Michele Bachmann takes her campaign show on road in Iowa

As her road show rolled across Iowa Friday, Rep. Michele Bachmann deployed crisp one-liners and savvy stagecraft to rally supporters to Saturday’s Republican presidential straw poll.

With Elvis blaring from a parking-lot sound system, the Minnesota congresswoman bounded out of her campaign bus and unleashed a flurry of attacks on President Obama.

“We’ve had a huge punch in the gut in the United States this last week, haven’t we?” Bachmann asked a crowd of about 60 people in the small town of Indianola, referring to the debt deal passed by Congress. “We saw a blank check given to President Obama for $2.4 trillion and what did we get in return? $21 billion in ‘maybe-cuts’ in the future. What kind of deal is that? That’s a raw deal — happens all the time. Why is it the government always wins? Why is it that [the] taxpayer always loses?”

What Bachmann lacked in specifics, she made up for in showmanship.

“After paying taxes, this is what I’ve got,” she said, pulling out the right side pocket of her sleeveless dress to show her empty pocket. “Who’s got a dollar in their pocket?”

Then she turned to her husband, Marcus, who was standing offstage squinting in the sun, and called him up to the platform. Marcus Bachmann pulled out his leather wallet and gave his wife a $1 bill.

“Here is one of our American dollars,” Michele Bachmann said, using it to illustrate the nation’s deep debt. “Under Barack Obama, since he became president, we have lost 12 percent in value of the dollar.”

She held the bill up, folding over approximately 12 percent of the bill to illustrate the nation’s deep debt.

“You can trust me with a dollar,” she said. “Do you know that? I’m good for it!”

Some 12 minutes into her appearance, Bachmann invited questions from the crowd. She walked off the stage to take a question from Jim Dawson, 53, a registered Democrat and owner of a metal fabricating firm here. He said he voted for Obama but is disappointed with his performance and is open to voting for someone else.

Dawson asked her if she would consider cutting tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, such as big oil companies.

“I think all the things that you’re talking about need to be on the table, every one of them, they have to be on the table,” Bachmann replied.

“I think the best thing government can do is stop playing favorites through the tax code,” Bachmann said. “Why should your company have to be paying more when another company doesn’t have to pay? . . . All companies should be treated the same.”

Bachmann’s comments were a departure from the position of many congressional Republicans, who have long protected subsidies and provisions in the tax code that help some industries.

Later, when asked by a reporter to clarify her remarks, Bachmann said:

“In every area, whether it’s in energy, whether it’s the [Environmental Protection Agency], whether it’s in farms, it doesn’t matter where these subsidies are coming from, we have to take a look at them. And that’s the problem because Congress has been trying to legislate through the tax code and that’s what you get with 3.8 million words. I want to see the tax code reduced down to something that is extremely simple and fair and flat.”

A Bachmann family farm in Wisconsin, in which the congresswoman is a partner, received nearly $260,000 in federal farm subsidies, the Los Angeles Times has reported. She has noted that her father-in-law owns the farm.

Dawson told reporters that he hasn’t foreclosed the possibility of voting for Bachmann but is particularly intrigued with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney because of the way he talks about businesses.

As the Indianola event wrapped up, Marcus Bachmann joined his wife onstage to shake hands, pose for pictures and sign autographs. The couple has been under intense scrutiny in the weeks since she launched her campaign. Asked in a brief interview whether she held her own in Thursday night’s televised Republican debate, Marcus Bachmann said: “Oh, yeahhhh.”

“She was tremendously strong,” he said. “I think people recognize it. That’s who she is. She holds her own.”

Was he in the auditorium at Iowa State University in Ames watching?

“Of course,” Marcus Bachmann said. “Third row, seat eight.”

More on PostPolitics

Focus on straw poll

Palin emerges at Iowa state fair

Fact checking the Iowa debate

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.
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