Minnesota congresswoman and GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann says the Tea Party represents "virtually 90 percent of America."
Evidence to the contrary aside, a sample taken from the crowd of roughly 150 supporters at Patriots Point in front of the aircraft carrier Yorktown on Friday might have suggested she was right. In marked contrast to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's campaign announcement speech last weekend, Bachmann made direct appeals to the populist conservative movement, drawing enthusiastic cheers even in the unshaded afternoon heat. In her speech, Bachmann scoffed at left-leaning pundits who she said had blamed the debt-ceiling crisis and subsequent federal credit downgrade on the Tea Party.
"The liberals should be afraid of the Tea Party movement because they are audacious enough to believe that we are taxed enough already," Bachmann said. During the debt debate, while Democratic leaders warned that a debt default could result in a freeze on welfare payments, Republican leaders said military employees could go unpaid in a debt default. Bachmann made an appeal to the Republican warnings again, saying, "President Bachmann will hold bake sales, if I need to, to make sure our men and women in uniform get their paychecks." She said a president's most important role is to be commander in chief.
"There isn't a day that goes by that somebody doesn't think about how they're going to destroy the United States today," she said. Speaking about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear ambitions and anti-Israeli stance, she said, "If there is anything that history has taught us, it is that when a madman speaks, you listen and you defeat him."
Bachmann described herself as a "peace-through-strength" conservative, and also as a fiscal and social conservative. Speaking about the soon-to-be-bankrupt Social Security system, Bachmann said that, if elected, all current retirees would continue receiving payments, but "beyond that, we will be coming in and we will be prioritizing."
Bachmann also promised to work on getting 13 more Republican senators on Capitol Hill, creating a filibuster-proof majority in the Democrat-controlled legislative body. "I'm thinking kind of in the order of Jim DeMint," she said. "What do you think?"
The assembled crowd included representatives from the Charleston County GOP, the Lowcountry 9-12 Project, the Charleston Tea Party, and S.C. Fair Tax. Chad Gelvin of Mt. Pleasant showed up to the rally out of curiosity and because "she could very well be the first female president." He is only old enough to have voted in two presidential elections, but he says his votes have shifted back and forth between Republican and Democratic candidates. "I always pick the right person, but the wrong person gets elected," he said.
The speech was Bachmann's final one on a tour of the state that started Tuesday, with stops including Spartanburg's Beacon Drive-In, the Florence Civic Center, and the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center. She said the next president would need to win the South Carolina vote, and accordingly she would be campaigning heavily in the state.
"I told my husband, 'We're probably going to need South Carolina driver's licenses pretty soon,'" she said. Bachmann will appear at a Presidential Town Hall with Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Trident Technical College North Charleston campus.