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VIDEO: Bachmann, Pawlenty campaigns spin Minnesota feud

Fox News’ Iowa debate of Republican presidential hopefuls brought frequent clashes between Minnesota’s two candidates. Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty both took turns attacking each others’ records — with the moderator’s prodding. Pawlenty took Bachmann to task for not having enough executive experience while Bachmann compared Pawlenty to President Obama.

Here’s the first exchange the two had, where Pawlenty dinged Bachmann for making false statements and Bachmann attacked Pawlenty for supporting cap and trade:

Immediately following the debate, the Bachmann team released a statement saying simply, “Tim Pawlenty’s executive experience is not an asset if it simply means bigger and more intrusive government.” The campaign included with that statement research painting Pawlenty as a big-government Republican because of his past support for cap and trade and government involvement in health care.

“It shows that we’re gaining traction in Iowa,” Pawlenty campaign manager Nick Ayers.

In another exchange, Pawlenty and Bachmann sparred over the cigarette tax that was passed in 2005 (the exchange begins at the 12-minute mark):

Talking Points Memo took a look at the history of that bill and provides some context:

So what the heck were they talking about? Well, the big heavy lift in the budget deal that ended the shutdown was the cigarette fee. Republicans in the state legislature weren’t any happier about new taxes than Republicans in Congress are today. As a sweetener for wavering conservatives, the health and human services funding bill containing the fee also contained an anti-abortion provision to try and shame women seeking to end their pregnancy. Under the new law, doctors would be required to ask patients more than 20 weeks pregnant seeking an abortion whether they would like to first give their fetus anesthesia before the procedure.

The abortion part of the bill starkly divided state conservative groups: the main anti-abortion group, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, endorsed the health bill. But the main anti-tax group, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, opposed it. After a vote by Bachmann to strip the bill of the cigarette tax failed 47-19 in the Senate, she ended up voting for the final deal.

Pawlenty’s campaign deflected assertions that he went after Bachmann too hard.

On his blog, Prof. David Schultz of Hamline University notes that Pawlenty has a history of going after female candidates:

The Bachmann/Pawlenty feud is the media highlight of the debate. Both came off looking petty and small. Pawlenty is correct that Bachmann has no real legislative record, Bachmann is correct that Pawlenty has switched on many issues. Leave it there. But both felt they needed to dig at one another, underscoring the deep animosity the two h ave always had toward one another, not only enhanced by their rival Iowa strategies. Yet Pawlenty came off worse. He was given a second chance to criticize Romney and again soft-peddled it. Thus, he was too weak against Romney and too aggressive and petty against Bachmann. This attack reveals a deeper sexism with Pawlenty.

Recall in 2006 his attacks against DFL Lt. Gubernatorial candidate Judy Dutcher when she blanked on a reporter’s question about E85. At one point DFL Gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch stated about Pawlenty: “Look at how desperate he is, he is attacking a woman.” Hatch took heat for that statement but in retrospect he seems prescient. Pawlenty’s sexism is his inability to confront and challenge men, preferring to pick on others he perceives as weak, such as women. This is the the wimp factor.

Pawlenty told Politico after the debate that his attacks on Bachmann had nothing to do with her gender.

Pawlenty said, “It’s not about gender, it’s about the issues. Representative Bachman likes to assign herself the label of leader. Well if you’re going to be a leader, you have to be accountable for results.”

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