WATERLOO, Iowa — Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann said Sunday her bid to unseat President Barack Obama shouldn't be viewed as "anything personal" against the Democrat — he's "just wrong" on his policies for America.
In an interview with The Associated Press on the eve of her entry in the 2012 GOP presidential race, the Minnesota congresswoman said she does not foresee problems moving from frequent naysayer to the country's proposer-in-chief. She said voters can expect her to propose an economic agenda that includes cuts to corporate taxes and phase-outs of taxes on inheritances and investment earnings.
Her economic turnaround plan will also include a repeal of unspecified environmental regulations, she said.
"Look, I love the environment. I love clean air, clean water. I'm a sportswoman. I love the outdoors. We will keep that. But the EPA has been an expansion department," she told the AP from outside her girlhood home in a now-gritty Waterloo neighborhood, where she says her Democratic parents taught her lifelong sensibilities.
Of Obama, she said, "I don't have anything personal about our president. But he's just wrong. But his policy prescriptions have been wrong."
The nothing-personal message was a departure from her 2008 comments questioning whether Obama had "anti-American" views. She has said she wishes she framed her criticism differently.
Bachmann, a tea party favorite, planned to kick off her campaign Monday in Waterloo where she has been greeted with a new poll predicting she'll be a force in the state that opens the GOP nomination context. The Iowa Poll released Saturday by The Des Moines Register showed her in a statistical tie with Republican rival Mitt Romney among likely caucus-goers.
The poll showed Romney with 23 percent support and Bachmann with 22 percent among those who said they were likely to vote in the nation's first Republican nomination contest. The top five included Georgia businessman Herman Cain, at 10 percent, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, with 7 percent each.
Speaking later to hundreds at a nearby ballroom, Bachmann effusively mentioned her Iowa roots.
"We need more Waterloo. We need more Iowa. We need more closeness, more families, more love for each other," she told her enthusiastic crowd.
The audience soaked it up.
"She's one of 'us.' There are too many of 'them' in Washington and not enough of 'us,'" said insurance salesman David Alderman. "I think she's got star power. She's a frontrunner right now."
Earlier Sunday, Bachmann had harsher words for those warning economic calamity unless Congress raises the government's borrowing limit by an August deadline.
"It isn't true that the government would default on its debt," Bachmann told CBS' "Face the Nation." She later added, "It is scare tactics."
Instead, she said the U.S. could avoid a default by paying only the interest on U.S. obligations while lawmakers work on a deal to cut spending dramatically as part of a new debt ceiling.
Such an approach has been derided as unworkable by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Obama planned separate meetings Monday with Senate leaders as negotiations on trimming spending and raising the debt ceiling moved into a new stage. Talks among lawmakers of both parties ended last week when Democrats and Republicans reached an impasse over whether there should be any role for additional revenue in reducing the deficit.
Officials say the nation's borrowing will exceed its $14.3 trillion limit on Aug. 2 and that economic shockwaves around the world would result from the first financial default in U.S. history.
Associated Press writer Douglass K. Daniel in Washington contributed to this report.
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