NEW ORLEANS -- Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann suggested Friday that President Obama is deliberately trying to let Medicare go broke, with the goal of forcing senior citizens to participate in his health care reform plan.

“The president’s plan for senior citizens is Obamacare,” the Minnesota congresswoman said at the Republican Leadership Conference. “I think very likely – and I’m speculating – I think very likely what the president intends is that Medicare will go broke, and ultimately that answer will be Obamacare for senior citizens.”

Bachmann pointed to the $500 billion in Medicare spending cuts that were contained in Obama’s health care bill as evidence of his allegedly covert plans.

“Just when our population of senior citizens is growing with baby boomers joining their ranks, we’ll have more people but less money, and no plan to save it,” Bachmann said, urging other Republicans to respond to Democratic attacks on Medicare by pointing to the lack of a Democratic plan.

It’s not the first time that Bachmann has alluded to Obama’s secret intentions.

During her 2008 reelection bid, Bachmann stirred controversy by suggesting that Obama held “anti-American views.”

Those comments turned her reelection campaign from a ho-hum affair into the hottest House race in the country, with contributions flooding in to both her and her Democratic opponent. She survived that race — barely.

Bachmann has proven nothing if not a lightning rod during her time in Congress, but during her early days as a candidate for president, she’s also shown a strong stage presence and an appeal to conservatives of all stripes.

During her speech Friday, she hit on several themes, including promising to cut so much from the budget that “this nation never has to raise the debt ceiling again.” She also accused Obama of “morbid obesity on spending and debt accumulation.”

When it comes to speaking out against Obama, she has gone further than most of her rivals for the 2012 presidential nomination, a rhetorical strategy that could pay dividends in a Republican primary.

Impugning the president’s motives, though, is a two-way street. And as she rallies conservatives, Bachmann also risks mobilizing Democrats and alienating independents who polls show, by and large, see Obama in a favorable light personally – even if they don’t agree with his some of his policies.