Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) - With the air of a college instructor, Michele Bachmann essentially gave college students a Conservative 101 on the economy, national and foreign affairs and other important issues on Thursday in Iowa. But when the Republican presidential candidate took questions, some students turned the tables on their lecturer, peppering her with tough questions.
The Minnesota congresswoman appeared at a town hall at Drake University in Des Moines. Campus Republicans sponsored the event and helped pack the room.
But a few students who support President Barack Obama spotted in the crowd before the event began foretold of tense exchanges ahead. At least two of them sat onstage just inches away from Bachmann - one of them wearing a T-shirt with the president's image.
Throughout her comments, Bachmann tailored her delivery seemingly to suit her young audience.
"How many of you, this will be your very first presidential election to vote in? Let me see your hands," the candidate asked, receiving several raised arms from the students.
"What do you think so far?" Bachmann asked.
Among the replies: "chaotic," "roller coaster" and "circus."
Bachmann proceeded to tackle big issues, frequently explaining them first - not assuming the students were already familiar or understood critical details.
"Have you heard about the super committee?" Bachmann asked. After explaining Congress' role in passing spending bills and recent problems over the negotiations, Bachmann warned that raising taxes could cause another recession.
"In other words, very difficult for job prospects for all of you when you leave Drake," she said.
"We could either have tax increases, which I and a number of my colleagues have pledged we won't raise taxes. The other alternative will be dramatic cuts," Bachmann added.
The candidate specifically criticized the potential for massive cuts to the defense budget.
"We just heard that some of the cuts would mean the military, which just took $400 billion in cuts, would take another $600 billion in cuts," Bachmann said.
"The current Defense Secretary [Leon] Panetta said that would be like taking a bullet to the head."
Bachmann also discussed the national debt.
"Why would you care? Because you're the people that are expected to pay off that debt," she said.
On taxes, Bachmann criticized the number of Americans who don't pay taxes - and referenced the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"Today, 47% of Americans pay zero federal income taxes," Bachmann said. "And the top 1% of income earners in the United States, that you hear so much about with Occupy Wall Street, the top 1% of income earners pay 40% of all the federal income taxes."
"So I want to change the tax code, so that it is fair and so that everybody pays something."
And the congresswoman lectured the students about the work world that lies ahead.
Mentioning her own personal financial struggles, Bachmann said: "It's an animating principle of the United States - it's the fact that nobody owes you a living. Now maybe your parents said that to you."
When Bachmann opened the session to questions, some students asked relatively tame questions on what the U.S. position on Syria should be and where Bachmann stood on campaign finance reform. Some others pounced.
"You used the line of 'bullet to the head' for the American military," one student said.
"Part of the super committee, is that there would be mandatory cuts on either side - on entitlement programs and the military spending aspect of it. I would classify it as a bullet to the American family's head if our entitlement programs in this country were cut drastically," the student added. "For the people who depend on that - that are in an unemployed situation where they need federal aid, they're the most vulnerable."
Bachmann responded by reiterating that the nation is spending too much.
Another student asked: "You said that you wanted to increase offshore drilling and just drilling in general for oil. So that you could decrease the price of oil in the near future. Don't you think that would kind of just be beating a dead horse instead of trying to find a reasonable solution for the long term?"
Bachmann reiterated her stance that the U.S. has tremendous energy resources, "But the problem is, even our own Department of Energy, won't let us access them."
Another student questioned Bachmann on national service programs, such as AmeriCorps: "You've gone on record as opposing those. So just wondering, if elected president, you might make that a part of your agenda? And if you think it's a good idea, during this economy, to take away opportunities for young people to serve their country?"
"Well it isn't the idea of young people not serving their country," Bachmann said. "The point is, we're broke. I don't know if you all have gotten that message yet from me this morning," Bachmann said.
Arguably the most tense exchange came as Bachmann restated her opposition to "Obamacare."
As she criticized specifics of the nation's health care law, one student shouted: "So screw the sick and homeless?"
"Who said that?" Bachmann asked.
"You have," the student said.
"You could not be further from the truth," Bachmann shot back. "You're looking at someone who lived below poverty. Have you ever lived at that?"
Bachmann continued: "I know what I had to do. I got a job. That's what you need to do. You need to figure out how to get a job and make your way."