Bachmann criticizes health-care reform, stimulus package

COSTA MESA — Though she drew a fraction of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's crowd in Newport Beach last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann's supporters showed no signs of losing faith at the Orange County Fairgrounds on Friday.

About 150 to 200 supporters came to hear the Minnesota Republican stump for the GOP nomination for president.

"We are ready to take our country back in 2012!" Bachmann cried.

The "tea party" favorite immediately went on the offensive against President Obama, and the government's $535-million contract with the now-defunct energy company Solyndra.

Bachmann got cheers when she pledged to simplify the tax code, repeal health-care and Wall Street reform laws and increase oil and natural gas drilling in her first 100 days in office.

Unemployment is up, the value of the dollar is down and the economy has slowed to a crawl, she argued.

"We aren't even treading water anymore," Bachmann said, before drawing a contrast between herself and tea party rival Perry.

"Do we have a problem with Social Security? Yes," she said while criticizing Perry's pointed language in calling it a "Ponzi scheme." "We have to change that system for the people who are younger. We can reform the system. Why? Because we're Americans, we can figure it out."

On an overcast morning outside the property's Pacific Amphitheatre, Bachmann's energy was contagious to her supporters.

"I think the other guys need to step up their energy, conservatism and constitutionality," said Mission Viejo resident Terri Bold, who was carrying a homemade "OC loves Bachmann" poster. "She has the right message."

But since her criticism earlier this week of Perry's executive order as governor to have adolescent girls vaccinated for the human papilloma virus, which is linked to venereal warts and cervical cancer, Bachmann's backpedaled a bit.

She had drawn fire from the medical community for seeming to imply that the HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation, which it does not. She explained to reporters Friday that she was simply repeating a story someone told her after the Republican debate Monday.

"I'm not attesting to the woman's comments, only relaying what she told me," Bachmann said.

The crowd was more interested in hearing about Bachmann's plan to get President Obama out of office in 2012. Although she led in polls earlier in the summer, since Perry entered the race, her numbers have steadily fallen as his have ascended.

Some in the audience were ardent Bachmann supporters, others were conservatives still trying to learn about the candidates. But a common thread among most was replacing Obama.

"I'm looking for change, but not any kind of change Obama wants," said Tom Pollitt, a member of Newport-Mesa's tea party. "We're going to crumble under this debt."

Offering more specifics than fellow tea party favorite Perry did last week, Bachmann slammed Obama's health-care reform, the size of the national debt and the stimulus package approved early in his presidency.

"Repealing 'Obamacare' is why I got involved," Pollitt said. "When that passed, that's the defining moment for me. So it's what matters to me."

Some in the audience who agree with her positions remained skeptical about her electability.

"I don't know if she'll make the cut," said David Harlow, a tea party member from Seal Beach. "I hope she makes it, but I think it will end up being more [former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt] Romney and Perry."

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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