Marshalltown, Iowa (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann appears to be basking in the glow that comes with rising popularity and front-of-the-pack status in Iowa.
On Saturday, the three-term Minnesota congresswoman assumed the role of Republican presidential nominee - with Senate candidates potentially riding her coattails to victory. She answered questions about what kind of cabinet secretaries she’d pick, and she employed a tactic used previously by many a front-runner candidate: deflect political attacks from opponents who are running behind.
Bachmann spoke to a small but packed room of voters at a public library in Marshalltown.
A large chunk of her speech was devoted to blasting President Barack Obama’s economic policies. To help do that, the congresswoman did arithmetic on a dry-erase board – teacher-to-student style – to tell the crowd about specifics of government spending, borrowing and debt.
The president is "refusing to make cuts,” she said at one point. “And I just got off the phone with John Boehner who's the speaker of the House. And John walked away from the fight today.”
During a question-and-answer session, the candidate was asked how she’d get Congress to go along with a potential Bachmann administration.
"As the nominee of the Republican Party, I will make it my goal to elect another 13 senators who are like minded," she responded.
“I will campaign for them, raise money for them," she added.
"This isn't about me and vanity and I want to be president of the United States. This is about making the country better."
The congresswoman was also asked: how would she pick a cabinet and advisers?
"Number one will be competence on the issues. And experience on the issues. And I will have a preference for people in the private sector," she said. Among her other criteria: officials who love the Constitution and practical people “who figured out how to make something work.”
"They are there ...to let me know what their advice is," Bachmann said.
Meanwhile, the candidate is avoiding direct political combat with fellow GOP contender Tim Pawlenty.
The former Minnesota governor has repeatedly attacked Bachmann as not having any executive experience, and having a record of “failed amendments” in Congress.
After her speech, CNN asked Bachmann about Pawlenty’s slams. Bachmann would not take them on directly –- or address Pawlenty by name.
“Well I’ve been very proud of the record I that I’ve had in Washington, D.C. And also during my time in Minnesota,” she said. “What I have focused on is going against the agenda of growing big government in Washington. I’ve been very effective. I’ve brought the voice of the people that I serve in Minnesota to the halls of Congress.”
Bachmann continued: “I know how to deal with turning the economy around because I’ve dealt with that as a federal tax lawyer. I understand the devastation of high taxes on employers. And I also, from the point of view, of being a small business employer myself, I’ve created jobs.”
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