Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Michelle Bachman, R-Minn., gestures during a speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Wednesday told Christian students at Liberty University in Virginia “don’t settle” for easy personal and political choices in life.
During a half-hour address to some 10,000 students at Liberty’s weekly campus-wide convocation, she briefly tied a message mostly about personal values and responsibility to an appeal to reject President Barack Obama’s agenda, including his health care reforms.
She made no mention of her GOP primary rivals in a talk laced with Scripture that took on the tone of a sermon.
Badly trailing front-runners Rick Perry and Mitt Romney and struggling in national polls, Bachmann sought a breakout moment with her base of support — Christian conservatives.
Liberty’s chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., said Bachmann won a recent student straw poll over the GOP field, largely because of her evangelical roots.
Bachmann evoked a few standing ovations and an occasional amen in speaking of her conversion to Christianity and how she would set her alarm for 5 a.m. as a teen so she could wake and read the Bible.
“Even though I hadn’t been a drinker, even though I never did drugs … even though I hadn’t been chasing around, it didn’t matter. I was a sinner,” she said. “I radically abandoned myself to Jesus Christ.”
She called abortion “the watershed issue of our time,” noting that she had five children of her own and that she and her husband, Marcus, who joined her onstage, had taken in 23 foster children. She used it to pivot into a broadside against Obama’s health care reforms.
“Obamacare is the first time in the history of our nation that we have taxpayer-subsidized abortions,” she said. “When it comes to Obamacare — and I have been involved in this fight for some time now — I will tell you, unless we repeal (it) in 2012, we will have socialized medicine for the United States’ future.”
And the applause lines kept coming.
The leader of the House’s Tea Party Caucus said conservatives have to stand against federal takeovers of U.S. industries, including the automotive, banking and insurance industries the government bailed out during the recession.
“And we can’t settle when it comes to America standing up for our greatest ally in the world, Israel,” Bachmann said.
The “don’t settle” theme has become the dominant message of Bachmann’s campaign in recent days. She hit it hard in appearances in Iowa on Monday.
Bachmann spent part of Wednesday campaigning in South Carolina. In a radio interview in Greenville, she criticized Perry’s financial dealings, comparing the Texas governor’s use of a state economic development fund to Obama’s support for a now-defunct California solar energy company that received a $528 million loan from the president’s stimulus program.
“Gov. Perry set up a fund in Texas and he gave $35 million and a grant to a private company and there were donors in that private company. And that company said they’d create 5,000 jobs. They didn’t create any jobs,” she said.
A similar charge was made by Perry’s Democratic opponent during last year’s race for governor. Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner dismissed Bachmann’s criticism and said, “She’s just throwing garbage at the wall to see if it will stick.”
Miner said the Texas Enterprise Fund is a national model that’s created 59,000 jobs and investments worth $4.7 billion with taxpayers putting up $439 million. If companies don’t deliver promised jobs, they pay the state back with interest.
“It’s completely off base,” Miner said of Bachmann’s charge. “This is a proven job-creation tool.”
Associated Press writer Jim Davenport in South Carolina contributed to this report.