Vanilla Thrilla: Ranking Tim Pawlenty’s Attempts at Going Negative

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The Vanilla Thrilla himself. Photo: Jed Egan. Photos: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images, iStockphoto

Tim Pawlenty is not exactly a fearsome character. When Pawlenty announced his candidacy, Time ran a profile that wondered, "Is He Too Nice for His Own Good?" The most animated this guy has gotten recently was in his defense of vanilla ice cream, to which he has been (not inaccurately) compared. While he apparently has a past as a jokester — the Des Moines Register reported that Pawlenty has been known to pants fellow lawmakers on the softball field — that's about as mean as he gets, historically. But running behind in the polls, Pawlenty's campaign has clearly decided that going negative is the best option available to him at this point in the campaign.

Whether it's the jabs themselves, or the Pawlentian delivery, most of the insults have been decidedly weak-sauce. Pawlenty even managed to be un-intimidating when trying to talk up his own powers of intimidation:



I've said I'm going to abide by Reagan's 11th commandment and not whack other Republicans or at least not be the first one to whack them. I do remind people I'm an old hockey player, and if elbows start getting thrown, I'm not averse to getting in the corner and start throwing some myself. But we're not going to start that process.


Below, we rank the Vanilla Thrilla's jabs along a 1-5 scale of kicking elephants.





The Target: President Obama

The Comment: "While no further evidence was needed, this entire debt ceiling fiasco demonstrates that President Obama must be replaced.”


Impact: Awfully unspecific.





The Target: Mitt Romney

The Comment: "I'm for free trade, but I'm not for being a chump."


Impact: While we adore a vintage word as much as the next guy, does "chump" really register as much of a burn with Americans in the year 2011?





The Target: Migraine-prone Michele Bachmann

The Comment: "All of the candidates I think are going to have to be able to demonstrate they can do all of the job all of the time.There's no real time off in that job."


Impact: Mean, but too vague to register with people who weren't following the Bachmann story.





The Target: President Obama


The Comment: “I mean, he’s like a manure spreader in a windstorm.”

The Impact:: Points for the compelling, Iowa-friendly imagery, but the comparison itself is a little muddy.




The Target: Barack Obama


The Comment: "If you're the leader of the free world, would you please come to the microphone and quit hiding in the basement about your proposals, and come on up and address the American people? Is he chicken?"


The Impact: I am rubber and you are glue.




The Target: Michele Bachmann


The Comment: “These are really serious times, and there hasn’t been somebody who went from the U.S. House of Representatives to the presidency, I think, in over a hundred years, and there’s a reason for that.”


The Impact: Useful factoid for the next pub quiz night you attend, though.





The Target: Mitt Romney

The Comment: "President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare and basically made it Obamneycare."


The Impact: Now there's an insult with some bite! Except Romney was too timid to actually use it in the nationally televised GOP debate, even when it was teed up for him.





The Target: Michele Bachmann

The Comment: "I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I’ve campaigned for her. I respect her. But her record of accomplishment in Congress is non-existent,” he said. “We’re not looking for folks who just have a speech capability.”


Impact: Pretty snarky. But undercut by all the throat-clearing and admitting his own role in bringing Bachmann to prominence.




The Target: Michele Bachmann


The Comment: “I respect Congresswoman Bachmann, but her comments, I think, were consistent with her pattern of being inaccurate and off the mark, and number two, there’s a big difference between talking and getting stuff done. I get stuff done.”

Impact: Forceful, self-promotional, and clearly illustrated. Was this really Pawlenty?