In Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate in Iowa, GOP presidential contenders hoping to win Saturday’s Ames straw poll came out swinging at President Obama and each other. Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty in particular held no punches in their criticisms of each other’s records.
Bachmann tried to position herself as a lawmaker who valiantly fought to halt many of Obama’s policies, albeit unsuccessfully, and boasted about introducing a light bulb bill.
“She says that she’s fighting for these things. She fought for less government spending. We got a lot more. She led the effort against ObamaCare. We got ObamaCare. She led the effort against TARP. We got TARP. She says she’s got a titanium spine. It’s not her spine we’re worried about, it’s her results,” said Pawlenty. “If that’s your view of effective leadership with results, please stop, because you’re killing us.”
He also accused the Minnesota lawmaker of having a non-existent record of results and a history of “misstating and making false statements.”
Bachmann hit back, jabbing Pawlenty for his past support of cap and trade legislation and a cigarette fee that some conservative critics say was a tax increase.
"You said the era of small government is over," she said. “That sounds a lot more like Barack Obama if you ask me.”
Mitt Romney, who earlier caused a bit of a raucous at the Iowa State Fair when he declared that “corporations are people,” maintained his position as the early frontrunner and stayed above the fray. He was, however, called out for not commenting on the debt-ceiling debate until hours before the House voted on the compromise bill and asked whether he would have voted for it.
"I'm not going to eat Barack Obama's dog food," Romney said. "What he served up is not what I would have done if I had been president of the United States."
Pawlenty, who during a June debate had backed off of criticisms he’d made about Romney in an effort to expose what he believes to be common views between the former Massachusetts governor and the president on health care and spending, did not hesitate to be more vocal Thursday night.
"We're going to have to show contrast, not similarities" with Obama, Pawlenty said.
He also accused the president of not having any plans to solve the nation’s most pressing issues and promised the audience and television viewers that he would “come to your house and cook you dinner” if they could point to any of Obama’s proposals. "Or if you prefer I'll come to your house and mow your lawn.... In case Mitt wins, I'd limit it to one acre," he added.
When Newt Gingrich was asked about his campaign’s implosion earlier this summer, which resulted in staff defections and fundraising problems, he accused the moderators of asking “gotcha questions” and said that Ronald Reagan and John McCain had also experienced staff defections. He also said that he would take a pass on costly consultants and “run on ideas.”
“I’d love to see the rest of tonight’s debate asking us about what we would do to lead an America whose president has failed to lead instead of playing Mickey Mouse games,” Gingrich said, to cheers.
When asked about Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who plans to announce an official bid for the GOP nomination this weekend, Herman Cain said that he welcomed Perry to the race, adding that “one more politician” would make a “business problem-solver” like himself stand out more.
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