Intramural Quarrel

A year ago, I expected Tim Pawlenty to be a strong contender for the Republican presidential nomination, and never imagined that Michele Bachmann would enter the race. Today, Bachmann is number two on the charts with a bullet, while Pawlenty has yet to see his tireless, seemingly well-directed efforts pay off in the polls. So it is not surprising if he is feeling frustrated.

Pawlenty and Bachmann have some history: during Pawlenty’s first term as Governor of Minnesota, Bachmann was a rabble-rouser in the Senate minority. Which meant that she didn’t have to worry much about voting, and was free to fire away, rhetorically speaking. It was no secret that Pawlenty was not entirely fond of Bachmann.

The Iowa caucuses have been viewed as key to both Pawlenty’s and Bachmann’s candidacies, and at the moment, Bachmann is leading in the polls, while Pawlenty is languishing. So yesterday, Pawlenty took the gloves off:

“Well, I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I’ve campaigned for her. I respect her, but her record of accomplishment in Congress is non-existent. It’s non-existent,” Pawlenty told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” …

“We’re not looking for folks who just have speech capabilities, we’re looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion,” Pawlenty said, touting his own experience as a two-term governor of Minnesota.

It is easy to sympathize with Pawlenty’s dilemma. I have supported both candidates’ campaigns financially and consider them both friends, but my own view is that Pawlenty would make a better president. (Either would be a hundred times better than Barack Obama.) Still, he is in a difficult situation, and did not improve it by going on the offense against his fellow Minnesotan. It is a fine line, sometimes, between touting one’s own credentials and denigrating those of a competitor, but Pawlenty crossed it. Unfortunately, most Iowa voters’ takeaway will be that Pawlenty is desperate because of his failure to gain ground in the polls. He will be well advised not to repeat his attack on Bachmann.

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