By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann said on Wednesday there would be no "mud-wrestling fight" between her and fellow staunch conservative Sarah Palin, with whom she is often compared.
"They want to see two girls come together and have a mud-wrestling fight, and I'm not going to give it to them," Bachmann told voters, responding to a question about the media pitting the two women against one another.
"I've got a lot of great respect and admiration for the governor," Bachmann said in the early primary state of South Carolina. "I appreciate her and I wish her well, and I think that this race is wide open."
Bachmann, a conservative member of the House of Representatives who launched her presidential campaign on Monday, is on a roll due to rising poll numbers and a strong performance in a debate with Republican rivals.
She has tried to position herself as the main challenger to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner, to take on Democratic President Barack Obama.
But recent gaffes and habit of being loose with facts have drawn comparison to Palin, who made a number of misstatements in her 2008 vice presidential campaign and after. Palin has not said whether she will run in 2012.
Fresh off campaign stops in Iowa and New Hampshire, Bachmann rolled her campaign bus into a manicured, palmetto-lined park in Charleston for a Tea Party-sponsored event in which she bashed Obama and played up her modest roots.
Charlie Daniels' country song "In America" played over loudspeakers as the big, blue bus arrived, horn honking.
In a 35-minute speech, which included questions from the audience of about 200, the Minnesota congresswoman touched on issues from health care reform to taxes, calling herself a fiscal, social, national security and Tea Party conservative.
"Obama missed that all-important class in Econ 101, that profit is a good thing," she said.
"There's a sense of urgency in the country," Bachmann said. "We should have been well into an economic recovery."
Bachmann mixed bits of her resume -- she worked as a federal tax lawyer -- with memories of growing up with three brothers, reloading shotgun shells, tying fishing lures and taking a gun safety class at age 12.
"My husband and I came from lower middle class backgrounds. We worked our way through college. I drove a school bus," she said.
After the speech, Bachmann told Reuters her electoral strategy was to campaign in all 50 states.
She impressed Charleston Tea Party member Tom Berry. "She sticks up for the average American," he said. "The Republican and Democratic parties have failed."
Chris Horne, also a member the local Tea Party, said she supported conservative values but had not yet decided which candidate to back.
"I'm skeptical of any politician, period," Horne said. "I'm going to look at her record."
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)