Reporting from Des Moines, Iowa — Michele Bachmann kicked off a bus tour of Iowa on Saturday, introducing herself to voters around the state and delivering a forceful critique of the growing deficit and debt under President Obama.
“Do you realize how close to the edge we are as a country?” she asked more than 100 people gathering beneath a blistering sun in front of the gold-capped Iowa statehouse. “But we are a forward-looking people. We love the next generation, and I am here to tell you I am unwilling to saddle my children and your children and your neighbors’ children with debt that we can’t possibly pay back. We will not do that. That’s immoral to the next generation. We will not steal from our children any longer.”
The Minnesota congresswoman formally launched her presidential bid earlier in the week in the town of her birth, Waterloo, Iowa. On Saturday, she began a three-day tour with 10 stops, hitting popular retail politicking sites such as a farmers market in Cedar Rapids, a Taylor’s Maid Rite in Marshalltown–-purveyors of loose meat sandwiches –- and an Iowa Cubs baseball game.
The frenzy of activity comes on the heels of a Des Moines Register poll that shows Bachmann in a statistical tie with the nominal national front-runner Mitt Romney among likely GOP voters in Iowa's caucuses.
Bachmann was warmly received at a "tea party" rally in Des Moines, a natural setting for the congresswoman who founded the tea party caucus in Congress. As attendees waved flags that said “Don’t Tread on Me,” Bachmann called for auditing the Federal Reserve, decried the declining strength of the dollar and touted her opposition to the economic stimulus, healthcare reform law, an increase to the nation’s debt limit and the Wall Street bailouts.
“Look, I have nothing against someone trying to make an honest buck. I have nothing against Wall Street. What I do have something against is when private industry can do what it wants and sticks us with the bill,” Bachmann said, adding that if she were elected, she would write a letter to the nation’s corporations and nonprofits. “I will tell them: If you get yourself to the point of bankruptcy, I’ll be sorry, but I won’t be bailing you out with the American people’s money.”
Bachmann concluded her speech by dancing a turn with husband Marcus to Elvis Presley’s “Promised Land.” She used to close her events with Tom Petty’s “American Girl” until the artist protested.
The candidate is still building a field organization in hopes of doing well at the Ames straw poll in a little over a month. But the bus tour is intended to introduce her to voters and increase her name recognition. It worked with Steve and Frances Sloan, of nearby Polk City.
Frances Sloan, 50, said she did not have a good impression of Bachmann before the event, saying the congresswoman relied on too many talking points and lacked substance.
But they were impressed by her 24-minute speech on Saturday and are now debating whether to support Bachmann or businessman Herman Cain.
“I was very impressed. She was very articulate. She’s very precise. It came from the heart,” said retiree Steve Sloan, 57.