If Michele Bachmann's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination is on its deathbed, it was impossible to tell from the reception the Minnesota congresswoman received Friday at the 2011 Values Voters Summit.
"Bachmann! Bachmann!" the audience at the Washington gathering chanted spontaneously as she took the stage; standing ovations from the mostly full audience frequently punctuated her address.
But Bachmann, who is struggling to resuscitate a campaign that's down-spiraled since her win at Iowa's Ames Straw Poll in August, struggled to focus her message. Trying to appeal to all sectors of conservatism, she spoke more than 25 minutes over her allotted time, talking right through the assigned slots of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Uncharacteristically, she read from a script.
She made several mentions of the fiscally-focused tea party - a subject most candidates avoided at an event dominated by religious conservatives, suggesting that it could be a bridge among disparate sectors of the electorate.
"That movement, united with a pro-family movement, the Republican Party, with disaffected Democrats, and independents, with people who have never been political a day in their life, I attest to you, this united movement will deliver the victory in 2012," Bachmann declared.
But Bachmann's new campaign message that conservatives "shouldn't settle" this cycle hums a very different tune.
"We don't have to settle," she said Friday, before continuing to echo the sentiment at least a dozen times. "This is not the election to choose a moderate or a compromise candidate." Arguing that she has "proven time and time again that I stand with you," Bachmann said, "let's finally have one of us in the White House!"
Her speech, however, left unclear who "us" would be. After attacking President Obama's health care law and his stewardship of the economy, promising $2-a-gallon gas, declaring her respect for the troops and touting her post on the House Intelligence Committee, Bachmann seemed to connect best with the audience in her final appeal.
"When I was 16 years old, I chose to select a personal relationship with Jesus Christ," the congresswoman said to her longest ovation of the night. In a lengthy soliloquy on social issues, heavy on anti-abortion language, Bachmann told an approving audience that children should have the right to live because "all are made in the image and sacred likeness of the Holy God."
In the wake of a last-place finish at the Presidency 5 straw poll in Florida, Bachmann could benefit from a respectable showing in the event's straw poll Saturday.