Bachmann: Improving economy 'won't take that long'

NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — Michele Bachmann declared Friday "it won't take that long" for her to start turning the ailing economy around as president as she competed against other GOP presidential rivals to build support ahead of a key GOP straw poll in Iowa next week.

Four of Bachmann's opponents in the Aug. 13 straw poll in Ames — Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Thad McCotter — later took turns bashing President Barack Obama's record at a Republican Party dinner at a high school in Tiffin and pitching themselves as best suited to defeat him.

Earlier in the day in Newton, Bachmann told reporters the economy would start to improve almost immediately after she becomes president because she would implement conservative economic policies to slash the nation's debt, stop tax increases and cut regulations.

"It won't take that long if we send signals to the marketplace," she said, standing by an earlier comment that the improvement would begin within the first quarter.

Reflecting the stakes of the straw poll, Santorum told the Friday night dinner crowd of about 400 activists the event would narrow the field and he urged them to give his struggling campaign a boost. He accused the media of ignoring him because he would be the strongest GOP candidate.

Pawlenty said Republicans were poised to take back the White House because of Obama's increasing unpopularity and "Iowa has to get it right" in nominating the best GOP candidate. He said voters should consider his conservative economic and social record as governor of Minnesota and be wary of candidates who can give great speeches but aren't strong leaders — which he said described Obama in 2008.

"Barack Obama is ripe for the picking. In fact, I would say politically you could stick a fork in him," Pawlenty said. "The main way we're going to goof this up as Republicans is to nominate the wrong candidate."

Of the straw poll, Pawlenty said: "It's going to have a big impact on this race, so I hope that you will help us."

The dinner at Clear Creek Amana High School capped a day of hectic campaigning across Iowa that was expected to continue until the straw poll, the first test of candidate support in the state with the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Speaking to supporters earlier in the day, Bachmann said the event would be historic.

"That is the day we will make a down payment on taking our country back and making Barack Obama a one-term president," she said.

Speaking in the parking lot of a Pizza Ranch in Newton, Bachmann said Friday's report that 117,000 jobs were created in July showed Obama had created far more campaign donors than jobs. She also said this week's plunge of the stock market was proof that an agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling and cut spending that she voted against was "a stinky deal."

Bachmann told reporters the economy would start to improve almost immediately after she becomes president because she would implement conservative economic policies to slash the nation's debt, stop tax increases and cut regulations.

"It won't take that long if we send signals to the marketplace," she said, standing by an earlier comment that the improvement would begin within the first quarter.

After the stock market plunged more than 500 points on Thursday, Jon Huntsman said in New Hampshire that President Obama has had enough time to fix the economy.

"We deserve a whole lot better in this country. The president's had two-and-a-half years to get it right. He has not infused enough confidence in this economy," he said, adding that the economy will remain stalled without tax and regulatory reform.

In Iowa, Bachmann said Friday she wanted to do well at the straw poll but also played down expectations, telling reporters she saw herself at a "distinct disadvantage from an organizational standpoint" because she'd only been in the race for two months, less than some rivals such as Pawlenty.

The Minnesota congresswoman played up her Iowa roots — she grew up in Waterloo — and posed for pictures with Michael McDowell, a NASCAR driver who was signing autographs in the parking lot before a race at a local track on Saturday. Pawlenty made a stop at the northeastern Iowa farm where the movie "Field of Dreams" was shot.

Pawlenty also dangled out more enticements to supporters to attend the straw poll, promising saucy barbecue and ice cream treats from two well-known restaurant chains. Bachmann promised her fans that her tent would feature live music from country star Randy Travis.

The candidates were fighting to win over Republicans such as Terry Bradley, a 56-year-old Newton man who showed up at Bachmann's event. Bradley said he and his wife had been leaning toward supporting Pawlenty until they heard Bachmann.

"When someone asks Pawlenty a question, he's kind of long-winded. You almost get a mini-speech," Bradley said. "When someone asks her a question, with Michelle you get a clear answer. You may not always agree, but you get an answer."

Other candidates were expected to blitz through the state in the next week. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who drew nice crowds in stops this week, will campaign with his son, Sen. Rand Paul, as he tries to fire up his loyal supporters in hopes of scoring a surprisingly strong finish at the straw poll.

Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who is also hoping to prove his viability in Ames, kicks off a weeklong bus tour across Iowa on Monday.

Other politicians who could have an impact on the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses next year aren't competing in the straw poll — but were represented at Friday night's dinner. Supporters of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who won the event in 2008 and is skipping it this year, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin were in attendance.


Associated Press writers Brian Bakst in St. Paul, Minn., and Holly Ramer in Nashua, N.H. contributed to this report.

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