As U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann readied for the formal launch of her presidential campaign on Monday in Waterloo, Iowa, the Minnesota Republican found herself simultaneously buoyed by poll results and pelted by questions about her family's acceptance of farm subsidies and other government money.
A poll of likely GOP caucus-goers conducted for the Des Moines Register shows Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, with support from 23 percent and Bachmann with 22 percent. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty came in sixth in the poll, with 6 percent support.
Later Sunday, she spoke to a packed house at the Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo, highlighting her Iowa roots and urging those in the crowd to support her in the Ames Straw Poll in August.
During an appearance Sunday morning on "Fox News Sunday," Bachmann was confronted by new reports that she and her husband gained from government farm subsidies, as well as from public funds for their Christian counseling clinics in the Twin Cities.
As she has maintained in the past, Bachmann said the hundreds of thousands of dollars in farm payments for a family farm in Wisconsin went to her in-laws, not her. Some $30,000 in state and federal money for their counseling practice was training money for their employees, she said.
"My husband and I did not get the money," she told host Chris Wallace.
Wallace, who pressed her on a series of inconsistencies and gaffes in her past public remarks, then asked, "Are you a flake?"
Taken aback, Bachmann responded "that would be insulting to say something like that," and listed a series of personal, professional and political accomplishments.
In a Wallace Unplugged segment later, the Fox News host acknowledged that the network had received complaints and apologized. "I didn't mean any disrespect," he said.
On CBS News' "Face the Nation," Bachmann revisited her infamous 2008 remark that she was concerned that President Obama -- then a presidential candidate -- might have "anti-American views."
On Sunday, for the first time publicly, Bachmann backed away from that statement. "I don't question the president's patriotism at all," she said on CBS. "There are a lot of things I wish I'd said differently."
But Bachmann also pressed the attack on Obama, accusing the president and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner of engaging in "scare tactics" by warning of a catastrophic national default if Congress does not raise the debt limit. The government, she said on CBS, could continue to pay its creditors while diverting funds for ongoing federal programs.
"I have no intention of voting to raise the debt ceiling," she said.
Arrived in Iowa
In Waterloo Sunday night, she spoke largely of her family and the city itself, while sidestepping policy matters.
"I want you to know, everything I needed to know, I learned in Iowa," she said.
Bachmann lived in Waterloo until she was a teenager.
She emphasized the Ames Straw Poll as "a big deal," and told the crowd "you will be the ones who will determine who will lead this great nation in the future."
Several in the crowd said Sunday evening's turnout for Bachmann's speech was much larger than for other candidates who have passed through Waterloo this season. The event was heavily publicized on local radio stations.
"I don't think we've had anybody from Waterloo run for president in either party before, so I think that makes a difference," said Dawn Young, active with the Black Hawk County Republican Party.
Sheila Reiland, from Iowa City, attended Bachmann's rally on Capitol Hill before the health care vote. She waited to meet Bachmann and thank her for running.
"It takes a lot of courage to do this," Reiland said. "And I really feel like she's speaking for me and for my values."
Bachmann is to announce her campaign at 9 a.m. Monday.