If there's an effective foil to the condescending, professorial manner of GOP front-runner Newt Gingrich, it was Michele Bachmann who took the debate stage last night. She was sure of herself and took dead aim at the former House Speaker's weakest points with conservatives – his tendency to demean detractors and his refusal to change positions on issues where he thinks he's right; even if it makes him an anathema to the conservatives he's trying to court.
The Minnesota congresswoman was the hardest hitter during the Fox News debate in Sioux City , proudly taking Gingrich to task for pocketing $1.6 million from quasi-governmental mortgage giant Freddie Mac, which was eventually the recipient of a taxpayer bailout. After Gingrich attempted to dismiss her criticism as "just not true," Bachmann refused to back down.
"You don't need to be in the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, D.C. to get them to do your bidding and the bidding was to keep this grandiose scam of Freddie Mac going," Bachmann said. "That is something that our nominee can't stand for."
Bachmann, an early Tea Party favorite, sought to exploit an issue the group has expressed outrage at which is the government bailouts of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Gingrich gave her what she was looking for when he refused to back away from his past support of the agencies, saying some quasi-government agencies do good work.
The attacks from Bachmann come as she tries to revive her once high-flying campaign. She has struggled to maintain her momentum since a straw poll victory in the Hawkeye State earlier this yearand her support has plunged in the polls. A strong finish in Iowa's caucuses is essential to her bid for the presidency.
Bachmann also turned up the heat on Gingrich on abortion, another issue that will play well for her among social conservatives and particularly in Iowa. She accused him of not working hard enough to remove funding for Planned Parenthood and going after House Republicans who opposed a ban on partial birth abortions during his time as House speaker.
"What I said on that particular issue is, I wouldn't go out and try to purge Republicans. Now I don't see how you're going to govern the country if you're going to run around and decide who you're going to purge," Gingrich said.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul was also the victim of a Bachmann barrage, as he defended his position of America stepping back or eliminating altogether its military presence around the world. He repeatedly said the United States should not be the world's policeman. He also refused to call for sanctions or military actions against Iran, as all other candidates on the stage did, stating there is no evidence of Iran possessing nuclear weapons and he does not want to create another situation akin to the Iraq war.
"I think I have never heard a more dangerous answer for American security than the one that we just heard from Ron Paul," Bachmann responded.
And after repeatedly being accused of making things up and not having her facts straight by both Gingrich and Paul, a clearly angry Bachmann fought back.
"I think it's outrageous to continue to say over and over through the debates that I don't have my facts right when as a matter of fact I do," she said. "I'm a serious candidate for president of the United States, and my facts are accurate."
The exchange reflected poorly on Gingrich, whose history of three marriages and two admitted affairs could hurt his support among women voters.
Influential conservative blogger Erik Erickson wrote on Redstate.com, "(Bachmann) got the better of (Gingrich) on the issue of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and he treated her so dismissively on the issue of abortion I expect it to really hurt him more with women."
The debate was the last before the January 3 Iowa caucuses.