DOVER, N.H. — If there was any doubt that Rep. Michele Bachmann was preparing for a presidential bid, she eliminated it during an appearance at a GOP meet-and-greet in New Hampshire on Monday evening.
Bachmann (R) had said she would formally announce her plans in June, but when asked by a Republican activist why she wanted to run for president rather than challenge Sen. Al Franken (D) in her home state of Minnesota, she responded, “Because we need a person who is going to stand up to Obamacare.”
She continued: “You’ve got to be willing to take on our party, the other party and then explain it to the people. I know I can make the case to the American people and win them over to our side.”
It was the most definitive answer yet from the congresswoman, who spent the day in this early primary state marking the Memorial Day holiday.
During multiple appearances, Bachmann sought to set herself apart from the crowded field of declared and potential candidates, identifying herself as a Christian and a small-business owner who had five biological children and cared for 23 foster kids.
She called herself a “rock-ribbed, constitutionalist conservative” who will take on intransigents in both parties to repeal last year’s health-care overhaul.
“Obama has to go and has to be replaced, but not just by anyone,” she told the dozens of activists who gathered on the lawn of failed gubernatorial candidate Karen Testerman’s home in Franklin. “We need someone who is committed to taking that thing out, because it is the crown jewel of Socialism, and if it’s allowed to stand we will never get our country back.”
The evening event was billed as a celebration of heterosexual marriage. New Hampshire is one of five states where same-sex marriage is legal. It is also legal in the District of Columbia.
Earlier in the day, at a Memorial Day picnic sponsored by local GOP committees in Dover, Bachmann delivered a history-laden speech that touched only briefly on politics. She hailed the men and women who have risked and sacrificed their lives in various conflicts, from the troops of the most current wars to the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence. She cited that document’s reference to “unalienable rights.”
“That means the government cannot bestow them, and remember, government cannot take them away,” she said to a burst of applause.
The New Hampshire visit was widely viewed as an opportunity for Bachmann to make inroads in a state that is a crucial battleground for presidential contenders. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is set to announce his candidacy on Thursday, and former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, a possible contender, are also scheduled to swing through the state this week.
Bachmann, an Iowa native, has promised to make the announcement about her aspirations in that state. Her roots there, along with her socially conservative background, could combine to make her a strong candidate in a place that traditionally holds the first nominating contest of any presidential election.
New Hampshire, which traditionally holds its primary second, would be a greater challenge for Bachmann as she competes against better known foes such as Romney, who owns a house in New Hampshire and held office in a neighboring state, and Palin, who has a similar profile as Bachmann.
Many of the more than 100 Republican activists who ate hotdogs and sipped strawberry lemonade at the Dover event were supportive of Palin, but were skeptical that she will run and hopeful that she will instead lend her star power to Bachmann or another candidate.
“I would rather see her as a spokeswoman for our politicians rather than a leader of our party,” Walt Shackford, a resident of nearby Rochester who is in his 60s, said of Palin. He said he considers Bachmann a “top-tier” potential candidate but is considering backing Romney.
Bachmann, in a cropped yellow sweater and calf-length black sundress, was greeted warmly by the crowd members. They embraced her and grasped her hand like a friend. Woman after woman expressed the wish that she become the nation’s first female president — or at least jumps into the game.
“It’s time. We are half the population, after all,” said Fran Wendelboe, a former state legislator.