WATERLOO, Iowa — In a sneak preview of her presidential campaign announcement speech she will give Monday, Rep. Michele Bachmann on Sunday urged the residents of this town to remain hopeful about the country’s future and said she would bring “the sensibilities of this land” to the White House.
Bachmann spoke at an informal gathering at an old ballroom here, the town where she was born. Scores of GOP voters gathered over barbecue to hear the Minnesota congresswoman tell of her younger days eating mayonnaise, lettuce and Wonder Bread sandwiches and living a safe and idyllic, if modest, childhood.
“It’s not too late” to bring that feeling back, she said. “I want you to be encouraged.”
The remarks, laden with details of her life, offered a glimpse of what she is likely to say in her Monday morning address, billed as the formal start of her campaign. She will follow the announcement with swings through New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Iowa will be crucial to Bachmann’s presidential fortunes. She is likely to have an advantage because of her personal connections and staunchly conservative views. Although she has been an official candidate for only a few weeks, she made a strong showing in a Des Moines Register poll published Sunday that showed her running neck and neck with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
She acknowledged the importance not only of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus but also the Ames Straw Poll in August, which often gives presidential candidates early momentum in their bids. “Iowa gets to choose,” she said, adding, “And by the way, I have a suggestion for you.”
It is her first trip to the state since declaring her candidacy at a debate in New Hampshire on June 13, when she delivered a standout performance that put her on the map for many of the GOP voters in the audience. Many said they had not decided whom to back but were taking a hard look at Bachmann.
“I like her willingness to speak out and not be afraid,” said Mark Wikner, 69, a retired engineer from the John Deere plant that is a top employer here. “Every time I hear her, she’s very articulate on the issues and she recognizes we have a huge debt and we’ve got to do something about it.”
Bachmann showed a different side from that of a bomb-throwing critic of President Obama that has made her a mainstay of cable news shows. While she took a few jabs at the White House, she cracked a few jokes and lingered more on the positive. She spoke about restoring the country to its former glory, exemplified by the values of the heartland and the culture that prevailed when she was growing up here.
Such values are “what poured into me the sense of what America is all about. That voice has been missing for a very long time in Washington, D.C.,” she said.
Present for the remarks were her husband, Marcus, four of her children, her mother and several brothers. Earlier in the day, she dropped by the church where she was baptized and her parents were married and walked through the neighborhood where she lived until her family moved to Minnesota when she was 12.