Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Bachmann Wows 'Em in the East

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BachmannJust one day after officially beginning her campaign for President in neighboring Iowa, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann went to the East Coast and campaigned Tuesday in both northern New England and the deep South, speaking at rallies in the early voting states of New Hampshire and South Carolina and finding receptive crowds in both states.

The Minnesota phenomenon, who has overshadowed both former Governor Sarah Palin, the celebrity on tour from Alaska, and rival candidate former Gov. Tim Pawlenty from her own state of Minnesota, appears to be on a roll, with at least one recent poll showing her in a statistical dead heat in Iowa with perceived front runner Mitt Romney, the multi-millionaire businessman and former Governor of Massachusetts. Her verbal gaffes notwithstanding, Bachmann seems to embody the very "Yes, we can" spirit that helped carry Barack Obama to the White House, even as she lashes out against the Democratic incumbent on everything from the bombing of Libya to the ObamaCare health plan to the joblessness that has resisted the hundreds of billions of dollars of "economic stimulus," as well as the "shovel-ready" rhetoric of the President's campaign of "hope and change."

In New Hampshire, site of the nation's first presidential primaries, Bachmann addressed a gathering of about 200 cheering Granite Staters waving signs and flags in the backyard of Tom and Tracy Hoenig in Raymond. She pledged her first order of business as President will be to repeal the "job-killer" ObamaCare. She also promised to reduce taxes and regulations, a message she believes resonates with voters in New Hampshire, the state with the motto, "Live Free or Die."

"There are two things about New Hampshire: they hate high taxes and they love liberty and that is Michele Bachmann," the three-term representative from Minnesota's Sixth District commented in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Declaring for peace, and both fiscal and social conservatism, Bachmann referred again to her "titanium spine" and her determination to achieve "peace by strength national security."

On war issues, Bachmann has attacked Obama from both sides, deploring his decision to lead a NATO bombing campaign against Libya, as well as what she believes is a too rapidly planned drawdown of forces in Afghanistan. (Obama's announced he will reduce the total number of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan by 33,000 by the summer of 2012; this would leave about 70,000, more than twice the U.S. troop strength at the beginning of 2008.) She also voted with the majority of members of Congress to renew the controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, despite the protests of those who say that the effort to increase security through enhanced surveillance is too much of an invasion of privacy and compromise of civil liberties as well as a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Bachmann, 55, is the mother of five and has been foster mother to 23 teenagers, an experience which might be useful when dealing as President with an unruly Congress. She has been a staunch foe of abortion and same-sex marriage, two issues that set her sharply at odds with the Obama administration and with some Republicans who wish to play down the social issues in order to keep "gay" and "pro-choice" Republicans in the party's "big tent" and keep the national campaign focused on economic issues. Mitt Romney, who championed both abortion "rights" and equal rights for homosexuals and lesbians as Governor and as a candidate for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, has since switched to a more conservative stance, taking a pro-life stand on abortion and opposing same-sex marriage as a candidate for President. While Romney had never declared himself in favor of "gay marriage," he implemented as Governor the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts by requiring the town and city clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples when the Legislature had refused to act on the court's order to change the state's definition of marriage.

The Minnesota Congresswoman also took issue with the global warming or "climate change" agenda, saying it is not certain that climate changes are due primarily to human activity. Her tendency to stumble into a historical wonderland was on display again during her campaign kickoff in Iowa when she declared Waterloo as the birthplace of motion picture star and conservative icon John Wayne. That may cost the congresswoman, herself a Waterloo native, some votes in Winterset, Iowa, where residents are proud to inhabit the birthplace of the great "Duke" Wayne.  And Waterloo residents would probably rather not be reminded that their town was once home to serial killer John Wayne Gacy. On an earlier trip to New Hampshire, Bachmann confused Concord, New Hampshire, with Concord, Massachusetts, claiming the New Hampshire capital as the birthplace of the American Revolution. She has also, according to some reports, placed dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden. The Bible makes no mention of them and there are no surviving witnesses, even in the U.S. Senate.

A Tea Party favorite and founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, Bachmann believes her popularity crosses partisan and ideological lines, as her message resonates with Democrats and Independents as well as conservative members of her own party. "I think I'm the unifying candidate," she said in New Hampshire.

Bachmann flew from her morning appearance in New Hampshire down the coast to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she drew what was described as the largest crowd yet in the young presidential campaign. About 400 gathered to hear the new candidate, far outnumbering crowds that have turned out in the Palmetto State to see and hear former Speaker of the House and Georgia neighbor Newt Gingrich or Romney or former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman or Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania Senator who has been popular with social conservatives. Bachmann, whose radiant smile and cheery disposition offset her stern message of budget cutting and facing down terrorists with a "titanium spine," obviously connected with the Southern patriots.

"If enthusiasm alone wins elections, Bachmann might not have much to worry about in the coming months," reported Peter Hamby of the Cable News Network. Her flight from New Hampshire brought her to the South Carolina event a bit behind schedule, but "her tardiness did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd," Hamby observed.

With her husband Marcus on the platform with her, Bachmann struck one of several responsive chords she found in the South Carolina crowd when she ridiculed the National Labor Relations Board complaint against Boeing's plans to open a plant in North Charleston. The NLRB opposes the plan because South Carolina is a right-to-work state, meaning workers cannot be compelled to join a union as a condition of employment.

Bachmann also zeroed in on a favorite target of conservative Republicans, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, accusing him of wanting to increase taxes on small businesses in order to maintain the huge network of government programs. The candidate cited her own experience as a "former federal tax lawyer" to underscore her conviction that high taxes wreak devastating, often fatal, havoc on small businesses.

While South Carolina, like the rest of the South, has been fertile ground for conservative Republicans ever since the Democratic Party of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson embraced the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, Bachmann vowed to carry her campaign into Democratic strongholds as well, including the "blue state" of Hawaii, which claims Obama as a native son. "We want to win Hawaii," Bachmann told the Carolinians. "And we think there is a certain Hawaiian President who should go back to Hawaii!"

Photo of Michele Bachmann: AP Images

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