Tim Pawlenty: Michele Bachmann Hasn’t Really Accomplished Much In Congress

Tim Pawlenty took aim at Michele Bachmann yesterday but will he keep up the attack?

Tim Pawlenty opened fire on his fellow Minnesotan during an appearance in Iowa yesterday:

Pawlenty’s record as governor for eight years has drawn increasing scrutiny and criticism from some who say his budget practices are at least partially responsible for Minnesota’s current government shutdown and $5 billion deficit.

In contrasting himself with popular competitor and fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann, Pawlenty said she’s had only legislative experience, and “as to specific results that have been achieved, I’m not sure what they would be.”


Asked about Bachmann, who in last month’s Des Moines Register Iowa Poll was sitting at 22 percent in Iowa among likely Republican caucusgoers versus his own 6 percent, Pawlenty said: “Each candidate brings some different strengths to the table, and mine include having been an executive of a large public enterprise in a difficult environment and actually getting things proposed and results to conclusion. I’m not sure what she would say in that regard. … She’s been in the legislative arena, as to specific results that have been achieved, I’m not sure what they would be.”

Pawlenty said he’s confident his poll numbers will rise.

It’s a completely fair comment on Pawlenty’s part, of course. As I’ve noted before, Bachmann’s record in the time she’s been in Congress, which is pretty short itself, is painfully thin. She hasn’t sponsored or co-sponsored a single bill that’s become law, she’s never been a committee or subcommittee chair, and she hasn’t had any of her bills or amendments successfully pass a Congressional committee, even since the GOP has been in charge. She’s been little more than a bomb thrower.

Actually, that’s not entirely fair. Bachmann has done an excellent job of bringing government pork to her district, opposing earmarks while still trying to preserve them secretly, and personally benefiting from government largesse. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose, but hardly the stuff a President is made of.

It’s not surprising to see Pawlenty going after Bachmann like this. She’s currently surging in Iowa while he continues to lag, and it’s rather apparent that Pawlenty’s campaign will live or die based on what happens in the Iowa caucuses. At the moment, though, Bachmann is in the way and she’s threatening to take on the role of the anti-Romney, a role many thought Pawlenty would be filling by now. Taking her on, especially on the issue of political accomplishments (where Pawlenty clearly beats her) is a pretty smart strategy.

Of course, that requires Tim Pawlenty to be consistent in his messaging. As we saw with the whole “Obamneycare” fiasco, he’s very good at pointing out sharp differences between himself and other candidates when talking to the press but, when he’s asked to do the same thing in a debate forum, he backs away. Will the same thing happen with Bachmann? We’ll see at the next debate, I suppose. If Pawlenty backs down again, then his image as a wimp will be solidified and his chance to become a breakthrough candidate will most likely have come to an end.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Edvard M says:

    You could call that a case of the pot calling the kettle black. But in this case it might be more appropriate to say it is a case of the rice calling the wonder bread white.

  2. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Let’s look at this from a larger perspective.

    The fact that a two-term governor from Minnesota with eight full years of important decisions under his belt is DOA as a candidate, whereas a newbie Representative from a suburban district in Minnesota with literally zero legislative accomplishments is outpolling him by leaps and bounds, speaks at high volumes about the bizarre demographics of a GOP primary.

    In various respects the less accomplished you are the better you’ll do in low-population-density GOP primaries and caucuses. The reason being they’re not looking for accomplishments. They’re voting on religion. Or single issues. Or on sound bytes. Or slogans.

    The only saving grace is that when you get past the Iowas and New Hampshires and South Carolinas and move to the higher-population states the religious and other single-issue demographics get drowned out. That ultimately is what will prevent Rep. Bachmann from actually becoming the nominee. But the fact she’s such a popular contender in the key early states not only both is unfortunate and hypocritical it’s downright scary.

  3. As I’ve noted before, Bachmann’s record in the time she’s been in Congress, which is pretty short itself, is painfully thin.

    Sadly for the Tea Party, this is a feature, not a bug. Candidates are evaluated solely on rhetoric and not accomplishment. Bachmann’s decision to not actually do anything is what has allowed to maintain total ideological purity since actually doing something requires compromise.

    Tea Partiers actually prefer someone who rails about cutting the government 10 percent while it continues to grow to someone who succeeds in cutting it 5% but had to give up something else to do so.

  4. @Edvard M:

    Say what one will about T-Paw but eight years of Governor is an impressive bit of experience whereas Bachmann’s resume is noticeably thin and lacking any of the attributes one might hope to see from a prospective President.

  5. mattb says:

    As I’ve noted before, Bachmann’s record in the time she’s been in Congress, which is pretty short itself, is painfully thin.

    But the thing to understand is that her voting record is ideologically clean.

    The problem with being a governor is that you have to… well… govern. If you try to be ideologically pure you end up Scott Walker. Being a representative — one vote amoung 435 (is it really that many?!) means you can be a conservative as you like without much fear. Even senators have to be more moderate.

    This was the problem that Sarah Palin face, btw, after the Presidential election… and a key reason (among others for leaving office). Once you promise to be the second coming of conservatism (or at least don’t take steps to dissuade people of that image), it becomes very hard to “stand up” for what the base believes in on every issue.