Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann talked with me by phone this morning as she made her way to the airport in Florida after speaking to a gathering of conservatives there this morning. I asked a couple of questions based on what happened in last night’s debate.
During the debate, Rick Perry said this about Bachmann, Romney & Santorum when it comes to the immigration issue: “I do not think you have a heart.” I asked Bachmann to respond directly to that assertion.
“When it comes to the issue of immigration I think that Iowans have a very strong, decided opinion about that. I believe firmly that the federal government has let down the American people by not securing the border. I would build a fence. I wouldn’t call building a fence idiocy. That’s what Governor Perry had said. Beyond building the fence, I also believe that we ned to have strong border security. I also believe that we should not be offering taxpayer-subsidized benefits for people who break our laws and come into the United States illegally. I would not offer taxpayer-subsidized benefits for illegal aliens or their children,” Bachmann said. “And I think it’s a point well taken last evening when Governor Perry continued to defend his position to offer taxpayer-subsidized benefits for illegal aliens that that was not well received by people that were in arena. But I can attest to that all across America and, particularly, all across Iowa because I’ve been in all four corners of Iowa and in between. People are very tired of supporting illegal aliens with their taxes.”
I also asked Bachmann about the HPV vaccine issue, which was again discussed last night. Specifically, I asked Bachmann this: “Do you believe this particular vaccine is unsafe. There was a move in Iowa by a group of folks who were concerned about the safety of vaccines about six years and they sought to forbid the use of a particular preservative, a mercury-based preservative in vaccines. Do you think vaccines are safe or unsafe, in general, and what about this particular vaccine, specifically?”
Bachmann: “Well, of course, the remarks that I gave were simply relating a story by a mother who came up to me after, not at this debate, but at the previous debate, about what happened to her daughter. And that’s all I was doing was relating the story. The real issue and the real point of my remarks was that fact that Governor Perry unilaterally made a decision forcing 12-year-old girls to have a shot because he said so.”
She didn’t respond directly to the safety element of the question. Bachmann recounted her attack on Perry for the HPV executive order and then seemed to widen it a bit to include Romney. While she specifically said Perry’s name during her response, she didn’t invoke Romney’s name when she said: “We need to have a nominee who will run against President Obama who is not compromised on the issue of mandates and health care…I am the candidate on that stage who introduced the bill to repeal ObamaCare and I will not rest until we do.”
Bachmann soon added that she is the only “proven, consistent, constitutional conservative” in the race, “with a core set of convictions.”
Bachmann again cited immigration, health care and crony capitalism as key issues in rating a candidate’s conservative credentials. “This is an election when we shouldn’t settle for a candidate,” Bachmann said. “And every four years conservatives are told they need to settle and they need to step back for a candidate who is moderate or perhaps a compromise candidate. In this election, of all elections, we need to have a bold, clear distinction with our candidate.”
Bachmann will be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday. Bachmann says she left a voice mail message for Cindy Golding, the GOP’s candidate in a special election in the area to fill an open state senate seat. “I’ll be happy to be raising money for her and campaigning for her,” Bachmann said. “And we’re hoping that she’ll win and we want to see the senate have another Republican.” Background on the race here. Bachmann’s Iowa campaign manager is Kent Sorenson, one of the 24 Republicans who currently serve in the Iowa Senate.