Washington (CNN) - Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, defended Social Security on Friday, continuing what has become a steady drumbeat of Republican presidential hopefuls differentiating themselves from Texas Gov. Rick Perry's position on the program.
In an interview with CNN's John King, Bachmann characterized the program as "a safety net that many Americans have paid into their whole life."
"I think that America needs to keep its promise to senior citizens," Bachmann said. "I talk with them all the time. I love senior citizens. I care about them. My mom is 80 years old. My dad is 87. And I know right now we have trouble."
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Social Security ignited as a hot topic in the Republican presidential race this week when Perry referred to it as a "Ponzi scheme" at the GOP debate in California on Wednesday.
While Bachmann didn't directly comment on Perry's statement, she said the program needs to be protected and reformed.
The presidential candidate also took the opportunity to slam President Barack Obama on Medicare. Bachmann frequently campaigns against the president's sweeping health care reform, arguing that it steals money from Medicare.
"This is at a time when Medicare is grossly short on money coming in, because we know that nine years from now, that possible trust fund for Medicare could be flat broke," Bachmann said.
Since Perry entered the race in mid-August, Bachmann has seen her poll numbers dropping and her campaign struggling to keep up with two front-runners in the race: Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Earlier in the week, Bachmann's team experienced a shake-up when her campaign manager, Ed Rollins, stepped down into an advisory role, while her deputy campaign manager left altogether.
But Bachmann maintained that her campaign is a "lean, mean machine moving forward with gusto," while Rollins still serves as her "chief champion."
She added that poll numbers don't indicate much this early on, noting that 2008 presidential candidates Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani were early front-runners who dropped out in the early primaries.
But Bachmann highlighted her first-place finish in the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, a test of organizational strength in the state.
"And it was a stunning victory - even more than people realize because I had been in that race a shorter period of time than any of the other participants in that race," Bachmann said. "Campaigns aren't settled in one day. This is a marathon."