MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa – In contrast to many of her fellow Republican presidential candidates, who have remained mum on Herman’s Cain’s public relations crisis, Michele Bachmann took what appeared to be a subtle swipe at one of her chief rivals for the socially conservative vote on Tuesday night while speaking at a Baptist conference and rally.
After making her standard pitch that she is the most proven conservative in the race, Bachmann added a new line that read like a reference to Cain and the intense media scrutiny he is facing over allegations of sexual harassment that two former female subordinates made against him more than a decade ago.
“This is the year when we can’t have any surprises with our candidate,” the Minnesota congresswoman told the audience at First Fellowship Baptist Church. “We have to have a candidate that we can know, when we put them into office, we can trust them with their record of what they have done and who they are.”
Cain has recently usurped some of Bachmann’s late-summer momentum. The recent Des Moines Register poll of Iowa caucus voters showed him leading the field among those who identified themselves as tea party members, born-again Christians, and “very conservative” on social issues. To gain any traction before Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucus, Bachmann will need to reclaim some of that support.
Bachmann and fellow presidential candidate Rick Santorum were featured speakers at the Iowa Association of Independent Baptists event, and both used the opportunity to make their cases of being the most socially conservative option in the 2012 Republican field. Santorum pointed to his efforts in drafting a federal marriage amendment while he was in the U.S. Senate and then forcing it to a vote on the floor.
“We didn’t win, but we had the debate.” Santorum told the crowd. “You want someone as president who’s got a track record of both putting the issues out there, fighting for the issues on the basis of principle, being ahead of the curve on where the issues of the culture are going.”
Not to be outdone, Bachmann also spoke of her efforts in the Minnesota state Senate to allow a referendum on a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman.
“I worked very hard on that, and as you can imagine, I was public enemy No. 1 in the state of Minnesota,” Bachmann said, then telling the audience that the bill was finally going to be up for a vote in Minnesota in 2012. The message was clear, she said: “Stand firm. Persist. You can get it done.”
Both presidential candidates shared their personal stories of faith with the audience, with Bachmann noting that she became a born-again Christian on Nov. 1, 1972 – exactly 39 years ago that day. She told the crowd that she felt she was called upon by a higher power to enter the presidential race.
“I will tell you, it was an odd feeling for me when I had the sense that the Lord was calling me to participate in this race,” she said.
Santorum also spoke of the sense of a greater purpose behind his run for the presidency, although he made no claims of being called by God. Instead, he told the story of an elderly, wheelchair-bound man he bonded with while knocking on doors during his first run for Congress in 1990.
The man, Santorum said, was on his deathbed by Election Day, but he refused to go to the hospital so that he could vote. He cast a ballot for Santorum and died 3 days later. In a note he left behind for the newly elected Pennsylvania congressman, the elderly man predicted “that God has great things in store for you if you are faithful to him.” Santorum told his audience at that he kept that letter in his desk during all of his 16 years in public office.