Tim Pawlenty is performing poorly in the polls, often registering in single digits and in fundraising he remains undistinguished with much of the rest of the pack.
It is increasingly appearing as if Pawlenty has decided to toughen his tone against his opponent as part of his campaign strategy. Or else the campaign fears it may falter as Pawlenty continues to stand nearly silent and smiling in the back. He has notched up his rhetoric and most particularly against Rep. Michele Bachmann, a rival for the nominee and fellow Minnesotan. Bachmann and Pawlenty are competing for the same socially conservative voters, especially in Iowa, home to the first primary contest. Bachmann entered the race months after Pawlenty, but has quickly surpassed him in the poll to lead in Iowa and poll second among national Republican voters.
The Pawlenty campaign may view Bachmann as their biggest challenge.
In recent weeks, Pawlenty has criticized Bachman’s Congressional record. Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press: “I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I’ve campaigned for her, I respect her. But her record of accomplishment in Congress is non-existent.”
And more recently appeared to use Bachmann’s migraines revelation as cause, in a subtle effort, to cast doubt on Bachmann’s candidacy and potential ability as president: “If you’re going to be president of the United States you’ve got to be able to do the job every day, all the time. There’s no real time off in that job.”
Now his campaign chief hints that Bachmann’s campaign will eventually miss the mark. After listing the governor’s record, campaign manager Nick Ayers ended the e-mail with the following message deemed to be in reference to Bachmann: “This doesn’t make great fodder for cable news but as more Republican primary voters start to tune in to the race, they are finding out that the Governor’s record and message will stand the test a brutal campaign. Other candidates’ records (or lack thereof), and plans for the future (or lack thereof) won’t.” (Politico posted the full e-mail)
Now the Bachmann camp is firing back and equating the rival candidate with President Obama. Speaking in Iowa on Sunday, Bachmann for the first time directly attacked a Republican opponent.
To Pawlenty’s charge that Bachmann lacks experience: “Executive experience is not an asset if it simply means bigger and more intrusive government,” Bachmann retorts.
To which Pawlenty campaign spokesman Alex Conant responded, “The truth is there is very little difference between Governor Pawlenty and Congresswoman Bachmann on their issue positions.”
Conant added that Pawlenty has a record of accomplishments while Bachmann’s record is one of “giving speeches and offering failed amendments.”
Bachmann offered a final rebuttal by stating that her and Pawlenty are quite dissimilar: “We have very different views on government, very different views of the economy and also our backgrounds are different,” she said.
And Bachmann campaign spokeswoman Alice Steward released the following statement to the press:
“Governor Pawlenty would have us believe that there is ‘very little difference’ between his positions and those of Michele Bachmann.
“But in fact, there is very little difference between Governor Pawlenty’s past positions and Barack Obama’s positions on several critical issues facing Americans. On issues such as unconstitutional healthcare mandates, climate change regulations, and Wall Street bailouts, there’s very little daylight, indeed, between Governor Pawlenty’s record and the Obama administration’s policies.
“And of course, President Obama would surely applaud Governor Pawlenty’s 2006 statement that the ‘era of small government is over,’ and that the government will have to be ‘more proactive and more aggressive.’
“Governor Pawlenty has changed his positions in recent years, but he can’t run from his big government record as governor of Minnesota that left the state’s budget in a multi-billion dollar mess. That’s not executive experience we need.
“As Michele Bachmann said earlier today, she ‘has a lifetime record of success and action in the real world. Real-world actions speak louder than his words as a career politician.’ And so 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.”
Two weeks prior, Bachmann had stated that she wanted to avoid “negativity” in campaigning. The strategy seems to have fallen aside now as the Republican primary ratchets up.