Minnesotans Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann took aim at each other over the weekend, exchanging barbs in earnest Sunday for the first time since Bachmann entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Tensions started rising a couple of weeks ago when Pawlenty called Bachmann’s record “nonexistent” on Meet the Press. Last week, he took shots at Bachmann and race front-runner Mitt Romney, saying, “We got one leading candidate in this race who’s running away from his record [Romney]. We got another leading candidate in this race who has no record. I’m running on my record. That’s a big difference.”
CNN asked him later if he was referring to Bachmann. He said, “My record in Minnesota of cutting taxes, reducing spending, and doing health care reform the right way… stands in contrast to Congresswoman Bachmann — in terms of the sense I actually have results.”
On Sunday, the Bachmann camp fired back, hard, tying Pawlenty’s record to that of President Barack Obama on issues like cap-and-trade, 2007’s bank bailout and the basic issue of the size of government. She also questioned Pawlenty’s fiscal record as governor: “I have fought against irresponsible spending while Governor Pawlenty was leaving a multi-billion-dollar budget mess in Minnesota,” Bachmann said in a statement.
She then touted her own credentials, pointing to her position as chairwoman of the Tea Party Caucus and her membership on the House Financial Services Committee as examples of her leadership.
“That’s my record,” she said. “It’s a record of action. Real world actions speak louder than the words of career politicians.”
Pawlenty’s team responded, with spokesman Alex Conant saying there is “very little difference” between the two candidates in terms of their political views, but Pawlenty has a more proven record.
“The difference is that when Governor Pawlenty was scoring conservative victories to cut spending, pass market-based healthcare reform, and transform a supreme court from liberal to conservative, and was elected twice in a very blue state, Congresswoman Bachmann was giving speeches and offering failed amendments, all while struggling mightily to hold onto the most Republican House seat in the state,” he said in a statement.
The Bachmann campaign ended Sunday’s back-and-forth with a statement from its press secretary, Alice Stewart, again comparing past Pawlenty positions with those of Obama.
“The more Republican voters examine Michele Bachmann’s record and Governor Pawlenty’s record, the more they will see that there is a world of difference between the two,” Stewart said.
Bachmann and Pawlenty have been spending most of their time campaigning in Iowa ahead of next month’s vital Iowa Straw Poll. Opinion polls show Bachmann either in first or second in Iowa, with Pawlenty well behind, usually pulling down support in the high single digits.
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.