Michele Bachmann's dodging could define campaign (video)

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., on 'Face the nation,' Sunday, June 26, 2011.
CBS/Chris Usher

As Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign for the presidency puts her under the microscope, she's getting tough questions from reporters. And at times, she isn't answering them.

Bachmann certainly has clearly answered some of the questions put to her during her recent media tour, but her silence on others has been loud. And while she's not the first politician not to answer questions, her dodging and misstatements are threatening to define her initial campaign push.

On this Sunday's "Face the Nation" and Tuesday's "Early Show" on CBS, Bachmann answered some the questions posed to her. But at other times she simply spoke past them. (Watch in the video above.)

On "Face the Nation," for example, host Bob Schieffer pressed Bachmann to take a stand against fellow Republican candidate Mitt Romney over his Massachusetts health care law that served as a model for President Obama's plan.

Rep. Michele Bachmann
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., on 'Face the Nation,' Sunday, June 26, 2011.
CBS/Chris Usher

"Should his plan that he passed in Massachusetts be held against him?" asked Schieffer.

"I firmly am against the individual mandate. I think it is unconstitutional whether it's put into place at the state level by a state legislature or whether it's put into place at the federal level. I think it's unconstitutional..." said Bachmann.

"So when you get on the stage with Mitt Romney, are you going to say anything about his health care plan, or..." Schieffer pressed.

"Well, I suppose it depends on who's asking the questions," she replied. "Usually we aren't able to just go on our own. But I'm sure I undoubtedly will be bringing up this issue of health care, because it's been the signature issue for President Obama. People are not happy with it. The President needed to focus on the economy. And what this will be is one of the largest spending projects that the federal government has ever taken on. And we simply can't afford it right now. So I -- undoubtedly, this is something we'll talk about."

Bachmann did not, you'll note, directly address the question in that response.

It was one of many such examples. Later in the broadcast, Schieffer asked the three-term Congresswoman if support for same-sex marriage would be a litmus test for her in nominating judges.

"I want people who are for the Constitution. That's my litmus test. I want judges who are committed to the fidelity of the Constitution. And not acting outside the bounds of Article Three," Bachmann responded.

"So a person who may have been on the record as saying he favored same sex marriage, you wouldn't disqualify that person for nominating them to the Supreme Court?" he asked, seeking a direct answer.

Bachmann's reply: "My primary test will be the Constitution. They need to be a strong constitutionalist and recognize that just as the justices should not act outside of the bounds, neither should the Congress, neither should the president."

"I have to say, I don't think you answered the question. But I'll go on," said Schieffer.

As the interview was wrapping up, Schieffer asked Bachmann about her record for misstatements, noting that the nonpartisan website Politifact has rated more than 20 of her statements as less than true. 

"How do you explain that?" he asked. She answered by talking about President Obama's offshore drilling record.

Schieffer pushed back: "quickly, though -- the original question I asked you is, all of these statements that you have made that have later proven to be sort of true, or totally false in some cases -- what's your answer when people say that to you? Do you feel you have misled people?"

"No, I haven't misled people at all," replied Bachmann. "I think the question would be asked of President Obama, "When you told the American people that if we borrow a trillion dollars from other countries and spend it on a stimulus, that we won't have unemployment go above eight percent," and today, as we're sitting here, it's 9.1 percent and the economy is tanking, that is what's serious," she said - and continued on that point until Schieffer stopped her.

"Again, I have to say, Congresswoman, I asked you a question, and you, to my knowledge, I don't believe you answered it," he said.

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    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.