Michele Bachmann Looks Ahead After Iowa Straw Poll Victory
Michele Bachmann won the 2011 Ames Straw Poll with 28.6% of the vote. Below is an interview and transcript of Chris Wallace interviewing Michele Bachmann after her big win in Iowa.
CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: I'm Chris Wallace, reporting from Ames, Iowa, where the GOP presidential race is heating up.
Politics in the Hawkeye State. Which candidate got the biggest bounce from the Saturday's straw poll? We'll have a report on the results and ask Congresswoman Michele Bachmann if her popularity here can carry her to the nomination. Plus, she's here but not in and he's a late arrival to the Iowa party. We'll ask our Sunday panel what Sarah Palin's appearance and Governor Rick Perry's late entry in the race mean to the Republican field.
And a wild week for the Republicans on the trail, all right now on "Fox News Sunday."
And hello, again, this time from Iowa State University in Ames, home of the Cyclones. And for the past four days, the center of the political universe. The long road to the Republican presidential nomination has taken some big turns in the last 24 hours. In Saturday's Ames straw poll, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann narrowly beat Congressman Ron Paul. Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain rounded out the top five. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the race and immediately became one of the GOP frontrunners. Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron has been tracking all the action.
CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS: Thanks, Chris. The morning after the 2011 straw poll, and it's a whole new race for 2012. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
(UNKNOWN): The winner of the 2011 Iowa straw poll is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
CAMERON: Iowa straw poll voters gave a huge boost to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
BACHMANN: You have just sent a message that Barack Obama is -
CAMERON: In second place, Texas Congressman Ron Paul pulled off yet another organizational coup in what has been a string of straw poll triumphs this year. The most significant outcome may have been for Tim Pawlenty, who came in third place, barely enough to keep him in the race.
FORMER GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, R-MINN.: I don't just talk about it. We get the job done for Minnesota and for America.
CAMERON: The rest of the field included former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum in fourth, Businessman Herman Cain in fifth, and Texas Governor Rick Perry as a write-in in sixth. Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman were on the ballot but did not attend or campaign for votes in the event. Neither got even 1 percent. And while the votes were being cast in Iowa, the race changed in Charleston, South Carolina, where Texas Governor Rick Perry formally the race.
GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS: I will work every day to try to make Washington D.C. as inconsequential in your life as I can.
CAMERON: Perry got over 750 votes as a write-in. He did not aggressively campaign, but many of his supporters worked hard to help him out. But announcing his candidacy as he did, in another state the day of the straw poll, may mean he has some fence mending to do. Iowans don't like having it happen on the day of their big dance, so he arrives here this afternoon to campaign in Waterloo, Iowa, home of Michele Bachmann, where she'll also be today, to start patching things up and launch his caucus campaign. Chris, back to you.
WALLACE: Carl, thanks for that.
Joining us now, the winner of the Iowa straw poll, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, good to be with you, Chris.
WALLACE: And let me just say, because I inadvertently offended you in the last -- your last appearance here, and I want to say on television what I said to you personally, I sincerely apologize, I didn't mean to do it.
BACHMANN: All is forgiven, we move forward, so we're good to go.
WALLACE: All right, good. First of all, congratulations on your victory in the straw poll yesterday. What do you think is the message from Ames?
BACHMANN: Well, I think the message is that people want a change in Washington, D.C. They don't want what Barack Obama is giving, and I think we saw a punch to the gut in the United States this last week with what has happened in the economy. People are really tired of the spending. They want to make sure that we get it under control. They did not want us to raise the debt ceiling and they did not want the president to give another $2.4 trillion blank check. They sent a very loud and clear message.
WALLACE: But you know, they could have sent that through a lot of other candidates. What do you think the message is by voting for you?
BACHMANN: Well, I was very strong and very clear. People knew that I was leading on not increasing the debt ceiling. They wanted someone to stand up and say enough is enough on spending, and they appreciated the fact that I stood up and was kind of the lone voice, and they want to make sure that we do have that change in Washington, D.C.
And I think the other thing is, they want to know that they can trust the person that they are sending, that that person will be reflective of what they are sending them to do. And I think that's what they saw. They know that I am a person who will do what I say I'm going to do.
WALLACE: Not to take away from your victory in any way, but what about the argument that voters here, that voted in the Ames straw poll, represent an important part of the Republican Party, the Tea Party, the evangelicals, the social conservatives, but it's not the whole Republican Party. How do you -- do you feel that you need to expand your base to other elements of the party, and if so, how do you do it?
BACHMANN: We are expanding it already, because I have been all across Iowa and really all across the country. We'll be in South Carolina later this week and New Hampshire.
But here in Iowa as I have been on the street, there is not an event where I don't have Democrats and independents and people who have never been political a day in their life come up to me, we have wonderful events, and people are very frightened about where the economy is at right now, and they want to vote for someone they believe in.
So I've had a lot of Democrats, even here at the straw poll yesterday, a lot of Democrats came out to this straw poll to vote for me, and independents, and that's what I am seeing quite frankly all across the country. People who said I really thought very highly of President Obama but now I'm not so sure, he won't have my vote the next time, and they like what I have to say. They believe the message because they understand that I want to turn the economy around and I have a plan also for job creation.
WALLACE: Texas Governor Rick Perry got into the race yesterday in South Carolina, and his outreach to values voters is similar to yours. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: I've learned that not everyone values life like we do in America, or the rights that are endowed to every human being by a loving God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Rick Perry has 10 years of experience as the governor of Texas. He has a strong story to tell about job creation since the recession. Why should voters go for you over Rick Perry?
BACHMANN: Well, I think I've demonstrated that I have been a fighter in Washington, D.C. And also just through life experience. I am 55 years old, I'm a federal tax litigation attorney. My husband and I own and started a successful company. I get job creation. I get how the economy needs to work, because I have seen how devastating high taxes are. I have a proven record. But I think what even more so sets me apart from the field is the fact that I have been a proven fighter in Washington on issue after issue after issue. I've led to the point where I have even brought tens of thousands of Americans to Washington to fight against the unconstitutional health care mandate, which I am extremely grateful the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals set straight this week in their decision.
WALLACE: No one I think it's fair to say questions the strength of your convictions, and when you say you have a titanium spine, I think most people have come to believe it. But I want to explore something different with you today, and that is your willingness, your ability to be a practical politician and work to compromise. If you were president now, what would you do to reassure the markets and to boost the economy with this important proviso, that could get through a divided government?
BACHMANN: Well, we will have an election in 2012, and as nominee of the Republican Party I will work tirelessly to make sure that I can help elect also an additional 13 senators to come with me to Washington. Because I would like to get to that magic number of 60 so we can be filibuster-proof in the Senate, and retain a conservative House. If we do that, then we can repeal Obamacare and repeal Dodd-Frank.
I'm the first member of Congress to introduce both of those repeal measures. That would send a very strong signal to the market. Plus, what we need to do is have someone who is very serious about cutting back on government spending. I am. And with my background as a tax lawyer, I see that we have got to reform the tax code. It is the job-killing center of the United States, and we have to lower tax rates considerably on job creators. And with everything from the death tax to alternative minimum tax to 100 percent expensing immediately for small businesses.
But what we're doing right now is not working. We have got to turn it around, and the regulatory burden is just killing industry after industry right now. I hear it everywhere. I mean, I was here in Indianola, Iowa, and one company, CemenTech, lost half of their employees. They are the largest manufacturer of volumizer cement mixers. And the CEO told me that most of those mixers are not even going in the United States. They are going out of the country because the construction industry is flat on its back. Housing prices are flat, they're falling. We are in a mess. And we can turn this around, but we have to have a president who is sending signals that they are serious about business.
I am. I'm a businesswoman, and I'm serious about turning the business economy around, because that's jobs. We have to focus on job creation.
WALLACE: But let's assume for the purposes of this discussion you are elected, and even maybe the Senate goes to the Republicans but you don't have the veto-proof majority. You've got to work with Democrats to get your agenda through. Are -- is Michele Bachmann, the woman of conviction, are you willing to compromise?
BACHMANN: Well, of course I can work with Democrats and Republicans. Probably the best example would be in my own home state of Minnesota. It's not known as a conservative bastion, my home state, but I was able to lead a movement to actually repeal Minnesota's education law that we had, and put into place something that had higher academic standards. That's how I cut my teeth in politics, on education reform. I'm a mother of five children. We raised 23 foster children in our home. Good education is extremely important to me. I brought together primarily a coalition of Democrats and independents to work with Republicans. Republicans were never going to get this through. But I have got a lot of Democrats and independents together. We actually accomplished it, and that is just one example of what we can do in Washington.
WALLACE: So I remember Ronald Reagan when I covered him used to famously say half a loaf is better than none. Is Michele Bachmann willing to accept in some cases, even if it goes against your principles, half a loaf?
BACHMANN: Well, I don't compromise my core principles. That's how you lead. You lead from principles. But you make advancements sometimes. Sometimes you can't get all the way, sometimes you make steps. As long as you are making progress, you are going in the right direction. That is the difference. The trajectory that the country is going right now is negative. Everyone knows it. So we need to have a president that's going to at least get us on the trajectory of going in the right direction.
WALLACE: Let's go back to that moment in the debate, though, when you -- and I've got to say, all the other candidates on that stage said that you would walk away from a debt deal, here it is right here, $10 in real spending cuts, to $1 in revenue increases. 10-1. Even Reagan's top economic adviser, Marty Feldstein, said that is too hard-line, that that would be walking away from a huge conservative victory.
BACHMANN: Well, I think probably Reagan would be the best example, because Reagan was going to get $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. It ended up being $3 in tax increases for every $1 in spending cuts. That's the way it works in D.C. The deal sounds so rosy in the very beginning, and usually the cuts are illusory, they are off into future years. And of course one Congress can't bind the next Congress, and a Congress lasts for two years. So we can't bind what future Congresses can do. We can beat our chests and be really proud and say, oh, we're going to cut trillions of dollars, but we can't guarantee what future Congresses will do. That's why no one would take that deal on the Fox stage of the debate, because we all know that they're fake cuts, essentially. They sound good. They're soundbites, but they are not real. I am about reality. That's what I care about. This is not a joke. This is not just a political game. This is getting the country back on the right track. People really are suffering, all across this state I have seen it. People want jobs, they want job growth, and they want someone who has the backbone to do it. I do.
WALLACE: In the debate, you said that the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating supported your decision to vote against the debt limit. Here's what you said in the debate, let's watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: Heard from Standard & Poor's when they dropped our credit rating, what they said is we don't have an ability to repay our debt. That's what the final word was from them. I was proved right in my position. We should not have raised the debt ceiling. (END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But a top S&P official says that a big part of their decision was, quote, "people in the political arena were even talking about a potential default. This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns." In effect, they seem to be saying the talk from you and others about not raising the credit limit and the political gridlock was one of the reasons that they downgraded the debt.
BACHMANN: Well, let's make a distinction. I never at any time talked about default. As a matter of fact, I introduced a plan to ensure that the United States sovereignty would not default. That's important. No wonder the markets would be roiled if we didn't have a plan. I had one, unlike President Obama. President Obama, as you know, had no plan, and yet the administration, going back to January, sent out a letter that I received, every member of Congress received, that said we had to raise the debt ceiling. But then in February, the president introduced his budget that had us overspending by $1.5 trillion. He did nothing in his policy to have us come to balance.
So then in April, we heard from Standard & Poor's, and they said, look, if you don't get your act together, we could potentially see a downgrading of the credit rating. The next day the treasury secretary went out and said there is no risk of us losing our AAA credit rating.
So the president has known all along what could happen, and they essentially put their hands up in front of their eyes and said it would never happen. It did happen, because you can't spend money you don't have. People all across the country have been trying to get the attention of Washington. We can't spend money we don't have. We have to start paying our bills. That's what Standard & Poor's is telling us. Get your act together, like any homeowner would have to do, like any business would have to do, and that's what the federal government has to do. Stop playing with other people's money and get your act together, and they aren't doing that.
WALLACE: You have been critical -- in fact, you voted against, but you've also been critical and you were in the debate, of the deal that was finally agreed to, and you pointed out that for all this talk about $1 trillion in cuts, it's -- how much in the first year?
BACHMANN: $21 billion.
WALLACE: OK, are you saying that-- BACHMANN: A $2.4 trillion blank check versus $21 billion in cuts, and that's for one year, that's for one year.
WALLACE: I understand, fair enough. But are you saying that Speaker Boehner and Senate Leader McConnell made a bad deal?
BACHMANN: I'm saying that's not the deal that I would have made. Because quite frankly, the problems that we have today, we can't put this off until tomorrow, because we know that on any number of levels, just with the Medicare hospital trust fund, we have nine years and that's broke. I don't want any senior citizen to be in a position where they are told we are out of money. We have got to reform that system sooner rather than later. That's why I say we need to pay the interest on the debt, that's how you don't default. We tell our military men and women, under no circumstances will you not get a paycheck. It was irresponsible of the president to suggest they wouldn't. And for Social Security retirees, we tell them, if you are currently in the system, you are getting your check. That was wrong for the president to suggest they may not.
WALLACE: But Congresswoman, if I may, here is the problem with that. The Bipartisan Policy Center -- and it really is bipartisan, the main analyst for this was a top adviser in the Bush 41 administration. He said that if we hadn't raised the debt limit, as you suggested, here is what would have happened in this month of August. If you pay, as you said, our creditors, Social Security, Medicare and the military, and you can look at it right there, you would have to cut everything else 68 percent. Veterans benefits, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food and nutrition programs, IRS refunds, the FBI. Would you have been willing to gut those programs?
BACHMANN: Doesn't that tell how bad off the United States is? The fact that we're overspending to that level? Let's just take a look for a minute. All of us pay taxes, and that tax money came to $2.2 trillion this year. We spent every cent of it, $2.2 trillion. The problem is, we spent an additional $1.5 trillion that we don't have. WALLACE: I agree with you. For every dollar that we spend, we borrow 40 cents.
BACHMANN: So this is what we have to do. So this is what we have to do. We have to grow the revenue side. We need to embrace pro-growth policies. We are not growing. The very first quarter of this year, it was anemic. It was 0.4 percent growth. That's basically stagnant, if that. And so we have to embrace pro-growth policies, and then shrink the amount of spending. So we have got to shrink the deficit but expand the amount of revenues-- WALLACE: All I would say is that's not shrinking, that's taking a meat cleaver.
BACHMANN: Well, I think the one thing we have to do is reject the new normal level of spending under the Obama administration. Because President Obama amped up spending to never seen before levels. Should we accept that we should just continue that on? I mean, one example I'll give you is we had one employee at the Federal Department of Transportation that made $170,000 a year at the beginning of the recession. We had the trillion-dollar stimulus, and 18 months into the recession, we had 1,690 employees making over $170,000. Government has really been growing, a lot of largesse, but the people in the real world aren't. And that's what has to change. Government has no conformity at all with the real world.
WALLACE: I want to ask you about a report that came out this week. You famously opposed the Obama stimulus plan. You called it wasteful and fantasy economics. But "Newsweek" reports -- excuse me -- that after the plan passed, that you wrote six letters to the administration asking for stimulus funds. They say that you wrote saying that a local bridge would create almost 3,000 jobs. You said a highway project would, quote, "promote economic prosperity." That sounds like you were buying into the stimulus idea?
BACHMANN: I voted against the stimulus and I was very public against the stimulus. After the stimulus was passed and the money was there, why should my constituents or anyone else be disadvantaged? Most of the money unfortunately ended up going to politicians who were politically well connected to Barack Obama. That's what's wrong with Washington. Too often the money has no connection to merit or where it should go. It goes to political connections. That's why I signed an earmark pledge. I think it -- I think earmarks are wrong. We have to do away with them. But I also think at the same time, that people across the country shouldn't be disadvantaged because they didn't vote for the bill.
WALLACE: I just want to ask you about the earmark pledge, because when it was imposed, you spoke out against it, the earmark ban. You said advocating for transportation projects for one's district, in my mind, does not equate to an earmark. But isn't that exactly where the outrage over earmarks started, with things like the Bridge to Nowhere?
BACHMANN: Well, that comment actually was in a different context. We do -- one legitimate function of government is to build transportation projects, roads, bridges, interchanges. That is something that government should do.
And so we need to do it in a way that has to do with merit and where these bridge should be built. You'll go in different parts of the country, and there could be a three-, four-lane highway that has no connection to the amount of people that use it.
WALLACE: But you -- so you think a congresswoman should be able to ask for money for a road-building project in her district?
BACHMANN: I think we need to reform the system currently that we have in Washington, because it's absolutely vile and corrupt. It has no connection with where we need to spend the money. It has everything to do with political connections.
WALLACE: Finally -- and I want to just ask you a couple of Michele Bachmann questions -- are you enjoying yourself?
BACHMANN: Oh, sure, I am. I'd like to get a little more sleep, but we're having a great time. I'm in Iowa. Who could not enjoy themselves? Today, I'll be going back to Waterloo, where I was born, just to -- this is where I launched my candidacy 48 days ago. And so I'm going there to thank everyone in Waterloo, where I was born.
And I'm a seventh-generation Iowan. We were early pioneers here 150 years ago, so we're having a big family reunion today in northeastern Iowa, so I'll get to go and see all my relatives and thank them for their support.
WALLACE: I think it's fair to say that when this race started, you were a long shot.
WALLACE: Do you now think you can win this race? Do you think you could win?
BACHMANN: Oh, of course I do. I know -- I know I can. I know I can, because what I've seen from people all across the country is, they really do want to take the country back. They want a new direction, and they want someone they can believe in. I think they see in me a champion for their values and their voice, and they want a real person in the White House, someone they can trust. So, yes, I absolutely do.
WALLACE: And let me press that a little further. In your heart of hearts, do you believe that you will win? And when you consider that thought, President Bachmann, what are your thoughts?
BACHMANN: Well, my thoughts are, we are the greatest nation that has ever been. And I'm not thinking just about today, Chris. I'm trying to think 50 and 150 years from now, for the next generations that are yet to come. The United States has been the greatest force of mankind in the history of the world. And I think the world is a better place if we remain that premier economic and military superpower. That's my goal, not just for today, but I'm trying to look into the future to make sure that we have that strength.
WALLACE: And do you believe honestly that you will win? BACHMANN: That's what I'm working for, you bet.
WALLACE: Otherwise, you're working awful hard for -- and losing a lot of sleep for nothing, right?
BACHMANN: It's for them. It's not for me.
WALLACE: Congresswoman Bachmann, we want to thank you so much for coming on the air.
BACHMANN: Thank you.
WALLACE: A pleasure, as always.
BACHMANN: Thank you.
WALLACE: Glad we're clear. The road ahead, right?
BACHMANN: The road ahead.
WALLACE: Good. Thank you for starting you day with us. Safe travels, and we will see you again on the campaign trail. BACHMANN: We'll be delighted.
WALLACE: Thank you, Congresswoman.
Up next, Governor Perry is now in the race, and we have the results of the Ames straw poll to chew over. Plenty to talk about with our special panel from Ames, Iowa, and the campus of Iowa State University, when we come right back.