You may have heard Republicans call President Obama a socialist a few times. But now Michele Bachmann is using the loaded term to attack Mitt Romney, dropping a veiled shot at an unnamed "frugal socialist" who could challenge Obama in 2012.

"Unfortunately for too many Republicans, they also aspire to be frugal socialists," Bachmann told an audience at the Family Research Council in Washington, citing health care in particular as a telltale indicator. "We cannot preserve liberty if the choice is between a frugal socialist and an out-of-control socialist."

Bachmann warned that the distinction was particularly important because 2012 could be Republicans' only opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.

"We can't have a candidate who fails to understand the complexity of Obamacare and the urgency of its repeal because we have only once chance at repeal - one chance at repeal - and that's 2012," she said.

Asked afterwards by a reporter who she meant when she referred to a "frugal socialist" she offered a coy smirk.

"Well you see that's part of the puzzle that you figure out," she said to laughter and applause from the audience. "Good try."

Romney wasn't the only target of Bachmann's speech, in which she positioned herself as the one truly reliable conservative in the presidential race. She also dropped a tough attack on Herman Cain - again without mentioning her rival by name - over his confusing position on abortion.

"Some Republican candidates seem confused by what it means to be 100% pro-life," she said, assuring the audience that "you won't find YouTube clips of me advocating anything else."

Republished with permission from Authored by Benjy Sarlin. Photo via Getty. TPM provides breaking news, investigative reporting and smart analysis of politics.