Spartanburg and Greenville, South Carolina (CNN) – GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann spent the first day of her bus tour in South Carolina building on the momentum of her Iowa frontrunner status after last weekend’s straw-poll victory.
That win also puts her in direct competition with fellow social conservative Rick Perry, who is becoming a formidable candidate as the two compete for votes in the same early primary states.
During a brief Q&A with reporters, Bachmann avoided making clear distinctions between herself and Perry, but she was keen to point out that the next president should be someone who has started a business, which she’s done but which happens to be missing from the Texas governor’s resume.
“I think it’s good if we have, as a president of the United States, someone who is actually - from scratch - started a business and knows what to do in order to be successful,” Bachmann said.
When CNN asked her if she thinks she can beat Perry in South Carolina, the state known for selecting the eventual Republican presidential nominee, Bachmann said confidently, “I’m here to win.”
The Minnesota congresswoman’s blue campaign bus pulled into the parking lot of the Beacon drive-in, a Spartanburg institution and the kind of place one resident said you come to “for a grease job once a year.”
Her lunchtime rally maximized face time with restaurant-goers and a sizable crowd of Bachmann supporters who gathered to see the candidate.
After her 20-minute stump speech, she spent about twice as long shaking hands and taking pictures with folks.
One woman waited outside in the 90-plus-degree heat with only part of an umbrella shielding her from the hot sun for two hours before Bachmann walked on stage, and she waited a full hour after that to shake the candidate's hand and get her signature.
Bachmann finally made it inside Beacon’s and placed her order with the help of 48-year-old Tommy Rice, who says he has been working there since he was ten. In true Beacon lingo, she ordered a “chili cheese a-plenty,” which translates to a double chili cheeseburger piled so high with fries and onion rings Bachmann couldn’t find the hamburger on the plate at first.
The petite candidate said she enjoyed the food, but it’s unclear how much she ate because she told Rice the order was to go and took the food to her bus.
Bachmann started her town hall in nearby Greenville an hour late, but fortunately this time the event was inside so no one was melting in the Southern heat.
She spoke for just under 25 minutes before turning it over to the question-and-answer session, which lasted a half hour. In that time, she took five questions, but one of those was a comment that received a one-line response.
Her longest answer was to the first question, about what she would do in the first 100 days in office to lower taxes and cut spending.
The congresswoman said her goal, in addition to moving into the White House, was to elect 13 more like-minded new senators. Roars and applause erupted from the audience when she suggested cloning one of South Carolina’s senators, a tea party favorite. “How about 13 more Jim DeMints in the U.S. Senate?”
Bachmann said she would cut back on spending and examine which federal programs need to go, simplify the tax code, repeal “Obamacare,” and pass the “mother of all repeal bills on the federal education law and repeal all the unfunded mandates.”
She said she would also make an announcement in the first 100 days that “in the United States of America, we will stand with Israel.”
The White House contender also took questions about education, illegal immigration, and climate change.
Bachmann will peel off the campaign trail Wednesday to raise money in North Carolina.
CNN’s Peter Hamby reports she’ll attend an early morning fundraising breakfast in Charlotte. She will resume her South Carolina bus tour Thursday with rallies in Columbia and Florence, and will conclude Friday after a town hall in Myrtle Beach and a rally in Mt. Pleasant outside Charleston.