House Tea Party Caucus leader Michele Bachmann is surging in the GOP presidential polls and now is virtually tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Iowa, the crucial early-voting state.
Despite joining the primary race in earnest only two weeks ago, when she shone in a debate, Bachmann trailed Romney only narrowly, by 1 percent, this weekend in a Des Moines Register poll.
And then on Monday, Bachmann stole the spotlight again as she announced her candidacy officially from her home state of Iowa. Bachmann’s speech announcing she is officially tossing her hat in the right aired just after 10 a.m.
“I want my candidacy for the presidency of the United States to stand for a moment when we the people should stand once again for the independence from a government that has gotten too big, and spends too much, and has taken away too much of our liberties,” said Bachmann from Waterloo, the town in Iowa where she was born and spent her early years.
In the polls, Romney, who has been building a campaign for two years, led with just 23 percent, while Bachmann had 22 percent. Retired pizza chief Herman Cain was is in third place with 10 percent, followed by a host of other candidates in the single digits in the survey of likely Republican caucus voters.
One independent Republican pollster said the results prove that Bachmann is a real contender for the GOP nomination. “This would indicate that she’s going to be a real player in Iowa,” Randy Gutermuth told the Register.
Editor's Note: Read Newsmax's Exclusive Interview with Rep. Michele Bachmann — Go Here Now!
The Minnesota congresswoman said she is pleased with the Register poll results, according to The Associated Press.
And, in an exclusive interview in the latest issue of Newsmax magazine, Bachmann said Washington is a “corrupt paradigm” of government that she’ll change as president.
“I think it is because of the corrupt paradigm that has become Washington, D.C., whereby votes continually are bought rather than representatives voting the will of their constituents . . . That’s the voice that’s been missing at the table in Washington, D.C. — the people's voice has been missing. The lobbyists have been here,” Bachmann explained.
“They have their day. The unions are here, they have their day. Big corporations have their day — and I'm not against corporations, I love them. And I'm not against any of those entities, they can have their voice. But why is it that the ones paying the bills, our voice, is seldom heard here? And that's what this election is going to be about — who gets to be at that table. Will it be the people, or will it be something very different, because Barack Obama is turning this nation into a Third World, socialist nation.”
“We're seeing the nation move into decline. I'm not willing to do that. I'm not satisfied. I grew up with John Wayne’s America. I was proud that you grew up in John Wayne’s America: Proud to be an American, thrilled to be a patriot,” Bachmann said. “I always knew that I could do better if I worked hard. Now, when I talk to parents, they don't think that that is the case for their children. That's not the America that I want to have. I want to see us on the upswing, and not on the decline. So I'm really very excited about bringing that positive message out.”
After only four years in Congress, the former government tax lawyer has made a name for herself as an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama, in particular his costly reform of healthcare. Bachmann also seized the limelight Sunday in a series of high-profile interviews on Fox and CBS in which she slammed the debt ceiling politics of the Obama administration.
In an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," Bachmann said she has "no intention" of voting for a hike to the limit, and argued that lawmakers should be focused on cutting spending rather than incurring more debt.
"It isn't true that the government would default on its debt," Bachmann told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "Because, very simply, the Treasury Secretary can pay the interest on the debt first, and then, from there, we have to just prioritize our spending."
"I have no intention of voting to raise the debt ceiling," she emphasized.
The Obama administration has urged Congress to raise the debt limit by Aug. 2 to avoid economic catastrophe. The Treasury Department has taken accounting steps to keep the government from defaulting since hitting the ceiling on May 16, but has said the "extraordinary measures" under way now will only get the country through the August date.
Bachmann argued that raising the debt limit was not necessary, and that the urgency attached to the Aug. 2 deadline was an example of "scare tactics" being employed by the Obama administration to manipulate Congress.
"Experts inside and outside the government say that, if we don't raise the debt ceiling, we face the United States having to default on its financial obligations," Schieffer said. "Are you saying these are scare tactics? Or are you saying that's not true? How can you say that?"
"It is scare tactics," Bachmann said. "Because, Bob, the interest on the debt isn't any more than ten percent of what we're taking in. In fact, it's less than that. And so the Treasury Secretary can very simply pay the interest on the debt first, then we're not in default.
"What it means is we have to seriously prioritize," she continued. "It would be very tough love. But, I have been here long enough in Washington D.C. that I've seen smoke and mirrors time and time again."
Bachmann said that, if elected president, she would respond to the country's deficit crisis by additional budget reductions.
"I would begin very seriously by cutting spending," she said. "President Obama, again, he spent a trillion dollar stimulus program that's been an abject failure. We need to seriously cut back on spending first and foremost, and then prioritize."
Asked what if anything government could do to increase job creation, Bachmann said corporate tax rates must be cut.
"We have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world; we need to drop that significantly, so that we have a pro-business, pro-job creation environment," she said. "So if we cut back the corporate tax rate, if we would zero out the capital gains rates, allow for 100 percent expensing when a job creator buys equipment for their business, that would go a long way toward job creators recognizing that this is a pro-business environment."
"But right now businesses are looking at the uncertainty," Bachmann said. "They know that 'Obamacare' is coming down the pike. The Congressional Budget Office estimated 'Obamacare' will cost the economy 800,000 jobs."
"That is data that other people would question," Schieffer said.
"That's the Congressional Budget Office. That's not Michele Bachmann. That's Congressional Budget Office figures saying that we have the potential of losing 800,000 jobs. Why in this economy would you put this very expensive, unwieldy program that's going to cost jobs when job creation is our real problem right now?"
After months of flirting with a run, Bachmann, 55, enters the Republican campaign with an event in her hometown of Waterloo. The Midwestern state holds the first contest on the road to her party's nomination for the right to challenge Obama in 2012.
Her strong performance at a New Hampshire debate two weeks ago has given her a boost and prompted Republicans to take a second look at Bachmann, who is a mother of five children on her own and has provided foster care for 23 others.
Bachmann said the Des Moines Register poll matches her experience in Iowa.
"We had very strong support, enthusiasm wherever we went, and so this confirmed that," she said Sunday.
Interviewed on the "Fox News Sunday" program, Bachmann was confronted with what interviewer Chris Wallace called past verbal gaffes and misstatements of fact, and he asked her, "Are you a flake?"
"That would be insulting, to say something like that, because I'm a serious person," Bachmann responded, listing her achievements as a former tax lawyer with a post-doctorate degree in federal tax law, a state lawmaker and businesswoman.
Her rise is proof that the tea party conservative movement remains a potent force after helping Republicans win control of the House of Representatives in elections in November.
"The tea party was wildly successful because it was not personality driven," said Republican strategist Scott Reed. "Bachmann's challenge is to harness that energy and score an early state victory."
Bachmann will be vying with conservative rivals such as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in Iowa, where social conservatives play a major role in Republican politics.
Her presence in the race also could dampen the chances that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will make a late entry into the campaign, since their messages resonate with the same conservative voters, Reuters reported.
Unlike Palin, Bachmann holds public office and has a role in the Republican Party, as head of the House Tea Party Caucus.
Bachmann's path to the nomination would have to include a victory or a high finish in Iowa's caucuses early next year, along with a strong result in South Carolina's primary.
New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary may be a tougher test for her, since Romney, who many consider the front-runner in the race, leads the polls there.
Bachmann's brand of conservatism has generated such proposed legislation as the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act that would prevent the government from requiring Americans to use energy-efficient light bulbs.
"The question for me is whether she can get any establishment support," said Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak. "We know she has Tea Party support. But the question is, can she gain credibility with the establishment, governors, senators, senior members of the party in and out of office."
Editor's Note: Read Newsmax's Exclusive Interview with Rep. Michele Bachmann — Go Here Now!
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