Bachmann ups conservative stakes, calls GOP rivals 'frugal socialists'

Staking out her place as the most conservative candidate in the presidential race, Michele Bachmann unloaded a series of attacks on unnamed opponents on Monday, lumping fellow Republicans together with socialists and insinuating that her competitors are feigning their positions on social issues.

Bachmann’s remarks before social conservatives at the Family Research Council made clear that she sees pushing her opponents to the left as her best chance to reverse her slide in the polls and to reclaim her position as a major player in the Republican nominating contest.

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"Too many Republicans, they also aspire to be 'frugal socialists,' " Bachmann said, vowing to eradicate socialism throughout the U.S. government if elected president.

But asked by a reporter which Republicans she was invoking, the Minnesota lawmaker demurred.

"That's part of the puzzle that you figure out when I give a speech," she said with a sly smile.

Calling out her opponents for being too soft on conservative values without naming names and opening the door for a tête-à-tête has been a consistent strategy for Bachmann since she started dropping in the polls in mid-August. She extended that approach on Monday to jabs at her opponents when talking about abortion.

"Some Republican candidates seem confused by what it means to be 100 percent pro-life," she said, adding that checking the boxes on opposition to abortion is not sufficient and beckoning voters to take a closer look at her opponents' records. “You won’t find YouTube clips of me advocating anything else.”

Although never uttering his name, Mitt Romney seemed to be the primary target of many of Bachmann’s pokes. But with new reports about a fourth women accusing contender Herman Cain of sexual harassment emerging just before Bachmann’s speech, one of her comments seemed aimed squarely at Cain.

"While this election season has been full of surprises, I assure you there will be no policy surprises with me," she said.

Cain and Romney have both struggled to persuade voters that their anti-abortion stance is genuine and absolute. While consistently maintaining that abortion is wrong, Cain has wavered on whether it should be illegal in all circumstances. And Romney critics have long maintained that he was solidly in favor of abortion rights when he served as the governor of Massachusetts.

Bachmann vowed to veto any new laws enabling regulations that she said distort the Constitution's commerce clause, and said any budget Congress sends to her that isn't balanced will also face a certain veto. She called social welfare programs and education the realm of the states, promising to remove the federal government from policy areas she said should originate with families and communities.

"If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat," she said, invoking a passage from the Bible's New Testament.

Questioned by an audience member who claimed Shariah Law has invaded the United States, Bachmann threw some red meat to the neoconservative element of the GOP base, arguing that the threat of Shariah Law holds serious, profound implications for the country.

"This is an issue that Americans are rightly concerned about all across the United States of America," Bachmann said. "It must be resisted all across the United States."

After surging to about 15 percent in the polls in August — around the time that she won the straw poll in Ames, Iowa — Bachmann has slid significantly, and now garners about 4 percent in most national polls of the Republican field.