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Minnesota's Bachmann, Pawlenty Differ in U.S. Race

Friday, 17 Jun 2011 10:05 PM

 

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* Two Minnesotans seeking 2012 Republican presidential nod

* Combative Bachmann differs from "nice guy" Pawlenty

* Polls indicate Bachmann picking up support

By Todd Melby

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - They are both from Minnesota but U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann's combative style seems to be scoring better than the Midwestern "nice guy" approach of former governor Tim Pawlenty in the race for the 2012 Republican U.S. presidential nomination.

Bachmann, a third-term U.S. congresswoman from a St. Paul suburb, announced her presidential intentions during a debate among seven Republicans in New Hampshire on Monday. She then confidently predicted that Democrat President Barack Obama would be a one-term president while bashing him on a range of issues.

In the debate, Pawlenty used his "Minnesota Nice" style and refrained from criticizing Republican front-runner Mitt Romney directly, admitting later that he should have been more forceful.

A national poll of Republican voters after the debate found Bachmann had surged into second place at 19 percent, trailing only Romney. Pawlenty languished in single digits at only 6 percent, the Rasmussen Reports poll showed.

"She's come a long way, baby," Alice Stewart, spokeswoman for Bachmann, said Friday. "That's pretty significant momentum."

"The way they fight is very different," said Steve Schier, a Carleton College political scientist in Minnesota. "Pawlenty has spent most of his time ... trying to govern, whereas Bachmann is a movement person crusading for a certain agenda."

Pawlenty has bided his time and respected his Republican elders, attracting big campaign donors and coming off as comparatively moderate. Bachmann is a firebrand who has bucked the party establishment and mostly draws smaller contributions.

"They couldn't be more different in terms of style and political substance," said Craig Robinson, editor of the Iowa Republican website.

Both Pawlenty and Bachmann are focused on the first-in-the-nation Republican caucuses in neighboring Iowa early next year -- a key early test in the race for the Republican nomination. In Iowa, drawing support from the party's right wing and evangelical Christians can make or break a presidential candidate.

Pawlenty chose Iowa to announce his candidacy last month, hired more than a dozen staffers and consultants, and has made 16 trips to the state since 2009.

Bachmann spent her early childhood in Waterloo, Iowa.

Pawlenty's appeal is to mainstream Republicans, much like Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.

Bachmann is a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement has support among grassroots activists, much like that of Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, whose presidential intentions are unclear.

'FULL-SPECTRUM CONSERVATIVE'

Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson said Pawlenty courted him, but he chose to lead Bachmann's Iowa effort. "He's a decent enough guy but I wanted a full-spectrum conservative. I didn't get that from anyone other than Michele," Sorenson said.

In a pitch perhaps aimed at Tea Party followers, Pawlenty unveiled an economic agenda heavy on tax cuts that eliminated some tax deductions and government subsidies.

Criticized for lacking charisma on the stump, Pawlenty has vowed to speak hard truths. Bachmann seems to energize supporters.

"She gets people fired up," said Andrew Hemingway, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire.

Pawlenty argues he is the one candidate who can unite the party. "I can put the whole coalition together," Pawlenty says in his matter-of-fact, gentle way.

The two also have contrasting fundraising approaches. Pawlenty has hit up big-money donors in Dallas, Chicago and Minneapolis -- raking in $200,000 or more per event. Bachmann focuses on small donors with 75 percent of contributions to her political action committee less than $200. Still, Bachmann's "money bomb" drive last month raised $250,000 in two days.

Pawlenty contemplated a run for governor a decade ago, but top Republicans said they wanted someone else. So he explored a bid against Democratic U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone in 2002, but then-Vice President Dick Cheney told him to stand down.

Pawlenty grumbled about the "integrity of the process" but obeyed, and was elected governor in 2002.

By contrast, Bachmann does not seem to care what party insiders think. In a state contest, she wrestled the party endorsement away from the incumbent, thumped him in the primary and cruised to victory.

Some of Bachmann's speeches have upset party leaders, including her unsanctioned rebuttal to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in January. (Editing by Andrew Stern, Greg McCune and Eric Walsh)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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