COLUMBIA -- Republican presidential contender Michele Bachmann knows the way into conservative South Carolinians' hearts: Invoke tea party favorite U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint's name.
During a 12-minute campaign stop Monday to sign the "Cut, Cap and Balance" pledge, the Minnesota representative mentioned DeMint six times and told reporters that he is exactly right on fiscal issues and the need to fundamentally restructure the economy.
Bachmann said she spoke to DeMint recently, but she did not feel pressured to sign the pledge.
DeMint, however, told The Hill newspaper that he will not consider endorsing a candidate who does not sign the pledge, which he helped develop. DeMint has said he has no favorite in the race so far, but he is watching the campaigns closely and could endorse in advance of the primary. The state's First- in-the-South Republican presidential primary is tentatively set for late February.
Dave Woodard, a Clemson University political science professor and GOP political consultant, said Bachmann and other Republican candidates are smart to tie themselves to DeMint.
"The South Carolina primary has picked the presidential nominee of the GOP every time since 1980 and no one's endorsement is more important this year than that of Jim DeMint," Woodard said. "Jim DeMint hasn't picked a candidate. Evidently, a lot of candidates have picked him."
Woodard has served as a consultant for DeMint.
Bachmann originally said that she didn't think the pledge went far enough. She is late to signing it, but she said Monday she wanted to research the issue first. She also added to the pledge that she promises, as president, to repeal and defund the nation's health care overhaul backed by President Barack Obama. She also said she would oppose any attempts to raise the country's debt limit, remove the option to default on government payments and see to it that the military gets paid before anyone else.
"I have always stood firm on these principles," Bachmann said. "Jim is exactly right: We need a fundamental restructuring in the way Washington spends our money. ...
"This is a positive plan to move our economy forward, something that President Obama has simply failed to do."
South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said the plan Bachmann endorsed would "cut funding for education and cost millions of Americans their health care coverage; would almost certainly cause the reduction of Social Security benefits, unravel seniors' budgets; and would slash the investments needed to win the future."
Bachmann is making a two-day swing through South Carolina. She will attend an 8:30 a.m. event today at Christ Central Ministries in Columbia with the state Christian Chamber of Commerce and head to Aiken for a 1 p.m. "Rally in the Alley."