COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said she can’t wait to take on President Barack Obama, calling him Wall Street’s best friend at a tea party tax day rally at the Statehouse.
Bachmann is courting support in South Carolina, a key early GOP primary state as she mulls whether to make a bid for the White House in 2012. The candidate in waiting met with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for about a half hour before walking with her to the Statehouse steps for a rally that drew nearly 300 people — a fraction of the more than 2,000 organizers had expected.
The crowd cheered as Bachmann described Obama in biblical terms while crediting him with the Wall Street bailout his predecessor championed.
“People recognize that Barack Obama has been weighed in the balance and he’s found wanting,” Bachmann said. “We’ve seen what he has to offer. When he came in as the president of the United States, he decided we had to have this $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. He’s the best friend that Wall Street has ever had.”
Afterward, Bachmann told reporters she’s eager to take on Obama.
“I can’t wait to go up against President Obama. I really can’t,” Bachmann said.
That’s “not a statement of candidacy, officially,” Bachmann told The Associated Press in an interview. “But I think that it would be a pleasure to debate the issues with President Obama because he has a lot to answer for.”
She’s more than a month away from making that formal move — likely in June. And she’s not sure she’ll make the it onto the stage at the first GOP presidential debate on May 5 — an event that now requires at least forming an exploratory committee. She says “those technical things” may be worked out.
And she’s not done with the preliminaries other candidate have completed, such as writing a book scanning her biography and politics.
“I have to tell you, I’ve had at least a dozen requests to write a book,” Bachmann said. “And right now we’re in the early talking stages. But something like that takes a considerable amount of time and we’re involved now, you know, in so many other endeavors trying to get the footings laid, if you will, on this campaign. There may be a book — there may be — but we have to prioritize our time and see where we want to spend the time.”
Haley is a good example that South Carolina voters want something different, Bachmann said. A year ago, Haley was trailing established white men for the GOP nomination for governor. Now she’s the state’s first woman governor and writing her own memoir.
“People that they thought never would have had a chance before to win actually can win,” Bachmann said. “They aren’t looking necessarily for an establishment player. They want somebody new and different who’s a proven fighter. They’ve gotten that in Governor Haley and that’s what I have been.”
In the near term, Bachmann said, the priority is fighting efforts to raise the nation’s debt limit. She told the crowd that fiscal havoc concerns are overblown about nixing the increase. The crowd here shouted “No!” when Bachmann asked if it should be raised.
“The government won’t shut down” and the nation will continue to pay its debts and interest, she said.
Bachman, a tea party leader in Congress, hasn’t had a place at the GOP’s leadership table in those discussions or budget compromises during the past two weeks, but clearly wants one.
“Now, maybe that would have been welcome, maybe it wouldn’t have been welcome. But I would have brought that fight there,” Bachmann said. “I think that would have been very helpful to have that voice at the table.”
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