Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) – Rep. Michele Bachmann was firing on all cylinders Thursday evening, dismissing competitors' management experience and laid out, in dire terms, how the 2012 presidential race is a "last chance election" and why she's the only candidate who has the chops to make the U.S. "the big dog" in the world.
The congresswoman from Minnesota, who secured a first place finish in a crucial Iowa straw poll two weeks ago, trails Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the latest national Gallup poll sizing up the Republican field.
She told hundreds gathered at a Charleston town hall that her proven record of standing up to special interests trumps a background of governing that Perry and Romney bring to the table.
"That's the experience you want to have," Bachmann said, referring to her stand-up record. "Not someone who's going to just manage all of this big government. Because you can put a Republican in there to manage big government but you're never going to have the United States as a big prosperous, big-dog-in-the-world again if you do that," she said.
Bachmann stressed the need to repeal President Obama's health care reform law, or so-called Obamacare, before it "metastasizes" like a cancer and "we will not be able to get rid of it."
"You can't put socialized medicine into a country and think that ever again you can elect a Republican as president – or a conservative or even a tea partier as president – and think that somehow we're going to get back to limited government," Bachmann said. "It won't happen because socialized medicine is the definition of big government."
The three-term congresswoman believes her time inside the Beltway, challenging Democrats and rank-and-file Republicans, is how she can change how Washington works.
"I'm so absolutely concerned because I've been there. I've been on the front lines," Bachmann said, comparing her legislative experience to a battlefield. "I have wept in Washington, D.C. watching what's happening to our country. This is real."
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a fellow Republican, showed up at the town hall and asked a question about a labor dispute as "an undecided voter" from Columbia. Bachmann was also asked about "reigning in" federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department. In another answer, she said she would support a federal amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Bachmann, who was also asked about her position on illegal immigration, told the audience she thinks it is possible through legislation to stop the "anchor baby" problem of children born to mothers living illegally in the United States. When that happens she said, "A whole new set of implications arise for the United States. I do not believe that the American taxpayer should be paying benefits to people who are in the United States illegally."
Bachmann wrapped up questions from the 90-minute town hall, hosted by South Carolina GOP freshman Rep. Tim Scott, with a heartfelt pitch to back her candidacy.
"I think it's a last chance election if you ask me," Bachmann said. "So think about it very carefully. We need a miracle right now. I'm a praying woman, a believing woman, and I believe we need a miracle but I also believe that there's a God big enough to give us that miracle."