By the time Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., buzzed down by helicopter Thursday to the Blair County Convention Center, "Bill Shuster works" signs were posted along the entryway while his red campaign bus overlooked the roads below.
Bachmann - 2012 presidential candidate and founder of the House Tea Party Caucus - was officially in Altoona to address the Blair County Republican Party for its Lincoln Dinner. But the famous conservative was also in town to back Shuster, R-9th District, a fellow representative with a three-way primary six weeks away.
"I've been privileged to serve with him for all of my eight years in the United States Congress," Bachmann said, standing alongside Shuster during a pre-dinner media address. "Bill Shuster is someone who represents our values."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Merwin (left) and Cindy Updyke (right) pose for a photo with Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., at a reception before Bachmann’s speaking engagement at the Blair County Convention Center on Thursday. Bachmann was the featured speaker for the Lincoln Dinner.
Support from Bachmann represents a stamp of tea party approval for Shuster, whose primary opponents, Art Halvorson and Travis Schooley, tend to identify more closely with the conservative pressure movement.
Bachmann, who is set to leave Congress after the coming November election, expressed high hopes to a Republican Senate surge and dismissed the notion that the party faces ongoing internal divisions.
"That is the false story that the media was trying to peddle," she said. "I don't think either Bill or I agree with everything that's come out of the House of Representatives. But we're proud that we have been doing our work."
Addressing more than 100 dinner guests, Bachmann promised that the Republicans would ultimately repeal Obamacare - pointing to their dozens of prior repeal attempts that President Barack Obama has met, in her words, with a "tantrum ... stamping his feet up and down."
Had she stayed a few minutes longer, Bachmann could have reported Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' resignation in the wake of the health care law's glitch-prone rollout.
The law has been a point of contention in the local race, with Shuster touting his numerous votes against it and Halvorson accusing him of voting "for Obamacare" by funding the federal government. Bachmann - who, like Shuster, represents her state's most conservative district - voted against the October deal that funded the government and ended a 16-day shutdown.
While Bachmann hasn't detailed her plans after Congress, she spent several minutes Thursday savaging Hillary Clinton's widely expected 2016 Democratic presidential run. Bachmann accused Clinton of plotting a "radical" path to power, but on her own ambitions, she was less clear.
"It's worth it to do it because the nation is so great, it's worth fighting for," she said of presidential campaigning.
"We'll have very strong candidates for 2016," she said, "and I anticipate being involved in the 2016 question one way or another."
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.