- (Photo: Reuters / Brian C. Frank)
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty questioned his rival in the GOP presidential primary and fellow Minnesotan, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, on her experience and readiness to be president. On Fox News Sunday, Pawlenty compared her to candidate Barack Obama in 2008.
Pawlenty argued that Bachmann does not have a record of accomplishment in during her time in Congress.
“If you just look at her record in Congress, there's great comments and offering amendments that didn't pass and the like, but as to these things that we're concerned about – cutting government spending, getting health care done the right way, not talking about it but actually doing these things, accomplishing these things, getting results – I said her record is non-existent. That's not disputable, that's a matter of fact,” Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty then compared Bachmann to President Obama, when he was a presidential candidate in 2008, arguing that she does well at delivering inspiring speeches but does not have the experience necessary to lead the nation.
“After Barack Obama came through Iowa and other places, he gave these soaring speeches, these incredible comments, the Democrats bought it in Iowa, and then it catapulted him to the presidency of the United States, and we now know he wasn't prepared for the job,” he noted. “He hadn't run anything, he hadn't done anything, and his record of results was essentially non-existent. We don't want to repeat that mistake.”
After Pawlenty was asked to clarify if he was comparing Bachmann to Obama, Pawlenty reiterated, “Whether it is any candidate, I don't think it is unreasonable or inflammatory, or even disputable to say that the next president of the United States should have executive experience with results running a large enterprise. I have that kind of experience, it's one of the strengths I bring to the race.”
Bachmann is currently in first place in Iowa, according to a Real Clear Politics average of four separate polls, at 27 percent. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is in second place with 22.3 percent, and Pawlenty is essentially tied with Herman Cain with 7.5 percent. Since Romney is not competing in Iowa in order to focus his efforts on winning New Hampshire, contrasting his record with that of Michele Bachmann's makes sense for Pawlenty. Besting Bachmann in Iowa will be Pawlenty's biggest challenge early in the race for the Republican nomination.
The charge that Bachmann has a thin track record of accomplishment in Congress is one that Pawlenty has made before. In response, Bachmann countered by questioning Pawlenty's record as governor and accused him of being responsible for last month's government shutdown in Minnesota.
In a July 24 statement, Bachmann wrote, “Actions speak louder than words. When I was fighting against the unconstitutional individual mandate in healthcare, Governor Pawlenty was praising it. I have fought against irresponsible spending while Governor Pawlenty was leaving a multi-billion-dollar budget mess in Minnesota. I fought cap-and-trade. Governor Pawlenty backed cap-and-trade when he was governor of Minnesota and put Minnesota into the multi-state Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord. While Governor Pawlenty was praising TARP-the $700 billion bailout in 2008-I worked tirelessly against it and voted against it.”
When Pawlenty was asked to defend the charge that he bears responsibility for the Minnesota shutdown, the former governor countered, “My record in Minnesota is one of the best of any governor in the country. The CATO Institute, which is a libertarian grading organization, gave only four governors in the country an A grade. I'm one of those four and the other three aren't running for president.
“Anybody who looks at my record of taking spending from historic highs to historic lows, appointing conservative justices, health care reform the right way, public employee compensation reform before it was cool and popular, and on down the list, everything that Republicans are talking about ... I've actually done.”
Then, in another apparent charge that Bachmann, like Obama, is all talk and no action, Pawlenty said, “I don't just flap my jaw, I don't just say maybe I'll do it someday, I don't talk about the hopes of getting it done. I've done it under difficult circumstances in Minnesota.”
Pawlenty was also asked if he has to beat Bachmann in Saturday's Iowa Straw Poll in order to win the nomination. “No, I don't,” Pawlenty said, “I think we've got to move from the back of the pack and show some progress towards the front of the pack.”
In the Fox News Sunday panel discussion, Susan Ferrechio, of the Washington Examiner, said that Pawlenty has a chance of a strong showing in Saturday's Iowa Straw Poll.
“Pawlenty's probably got the better ground game, he's more organized, he's got a big grassroots effort there, he's been there longer, working harder,” she said. “He could pull off a surprise, placing first, second or third, and steal the spotlight away from Bachmann even if she does better than him, because she's newer at this, she's not as well organized.”
While Bachmann is doing well in the polls, she may do poorly in the straw poll, Ferrechio said, because “the Iowa Straw Poll is all about organization, it's about getting people out. It's difficult to get people to come to this thing and vote. That's going to be a real fight here, who is better able to get people to the polls, and at this point people are looking at Pawlenty as someone who could pull off a win here because he's been working harder at it and he's got a really good ground game.”
Fox News will hold a Republican presidential debate on Thursday in Ames, Iowa. Bachmann is scheduled to appear on Fox News Sunday next Sunday, the day after the Iowa Straw Poll.