Republican White House hopeful Michele Bachmann, beset by falling poll numbers, staff departures and reports of fund-raising troubles, vowed on Sunday to continue her campaign through the New Hampshire primary, which is likely to be in early January.
Stumping in the state for the first time since making her candidacy official in June, Bachmann kept up her attacks on Democratic President Barack Obama and urged Republicans not to compromise with a moderate nominee to oppose him.
A new poll showed the Minnesota congresswoman, a Tea Party favorite, tied for 10th place in New Hampshire after peaking as high as second in June.
Bachmann mixed harsh rhetoric with humor as she campaigned in a state she has largely ignored in favor of Iowa, which is seen as more receptive to her conservative message.
"I want to be your sweetheart here in New Hampshire," she told a meeting of about 50 Tea Party supporters.
"The thing that I would look forward to more than anything as the Republican nominee is taking Barack Obama on in the debates and holding him accountable for four years of destroying the country."
Bachmann also took a veiled swipe at Republican front-runner Mitt Romney as she campaigned in Moultonborough, on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, about 20 miles from Romney's vacation home in Wolfeboro.
Polls since 2009 have given former Massachusetts governor Romney a wide lead in the state among Republican hopefuls.
"It's not good enough to settle for anyone but Barack Obama," Bachmann said. "This is the election where we have to have a constitutional conservative."
Still, Bachmann, a evangelical Christian and social conservative, came to the defense of Romney's Mormon faith, which was criticized as a "cult" by a Texas evangelical pastor, Robert Jeffress.
"We don't have a test for people when they go into the White House," said Bachmann, who often espouses her evangelical beliefs while campaigning. "We do believe in tolerance and liberty for all Americans."
Since September Bachmann's campaign manager and pollster have resigned and a number of her Iowa campaign staff have returned to her congressional office. (Reporting by Jason McLure. Editing by Ros Krasny and Peter Bohan)
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.