According to the Pawlenty camp, the skirmish between Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann showcased Pawlenty’s momentum as a candidate.
“It was a total victory. It was fantastic,” campaign manager Nick Ayers said of Pawlenty’s performance in the debate, including his testy exchanges with Bachmann.
“She’s got a long history of making mistatements and inaccurate statements,” Ayers said. “He came tonight to talk about his record. And she came to attack him.”
Ayers accuses the Bachmann campaign of passing out opposition research to reporters fifteen minutes into the campaign as an indication that they intended to be on the attack tonight.
“It shows that we’re gaining traction in Iowa,” he adds, speaking of the criticisms.
Nor is the campaign worried that the video clips of the words between Bachmann and Pawlenty will backfire. “If it didn’t hurt Barack and Hillary, it’s not going to hurt our campaign,” Ayers said.
Asked about the cigarette tax (i.e. “health-impact fee”) that Bachmann said she voted for because it was paired with pro-life legislation, Ayers is dismissive. “Her answer was illogical and the governor called her out on it, and she didn’t really have a good answer for it. She ultimately voted for the bill,” he argues.
Does that mean the health-impact fee wasn’t tied to pro-life legislation? Not exactly.
Citing Pawlenty’s strong pro-life record, Ayers says it’s “obnoxious” to say that Pawlenty pitted a pro-life position against the tax-cuts viewpoint.
“Ultimately, she supported the entire bill. And Governor Pawlenty supported the entire bill. When you support a bill, you support the entire bill,” he says. “She’s responsible for her vote. To somehow blame Governor Pawlenty for her vote tonight is irresponsible, and it’s exactly the kind of thing people in Congress do. It’s always someone else’s fault.”
He rejects any notion that Pawlenty was too negative toward Bachmann in the debate.
“The whole idea tonight that somehow she once again is the victim in this process is absurd,” Ayers says.