“We have seen President Obama usher in socialism under his watch over the last two years,” she said to a cheering crowd at a hotel in Washington.
Referring to the overhaul of the U.S. health-care system that Obama pushed into law last year, the Minnesota Republican said, “Obamacare is clearly the crown jewel of socialism, and repealing it is the driving motivation of my life.”
The event’s organizers said more than 10,000 people plan to attend the 38th annual gathering of Republican activists, leaders and lobbyists as the party gears up to challenge Democrat Obama’s re-election in 2012. The event is considered an early proving ground for presidential candidates.
Among the potential Republican White House contenders planning to speak are former governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.
Real estate mogul Donald Trump addressed the group today and said he will decide by June on running for president.
‘A Whipping Post’
“The United States has become a whipping post for the rest of the world,” Trump said. “America today is missing quality leadership and foreign countries have quickly realized this.”
Trump criticized U.S. trade policies, accused China of currency manipulation and promised to rebuild the American economy.
“If I decide to run, I will not be raising taxes,” he told a cheering audience. “We’ll be taking in hundreds of billions of dollars from other countries that are screwing us.”
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who is also weighing a presidential bid, told the conference that Republican victories in the 2010 midterm elections were the “appetizer” and 2012 will be “the entrée.”
He offered a number of suggestions for Obama, including repealing his health-care bill, eliminating the estate tax, signing a fiscally conservative budget, codifying an executive order that blocks taxpayer money from funding abortion and signing a law to “decisively control the border now.”
Santorum Criticizes Obama
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, another potential presidential candidate, criticized Obama’s response to the unrest in Egypt.
“President Obama has refused to look at the situation in Iran and Egypt and around that world and to call evil, evil. To identify the enemy,” he said. “This is someone who doesn’t believe in truth and evil and America.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said to the gathering he would keep working to repeal the health-care overhaul and such other major pieces of Democratic legislation as the most extensive rewrite of financial regulations since the Great Depression.
“We will not let the people who spent the last two years trying to turn this country into France walk away from their record,” said the Kentucky Republican.
Bachmann, 54, urged Republicans to broaden their appeal to voters by focusing on national security and socially conservative issues, as well as on cutting federal spending and the deficit -- issues that the Tea Party stressed in the 2010 congressional election.
Bachmann, who also has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, said “a narrowly based political agenda is neither appropriate to our times, nor is it politically conducive to a broad-based appeal that will determine our future.”
“As important as these distressing economic concerns are, we would be wise to recall and not forget that for our conservative coalition to be victorious in 2012, it will take every one of us and then some,” she said.
Several groups, including the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and the Heritage Foundation, are boycotting the CPAC event because GOProud, a group that represents gay Republicans and opposes a federal ban on gay marriage, is participating.