“By the way, this is a titanium spine,” the Minnesota congresswoman said, reaching to touch her back. “We need a bold president because we’re in an era where we have to do big things, not small things. ... I take on the opposition party, but I take on my own party as well, because I believe it is principle over party. That’s what comes first.”
As Bachmann finished her speech, the crowd’s applause was drowned out by the loud playing of “Hail to the Chief,” which is typically reserved for sitting presidents.
Bachmann introduced herself by describing her working-class upbringing, noting that as a teenager she babysat for 50 cents an hour to help her mother make ends meet.
“Our life has always been about scrimping, saving, making do with what you have,” Bachmann said. “So you can imagine my shock when I went to Washington, D.C., and saw how the members of Congress spend your money hand over fist like nothing I have ever seen before.”
Bachmann reeled off a series of statistics to try to show that the federal government has grown too large and too entitled under Obama. Before the recession began, she said, only one employee at the Department of Transportation made more than $170,000 a year. Now, she said, 1,690 employees in the department fall into that category.
And she said that the number of “federal limousines” that carry administration officials has increased 73 percent during Obama’s first term.
“So if it isn’t bad enough that we have all these czars, now they have limousines at their service,” Bachmann said, receiving hearty applause. “This is the level of waste that we’ve got in Washington, D.C.”
Asked by a prospective voter here about the country’s military actions in Afghanistan and Libya, Bachmann said she is weary of war. “We should not be there,” she said of the Libya effort, saying Obama had “taken his eye off the ball” there.
Bachmann cited the daily intelligence reports she receives as a member of the House Intelligence Committee as evidence that the United States needs to keep fighting terrorism.
“I will tell you, every day there are people who wake up thinking about how they can kill Americans today and how they can take down our nation,” Bachmann said. She added: “I am sensitive to how war-weary the nation’s been. I am. I’m sick of it ... but we need to break the back of the resolve of radical jihadists who seek to do us in. They cannot win.”
Bachmann is riding a wave of momentum in the two weeks since she announced at a New Hampshire debate that she would run for president. The official launch of her campaign Monday in her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa, drew a response from Obama’s reelection campaign, which attacked her record in Congress.
Asked about that Monday night by Fox News host Sean Hannity, Bachmann said: “Clearly what this demonstrates, Sean, is that the president of the United States is threatened by my candidacy. He fears me. He sees me as a serious, substantive competitor.”
Fergus Cullen, a former state GOP chairman who has not backed a candidate, said Bachmann has the potential to consolidate the anti-Romney vote in New Hampshire and elsewhere.
“She’s dynamic, she’s high-energy, she has charisma and she stands out in a field where all the other non-Romney candidates blend together,” Cullen said.
As Bachmann strode out of a supporter’s house here and onto a platform in the front yard, encircled by about 200 supporters, Brooks & Dunn’s “Only in America” blared from the speakers. It’s a country song that Obama frequently used on the campaign trail, as did President George W. Bush.
But as much as Bachmann’s stagecraft resembled that of other candidates, there was one difference.
“I apologize,” she said. “I did not bring teleprompters this morning. President Bachmann will be banning the teleprompter from the White House. You’ll be getting uncut, uncensored — you’ll be getting the unvarnished truth out of the White House.”