Finally, the claws come out. On NBC's Meet the Press today, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty went after Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, saying "her record of accomplishment in Congress is non-existent." He added that running a large state means he has what it takes, as far as executive leadership, for the presidency. "She hasn't." (Not for nothing, governors traditionally do better than members of Congress in presidential contests, according to FiveThirtyEight's inexhaustible data guru Nate Silver.) That said, it doesn't seem to be happening that way for Pawlenty, whose early momentum looks to have already stalled.
For weeks now, political observers have been waiting for the Republican presidential candidates to amp up the rhetoric and start the scrabble to the top. Some thought it would all begin at the first New Hampshire debate held a few weeks ago, expecting Mitt Romney to take a beating, but instead it turned into an all-out lovefest.
The first salvo in the war of words comes just as the two Minnesotans are ramping up their Iowa operations. Pawlenty started early and has been running ads in Iowa for several weeks now and has even begun courting Michael Farris, the local church leader who many credit with Huckabee's upset win in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. But his name I.D. and polling seem to be stuck in a ditch. Bachmann, on the other hand, has the advantage of being born in the state and already placed a very close second to Romney in the Des Moines Register's first poll of likely caucus-goers. She too is seeking Mike Huckabee's evangelical mantle via Michael Farris's endorsement.
It's no secret that an early and critical political test for any underdog campaign is how well it can do in Iowa, particularly in the Ames straw poll, scheduled for August 13. And with Romney planning to skip the event, it will likely be billed as a Pawlenty-Bachmann matchup, pending any new entries into the field, of course. So let the battle of the Minnesota Titans (sorry, Tennessee) begin!
Pawlenty hits Bachmann over 'non-existent' record [Political Ticker/CNN]
2012 Republican primary: Where Mike Huckabee fits in [Politico]