In the the game of who has done more or done less and who is more or less like Obama, we have no winner – yet. Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty sparred yesterday in Iowa at the Republican debate (two days before the straw poll) and while plenty of sparks flew, there was no clear winner.
Look at some of former-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s talking points:
- Bachmann’s record in the House is “non-existent.”
- “She fought for less government spending, we got a lot more. She led the effort against Obamacare, we got Obamacare. She led the effort against TARP, we got TARP. She said she’s got a titanium spine. It’s not her spine we’re worried about, it’s her record of results.”
- She’s an ineffective member of Congress, doing nothing to stymie Obama’s agenda: “She has done wonderful things in her life, absolutely wonderful things, but it’s an indisputable fact that in Congress, her record of accomplishment and results is non-existent,” he said.
- “If that’s your view of effective results, please stop,” Pawlenty said. “You’re killing us.”
- “I’m surprised she would say those things. They aren’t the kinds of things she said when I was governor of the state of Minnesota. Moreover, she’s got a record of misstating and making false statements, and that’s another example.”
For her part, Bachmann did not appear happy to have her messiah-ship challenged:
- While governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty abandoned his conservative principles.
- As governor, Pawlenty supported cap-and-trade.
- “When you were governor in Minnesota, you implemented cap and trade in our state,” she said. “And you praised the unconstitutional individual mandate and called for requiring all people in our state to purchase healthcare mandate. Third, you said the era of small government was over.”
- “That sounds a lot more like Barack Obama if you ask me,” Bachmann said.
Pawlenty is clearly the underdog – his campaign has been going nowhere (like fellow candidate Rick Santorum’s) while Bachmann is always in the news. Until yesterday, the former Minnesota governor had avoided criticizing the other Republican candidates and he apparently (and belatedly) realized he needed to say something quotable. One problem Bachmann does not have is being quoted:
“We are going to have to take it to Barack Obama, we have to show contrasts not similarities.”
It is essential for every Republican candidate to demonstrate that he or she is an effective opponent of Barack Obama and the Democratic agenda. It is paramount that they demonstrate their own record of accomplishments. Both scored points against the other, Bachmann in pointing out that Pawlenty has been a “soft” conservative and Pawlenty that Bachmann is dishonest and not terribly careful with the facts.
Pawlenty’s campaign took umbrage at Bachmann’s attack (though not at Pawlenty’s own attack): “This was a planned assault on Gov. Pawlenty,” said Nick Ayers, Pawlenty’s campaign manager. “It shows a campaign that’s highly volatile.”
“We were surprised,” he added. “We came to talk about our record. She came to pick a fight.”
Bachmann’s campaign countered through David Polyansky, Bachmann’s deputy campaign manager, who said, “The first salvo was fired by Tim Pawlenty.” (As the LA Times points out, “Pawlenty, in fact, was asked by moderator Bret Baier about his past comments about Bachmann’s qualifications. That kicked off the brawl.”)
“They feel the heat,” Polyansky said.
For once, neither Republican campaign was lying.
Michele Bachmann got in the last word this morning on NBC’s Today show this morning:
“Obviously they weren’t interested in my pro-growth agenda. But that’s when you fight. … And I’ve been the champion for the voice of people who’ve been crying for Washington to stop spending so much money and to reduce taxes.”
The problem for Bachmann is that the majority of people don’t favor her approach, as polls have repeatedly demonstrated. Americans favor a solution that includes both spending cuts and tax breaks. Her message will sell well to the base, but how well will it go over with the all-important moderates and independents?