FLORENCE, S.C. – Michele Bachmann’s twist on the traditional conservative three-legged stool: hers has four legs.
At two South Carolina rallies on Thursday, Bachmann called herself a fiscal conservative, a social conservative, a national security conservative and a tea-party conservative.
Rather than coasting on momentum since her Ames straw poll win, Bachmann’s been trying to hold her position in the race’s top tier against two candidates she didn’t face in Iowa — Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. She’s using that fourth leg — stressing her connection to the tea party base — to buttress the electability argument she’s increasingly been shifting to.
“We are a movement, I’m just here to tell you, that can’t be beat when we stick together,” she said at a midday event in Columbia, speaking for just 15 minutes as she strained to enliven a crowd of barely 100 languishing in the 95-degree heat.
And that allegiance to the base over the party leadership is what she wanted them to remember about her.
“What sets me apart I think from the field right now is I’m a woman who says what she means,” she said. Harkening back to the stimulus debate, she noted she’d gone against Republican leaders in Congress: “Behind closed doors, I took them on, because I believe you put principle over party.”
She picked up the argument later in the afternoon in Florence, speaking from the stage of the local civic center to about 150 locals about her opposition to government spending and condemnation of President Barack Obama for not being supportive enough of Israel.
Then she turned back to her main appeal.
“Are there any tea party conservatives here today?” The crowd cheered. “Tea party conservatives absolutely scare the bejeebers out of the liberal left, we’ve seen that. And they should, because the tea party is not a political party. It’s a group of ideals.”
Putting the strands together, Bachmann said, “When you take this coalition – tea party conservatives, fiscal conservatives, national security conservatives and also social conservatives” she said, “Do you see why I’m so optimistic, why I believe with everything in my being that we will win in 2012? I have no doubt we will win, because we are a team that can’t be beat when we stick together.”
South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond, who appeared at Bachmann’s Columbia event, said her hard work and ability to connect with voters paid off in Iowa and she was wise to pursue the same strategy in the Palmetto State.
The straw poll “definitely gave her momentum, and I think she’s doing everything she can to take that momentum into these early primary states,” he said.
Bachmann also unveiled a new line about her time as an IRS lawyer: she claimed she’d infiltrated the agency in order to defeat it.
“I went to work in that system because the first rule of war is know your enemy,” she said.
At both stops, she read a prepared statement to reporters condemning President Obama’s call on Thursday for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying the move was too little too late. “Better late than never is no way to conduct U.S. foreign policy,” she said. Obama, she added, “should have acted weeks ago.”
She called on the president to expel the Syrian ambassador to the U.S. and to withdraw the U.S. ambassador to Syria, who, she noted, got his job through a recess appointment against the wishes of the Senate.
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