MASON CITY, Iowa - On the third day of a 99-county bus tour of Iowa, GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmann set her sights on front-runner Newt Gingrich, hammering him on his positions pertaining to abortion and illegal immigrants and hounding him to return the money he made consulting for mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
After a church service Sunday morning, Bachmann held a brief news conference on the street in front of Harvest Baptist Church in Fort Dodge, where she preached a fiery sermon accusing former House Speaker Gingrich of influence peddling, altering his position on illegal immigrants and supporting congressional candidates unopposed to partial birth abortion.
"While the rest of the country was dealing with economic meltdown, he was pocketing $1.6 million," the Minnesota congresswoman said of Gingrich, who consulted for the government enterprise after leaving Congress.
Bachmann is hoping her 10-day whirlwind tour of Iowa, where she's delivering red-meat stump speeches, will slow Gingrich's momentum here. While she has barnstormed the state, hitting more than 10 stops a day, since a televised debate in Sioux City Thursday, Gingrich has not been in Iowa.
In an effort to call Gingrich's conservative credentials into question, she went after him on the two topics caucus-goers have most asked about in her three days on the road: illegal immigration and abortion.
"The most important issue for the party is the issue of protecting human life," she said. "There is nothing more important than that we need to stand up to protect life. … [Gingrich] said he would support and campaign for Republicans that support the barbaric practice of partial birth abortion. I would never do that … because this is a barbaric practice."
She accused Gingrich of altering his position on illegal immigration, but summarized it as "amnesty."
Bachmann met with mostly friendly crowds. At one event in Clarion, however, she was surprised by a group of gay students waving rainbow flags and questioning her about the high rate of teen suicides in her congressional district.