On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace quizzed Bachmann on a series of apparent inconsistencies in her legislative record and personal background — from Medicare to government subsidies and earmarks to her opposition to same-sex marriage.
Then, as he wrapped up the interview, Wallace asked her: “Are you a flake?”
“I think that would be insulting to say something like that because I’m a serious person,” Bachmann retorted.
In the face of sharp questioning from Wallace, Bachmann appeared steely and calm, noting that she has “a titanium spine.”
On Monday, Bachmann refused to accept Wallace’s apology for using that word. “Those are the small issues. I’m focused on the big ones,” she told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.
In the Fox News Interview, Bachmann said that by starting a Christian counseling business with her husband and helping lead the tea party movement in Washington she understands how to create jobs and has the necessary skills to turn the nation’s economy around.
But Wallace kept at it, asking Bachmann whether she recognizes that since she is now a presidential candidate she has to be more careful to not say the kind of “flaky things” that have earned her a reputation as a rhetorical loose cannon.
“Of course a person has to be careful with statements that they make, I think that’s true,” Bachmann said.
The scrutiny comes as Bachmann is breaking into the top tier of Republican 2012 hopefuls. Her breakthrough performance in the June 13 New Hampshire debate won her strong reviews. And a new Des Moines Register poll, released late Saturday, shows her with support from 22 percent of likely caucus-goers, behind only Romney at 23 percent.
The hotly-anticipated survey, which offered the first credible look this season at the race in Iowa, shows the former Massachusetts governor and Bachmann leading the crowded field. Businessman Herman Cain is third with 10 percent, while all other candidates were in single digits.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) each received 7 percent, while former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty received 6 percent. For Pawlenty, who has invested more time and money in Iowa this month than perhaps any other candidate, the poll was a sobering sign of the difficulties he appears to be having raising money nationally and breaking out in the early voting states.
For Bachmann, the poll’s release was good timing, as she hopes to build on that momentum with her Waterloo announcement Monday, to be followed by a campaign swing through New Hampshire and South Carolina.
But Bachmann will be competing for the spotlight in the Hawkeye State with another tea party heroine, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Palin, who has not said whether she will run for president, is scheduled to visit Iowa with her husband, Todd, on Tuesday to attend the premiere of a new documentary, “The Undefeated,” about her political career.