Presidential contender steps into Palin's shoes


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The Independent US

Boasting she has a "titanium spine" but dodging revelations which suggest she may also possess a brass neck, Michele Bachmann spent the weekend preparing to become the latest Republican front-runner to launch their bid for the party's presidential nomination.

The Congresswoman from Minnesota, a social conservative and favourite of the Tea Party demographic, consented to a relatively rare unscripted interview with Fox News as she travelled to today's official campaign launch in Iowa, a key destination in early voting.

But, even as supporters were celebrating a poll suggesting that she has now moved into second place in the running for February's Iowa caucuses, at 22 per cent to the early leader Mitt Romney's 23 per cent, Ms Bachmann was learning that the perils of life in the glare of a media spotlight which accompanies any campaign for America's highest office.

A story in the Los Angeles Times revealed that, despite the principled objection to public spending and big government which has propelled her rise to prominence, the Congresswoman and her family have in recent years benefited from hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in financial support.

The article revealed that Ms Bachmann's husband Marcus, a psychologist, has received $30,000 (£19,000) in grants from both the Minnesota and federal authorities. That seems at odds with Ms Bachmann's vehement public hostility to government involvement in healthcare, which she has dubbed "socialised medicine".

Ms Bachmann has previously been a stern critic of farming subsidies. Yet her family's farm in rural Wisconsin received $280,000 in government support between 1995 and 2008, largely for corn and dairy production. And while she has previously claimed to have never received "one penny" from the farm, financial disclosure forms show that Ms Bachmann was in fact paid dividends of between $32,500 and $105,000, between 2006 and 2009.

The LA Times story also noted that, despite her hostility to what she once called Barack Obama's "failed stimulus programme fuelled by borrowed money", Ms Bachmann had asked for millions of dollars from the same programme to be funnelled towards a selection of infrastructure projects in her home state.

Critics say the apparent contradictions between Ms Bachmann's public and private stances suggest that, although she may fill a Sarah Palin-sized hole in the market for a right-leaning female Republican candidate, her credibility may struggle to survive the election process.

In an interview with Fox News on Sunday as she prepared to travel to today's campaign launch in Waterloo, Iowa, Ms Bachmann was asked, apropos a selection of recent gaffes, "Are you a flake?" She replied by calling the question "insulting".