle," Bachmann told the crowd of largely middle-aged and older Iowans.
The implication was that Republicans don't have to settle on a presidential nominee whose conservative bona fides are anything less than sterling. And as her once-meteoric star seems to be falling, Bachmann is going out of her way to draw distinctions between herself and other conservatives in the field.Special Section: Campaign 2012
"We're beginning to see that there are differences in the candidates," Bachmann said. In a pointed reference to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose entrance into the race coincided with Bachmann's drop in the polls, the Minnesota congresswoman added: "We're finding out that there are candidates who are compromised when it comes to political donors--that political donors have given them money and then a lot of political appointments and a lot of deals have been given back to those political donors. And our candidate can't be compromised when it comes to owing political favors."
Bachmann usually fires up her supporters with a line about making President Obama a "one ... term ... president," which made her new appeal all the more striking.
"(Obama) will not have a second term. The country has already made up its decision. I am convinced of it." Bachmann argued. "The issue is, who will be our nominee? Will it be someone who understands these issues so that they will go and fight for them, or will we have a compromise candidate?" She reiterated the theme in an evening appearance on Fox News. "I am the constitutional conservative in the race," she told host Bill O'Reilly.Bachmann has previously raised the issue of Perry's connections to a lobbyist who worked for the vaccine manufacturer. Today, when asked a question by a woman in the crowd as to how voters should differentiate between the true conservatives running for office, the congresswoman pointed to the need for full vetting of each candidate.
One day before Bachmann visited Iowa, the state where she was born and where she's hoping a strong showing in next year's caucuses will be a springboard for her candidacy, another one of the candidates competing for the same fiscally and socially conservative constituency took a swipe at her. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., suggested she has a reputation for being difficult to work with on Capitol Hill.
In the O'Reilly interview, Bachmann acknowledged Iowa's significance to her campaign. "We are focusing on Iowa," she said. "Iowa is where we are putting our time."
Santorum was getting a second look from some early Bachmann supporters when he visited a gun show at the Iowa State fair yesterday. But today, in Cedar Rapids, the crowd seemed thoroughly behind Bachmann.
"She's from Iowa. And I mean that in a nice way--in the nicest way, in that she has--I think she has my shared values," said Cedar Rapids resident Dick Schley. "She resonates with me, and I think many people across middle America, of course. I just hope it translates nationally."