(Updates with Bachmann’s religious conversion starting in the 18th paragraph. For more campaign news, go to ELECT.)
Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said voters shouldn’t “settle” for a president who doesn’t share their values, spotlighting one of key campaign themes in a speech today at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The Minnesota congresswoman urged the students at Liberty, an institution which describes itself as the world’s largest Christian university, not to compromise in their personal lives or their politics.
“This is an election of all elections when we have the opportunity to turn this country around,” said Bachmann, a favorite of anti-tax Tea Party activists. “We can’t settle.”
Bachmann, who surged in opinion polls after declaring her candidacy in June, has seen her standing slide in national surveys since Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the Republican race on Aug. 13.
In an attempt to regain ground, Bachmann has stressed her conservative credentials and argued that Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who are ahead of her in the polls, have compromised on issues important to Republican voters.
She has criticized Romney for backing a state health-care plan that included a personal mandate to buy insurance and Perry for supporting in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants and signing an executive order requiring a vaccine for girls to prevent cervical cancer.
“Constitutional conservatives and others in the past have been asked to settle in order to win,” said Keith Nahigian, Bachmann’s campaign manager, in a briefing released yesterday. “This is not the year to compromise.”
Bachmann used her address to underscore her “don’t settle” campaign theme without directly attacking her opponents.
She highlighted her opposition to the 2009 federal health- care law, which she called “the most egregious level of taking of our liberty,” and government-sponsored bailouts of banks, automobile manufacturers and insurance companies.
“We can’t settle for the federal government taking over private industry,” she said.
Evangelical voters have been influential in recent Republican presidential primaries, comprising almost half of those who turn out to vote, according to polling analysts. They wield significant power in Iowa, site of the nation’s first nominating caucuses, where 60 percent of participants in the 2008 Republican contest described themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians.
Bachmann, 55, is competing for those voters with Perry, who gave a speech about his life and “faith journey” at Liberty on Sept. 14. He said America should be guided by “Christian values,” encouraging students not to allow “a bunch of Washington politicians” to dictate how they live.
School Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., son and namesake of the late social conservative commentator who founded the university, said Bachmann is a favorite among the students at Liberty. “Her background is similar to a lot of folks here,” he said in an interview before the event. “She’s kind of one of us.’
Bachmann is the fifth Republican presidential hopeful to address the university, said Falwell. Aside from Perry, the previous speakers were U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas, former pizza chain executive Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.
Invitations have been extended to Romney, President Barack Obama and other candidates. The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, is speaking at Liberty on October 8.
Falwell, who hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate yet, said Bachmann has been a consistent conservative voice.
“From her first day in office she has demonstrated a commitment to bold reform and has fought the evils of big government,” Falwell said. “Her courage and determination is her trademark.”
Bachmann, who was raised Lutheran, said she found her faith at age 16 when she knelt before a church altar.
“I was a sinner and I had a heart that needed to be cleaned,” she said. “At that moment, I repented from my sin.” Later that evening, Bachmann said, she promised to “radically abandon myself to Jesus Christ.”
Abortion Rights Opponent
Bachmann has gained support from social conservatives for her opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage. She began her political career protesting outside of clinics that perform abortions.
She received her law degree from Oral Roberts University, a Christian college based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bachmann & Associates, the clinic she owns with her husband, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, specializes in Christian counseling, which combines psychology with Biblical teachings.
As a member of the state Senate in Minnesota before winning her House seat, Bachmann became one of that chamber’s most active lawmakers on social issues. From 2003 through 2005, she unsuccessfully pushed for a constitutional amendment that would bar the state from legally recognizing same-sex marriage.
In her Liberty speech, Bachmann said she had simply followed God’s plan for her life. “Don’t settle for anything less than what this great and almighty God has planned for you,” she said.
--Editors: Jeanne Cummings, Don Frederick
To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Lerer in Lynchburg, Virginia, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at email@example.com