The Free Press, Mankato, MN


July 27, 2011

Our View: Pawlenty-Bachmann feud diminishes both

— It appears that Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty has gone “all in” with the political analysts who’ve concluded that his “Minnesota Nice” approach is getting him nowhere. His pointed attacks against fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann have highlighted the stakes in Iowa, where the former governor needs to greatly improve his standing in next month’s straw poll.

We disagree with the proposition that “Minnesota Nice” is a losing strategy for high office. Maintaining a pleasant personality and having a reputation for integrity isn’t a negative with voters, but nastiness is. Last weekend, both Pawlenty and Bachmann succumbed to it, and it should make neither of them more endearing as presidential candidates.

It all seems to have started when Pawlenty, after calling Bachmann’s political record “nonexistent” on Meet the Press, explained himself further on CNN. “My record in Minnesota of cutting taxes, reducing spending, and doing health care reform the right way … stands in contrast to Congresswoman Bachmann — in terms of the sense I actually have results.”

Bachmann may have scored points in this little debate by choosing to be above it all, by saying something like, “Gee, I must be doing something right in this campaign to be attacked so viciously by a fellow Republican.” But Bachmann returned fire with both barrels.

“I have fought against irresponsible spending while Governor Pawlenty was leaving a multi-million dollar budget mess in Minnesota,” she said in a statement.

And so on. Stay tuned for Round Three. It’s obvious now that the two Minnesota Republicans in the 2012 presidential race are hoping to grease their rise, in part, by knocking each other down. It might be small consolation to Bachmann supporters that it was Pawlenty who started this fight, but whether we are Pawlenty or Bachmann supporters or not, whether we are Republicans or Democrats, it should be plain that politicians of the same party, from the same state, both sharing similar political philosophies, do not come out looking good when they go so hard after each other.

It has become commonplace these days to believe that the way to success is not so much by impressing voters with your sterling credentials and leadership qualities, but by bludgeoning your biggest rivals over the head with a sledgehammer.

If that’s the way these two Minnesota candidates think they’re going to prove to voters that they’re ready to lead the country, we can only sigh and say, “Here we go again.”

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