Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is showing why her campaign is surging. She’s in first place in Iowa and is suddenly the subject of attacks (the sure sign of her emergence as a top-tier candidate) from the Tim Pawlenty campaign, which can’t afford to end up a distant second (or worse, third) in the Ames straw poll next month.

How is she doing it? For starters, she is showing some muscle on foreign policy. Among the GOP presidential contenders only she commented yesterday on the attack on the U.S. embassy in Syria. Her statement suggests she’s not about to shed the party’s Reagan-esque stance on national security: “The US Embassy, in the middle of the capital of Syria, has been under intermittent violent attack for days, permitted by the Syrian regime — and the Obama administration can only manage a peep of protest? At best this is another instance of ‘leading from behind,’ and at worst it is careless endangerment of American lives and property. It is time for the Obama administration to stand up for freedom — and stand up to our adversary regimes, both in Damascus and in Iran.”

Last night she also appeared on CNBC’s Kudlow Report.:

Asked about the Pawlenty attack on her “nonexistent” record, she replied (much as a Right Turn reader did yesterday) that when she came to Congress, Nancy Pelosi was speaker of the House and not in the mood to pass a conservative agenda. But Bachmann said, “I stood up to her. I stood up to Barack Obama.”After making her case forcefully but calmly that she’d done what she was sent to do — oppose the liberal agenda — she very deliberately (but without mentioning Pawlenty) brought up cap and trade (saying, “I didn’t work to implement cap-and-trade”) and the individual mandate (“I didn’t praise it”) to make the point that her conservative credentials were a notch better than his. As for executive skills she pointed to her experience as a tax litigator and small-business owner, saying private-sector experience is what is needed in Washington. (“I have executive experience in the real world and the private sector.”) Game, set and match on that duel.

But the rest of the interview was perhaps more telling as she explained her position on the debt ceiling (no hike in the debt ceiling until we have “dramatic cuts” including repeal or defunding of ObamaCare) and rose to the defense of small business (appropriate, given her location at an Iowa company). She zinged Obama for telling “small businesses to eat their peas.” She made the point (missed or evaded by several lawmakers’ whose interviews preceded hers) that Obama’s proposed “cuts” were in the out years (meaningless, in other words). And she came out four-square in favor of a pro-growth agenda (take the corporate tax down to 9 percent, cut government, reduce regulation). In talking about the need to weed out excessive regulation she argued that the biggest example of overregulation is ObamaCare. All in all, a first-rate performance.

This is not to say Bachmann doesn’t have her problems. She managed to get tied up in a marriage pledge with awful language on slavery. (If that isn’t definitive proof of the wisdom of Right Turn’s opposition to these pledges, I don’t know what is.) Her campaign, one senses, has outstripped the size of her staff. But if she can manage her own campaign shop, remain as disciplined as she was on Larry Kudlow’s show and hew to a muscular foreign policy stance, she will be formidable. And not just in Iowa.