Finally, finally, after months of being too kind to attach a name to his criticism of candidates who only "give a speech for file failed amendments," Tim Pawlenty went after Michele Bachmann by name. David Gregory had to force it out of him.
PAWLENTY: Well, I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I've campaigned for her, I respect her. But her record of accomplishment in Congress is nonexistent. It's nonexistent. And so we're not looking for folks who, you know, just have speech capabilities, we're looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion. I've done that, she hasn't.
GREGORY: Do you think she's too controversial? She has said on this program and elsewhere that this is a gangster government. She thinks the president has un-American views. Do you think that reflects a temperament that's not suitable for the presidency?
PAWLENTY: Congresswoman Bachmann and I are--you know, share many of the same issue positions. We're both conservatives. I think the main difference is this, I've got executive leadership in a public setting with a record of accomplishment and results under difficult and challenging circumstances, and she has served in Congress. And in that regard, her record of accomplishment is, you know, like I said, nonexistent.
Hours later, Bachmann hits back with a press release.
Instead of negativity, I want to focus on my accomplishments. I have fought the cap-and-trade agenda, rather than implement it, and I will work to end cap-and-trade as President of the United States. I stood up against President Obama's support of the $700 billion bailout rather than defend it. I was a leading voice, fighting against Obamacare and the unconstitutional individual mandates; I did not lift my voice in praise of it. My message brought tens of thousands of Americans to Washington D.C. to oppose Obamacare.
And that's all she needed to say. She's faultless on those issues, and he isn't. It's all extremely reminiscent of the argument Barack Obama used against Hillary Clinton (and to a lesser extent John Edwards) through 2007. The difference: Obama's comeback was that he was right on Iraq and he had a bipartisan record.
Bachmann has no promise of bipartisanship. She's all warfare, all the time. Of course, Pawlenty is running as a partisan, conservative warrior, too -- no one is talking about his or her ability to work with the other guy. The other difference here is that, based on polls in Iowa, Pawlenty is well behind Bachmann and Romney -- he's punching up in a way Obama never had to.