(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Costa Mesa — Michele Bachmann, struggling to regain her footing in the GOP presidential contest, Friday assailed rival Rick Perry, saying he abused his power as governor of Texas and rewarded political donors in a manner similar to President Obama.
"It's wrong to abuse executive authority with unilateral action, and of course the governor of Texas admitted as much that he made a mistake," Bachmann said, speaking to reporters after holding a rally in Costa Mesa. "People don't want a president or a governor making decisions based on political connections. It's wrong."
The Minnesota congresswoman was referring to an executive order signed by Perry requiring that young girls be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer that was made by a company that donated to Perry's campaigns.
She compared it to the federal controversy unfolding around Solyndra, a solar equipment maker that received a $535-million federal loan guarantee and which went bankrupt last month. Republicans have suggested that the guarantee was pushed by the White House to reward a major campaign donor with ties to Solyndra's biggest shareholder, a charge the Obama administration denies.
Bachmann also sought to tie Perry's effort, which was ultimately blocked by the Texas Legislature, to Obama's healthcare law in a Web video and fundraising appeal to supporters in which she dubs his efforts as "Perrycare," a riff on the "Obamacare" label that some use to describe the president's healthcare reform package.
"Whether it's Obamacare or Perrycare, I oppose any governor or president who mandates a family's healthcare choices," Bachmann says in the video. "Especially if the decision-making process occurs behind closed doors, bypassing legislative action, and favors campaign contributors over families."
Bachmann received credit for calling Perry out on the matter during a debate Monday night, but she quickly stumbled by claiming that the vaccine was dangerous and could cause "mental retardation." According to the CDC and physicians, even among people who have the most severe reactions, the vaccine does not cause cognitive disability.
Bachmann repeatedly refused to walk back on her remarks, saying she had heard from a mother whose daughter experienced such a reaction.
"I'm not a doctor, I'm not a scientist. I was just relating what the woman had told me about her daughter," she said.
Bachmann, who shook up the GOP field when she entered the presidential contest this summer but who has been eclipsed in recent weeks by Perry's entry, made the remarks to reporters after speaking to about 100 people under dreary skies at the Orange County fairgrounds. An appearance by Perry last week in nearby Corona del Mar drew 1,000 supporters.
In her remarks to the crowd, in addition to castigating Obama's handling of the economy, Bachmann said Obama was acting like a "dictator" in forcing insurance companies to offer contraception, and rebuked him for allowing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to step on American soil to attend a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations next week.
"He has expressed the words of a genocidal maniac. Why would we allow someone like that to come in and address the United Nations in New York City and then have coffee with students afterword at Columbia University?" she said. "I think we can do better than this."
Bachmann laid out an aggressive plan for her first 100 days in office, saying she would overhaul the tax code, repeal the healthcare overhaul and the Dodd-Frank banking legislation, and increase domestic energy production. She urged the crowd to support her.
"We need to have as our next nominee one tough hombre, or in my case, one tough hombre-ette, that will stand up for the U.S. Constitution and not be ashamed," Bachmann said. "I'm up for it. I think you're up for it because I know in 2012 we can take this country back and we will make Barack Obama a one-term president!"
Bachmann was on a two-day swing through California. She has been holding fundraisers, and was scheduled to tape an appearance on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and keynote the California Republican Party's convention on Friday.
Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney is also in the state fundraising, but he had no public appearances planned. Perry released a list of volunteer team leaders in the state on Friday.