Bachmann grabs Iowa momentum, says she’s ready to take on Obama

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One day after winning the Iowa straw poll, GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann did a victory lap Sunday, hitting all the major political talk shows and pushing the message that she is the Republican best qualified to defeat President Obama.

“[Voters] really want to take the country back,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think they see in me a champion.”

“Obama is my strategy,” she later said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I intend to be the nominee of the Republican Party and to take him on and to defeat him in 2012.”

The congresswoman from Minnesota shook up the GOP contest with a critical victory on Saturday in the Ames straw poll, edging out Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 4,823 votes, or 29 percent, to 4,671 votes, or 28 percent, for Mr. Paul out of nearly 17,000 cast.

“I’m grateful that we won the straw poll,” Mrs. Bachmann told NBC, “but we see this as just a small step in a very long race.”

The straw poll has served historically to weed out weaker Republican candidates rather than as a boost to the White House.

In the five times it has been held during a contested Republican presidential primary, only once has the winner gone on to win the presidential election — George W. Bush in the 2000 cycle. One other poll winner — Bob Dole, who finished in a first-place tie with Sen. Phil Gramm in the 1995 vote — has gone on to win the Republican nomination, but lose in November. Straw-poll winners George H.W. Bush in 1979, Pat Robertson in 1987 and Mitt Romney in 2007 all failed to win the party’s eventual nod.

Saturday’s poll results forced out former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. After finishing in a disappointing third place in the poll with 14 percent of the vote, he announced the end of his campaign on Sunday.

“I wish him well,” Mrs. Bachmann said of Mr. Pawlenty on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He brought a really important voice into the race, and I am grateful that he was in. He was really a very good competitor,” she said.

Mr. Pawlenty’s exit sets off a scramble for his supporters among Mrs. Bachmann, national front-runner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the others in the GOP field.

Mrs. Bachmann and Mr. Perry appeared at a Sunday afternoon GOP fundraiser, the Black Hawk County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in Waterloo.

Mrs. Bachmann, a three-term congresswoman who has been billed as a hard-line conservative, said Sunday that she is confident she can add independents, and even Democrats who are unhappy with the Obama administration, to her growing base of support.

“They’ll tell me, ‘I voted for Barack Obama,’ ” she said, ” ‘but I’m not voting for him again.’ “

Still, she is struggling to garner support from some in her own party.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” congressional colleague Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, called her a friend but stopped short of endorsing her bid for the presidency.

“I already know who will make the best friend,” he said. “But we need to weigh who will make the best president of the United States.”

Mr. Perry’s entrance into the race is expected to have the most immediate impact on Mrs. Bachmann’s campaign. Both politicians have strong backing among tea party activists and social conservatives, but the congresswoman took the high road Sunday.

“I welcome anyone who’s coming into the race, and I think it will be good competition for everyone,” Mrs. Bachmann said. “He’ll run his campaign, we’ll run ours, but we really look forward to that.”

Still, she added the Waterloo event to her schedule after the Perry campaign announced that the Texas governor would attend.

On her tour of the Sunday talk shows, Mrs. Bachmann attacked the Obama administration on the economy.

“We’re in a mess, and we can turn this around,” she said on Fox, “but we have to have a president who is sending a message that we’re serous about business. I am.”

She said recent bad news about the economy has been a “punch to the gut” for the American people.

She talked about removing “regulatory” red tape to get the economy flourishing again.

“What we’re doing right now isn’t working,” she said. “We’ve got to turn it around.”

On “Meet the Press,” host David Gregory pressed Mrs. Bachmann on her views of homosexuality, which she has described as “sad” and “sexual dysfunction.” He also asked whether an atheist could serve in her administration.

She said religious views or sexual preference would not be a litmus test in her administration.

“I am running to be the president of the United States,” she said. “I am not running to be any person’s judge.”

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