Likely GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and national Democrats went after each another Thursday during the lead-up to the first Republican presidential debate in the 2012 race.
On Thursday morning, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sent out a “fact-check” of an op-ed by Pawlenty published at the conservative Daily Caller, in which he criticized President Obama’s record on the economy and touted his record as Minnesota governor.
The fact-check accuses Pawlenty of leaving Minnesota with a $6.2 billion budget deficit, a claim Pawlenty has disputed, and says he failed to fix the state’s healthcare system and defends the president’s policies, including the healthcare law.
“Tim Pawlenty had an op-ed today that was grossly inaccurate and went to great lengths to hide the fact that he failed the people of Minnesota by leaving them with a $6.2 billion deficit – a budget hole the state is still trying to recover from,” DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse said in a statement to The Hill.
The DNC’s rebuttal came just hours before the first debate of the 2012 cycle was set to get under way in South Carolina. Pawlenty is the biggest name in the field of participating candidates.
The former governor’s team keyed in on the fact that the DNC’s response contained an internal message between Ben LaBolt, a communications staffer for Obama’s reelection team, and DNC communications staff.
“id [sic] lead on the pawlenty hit w/ leaving MN with a record deficit before the defensive stuff also [sic] think there’s a typo in the headline for the first section of bullets,” LaBolt wrote.
Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant accused the DNC and Obama’s reelection campaign of using a “coordinated attack” in trying to “bury” the president’s record instead of openly debating the issues.
“The Obama campaign is telling the DNC to bury the President’s record — which is understandable, especially considering how poorly it stacks up to Governor Pawlenty’s record of cutting taxes and spending,” he said in a statement. “If the president’s team was more focused on the economy and less focused on politics, then maybe they wouldn’t be so worried about Governor Pawlenty’s strong record and agenda.”
Pawlenty has been a bit more combative leading up to the debate. In his Daily Caller op-ed, he targeted some of his fellow Republican contenders for not participating in the South Carolina event.
“Some candidates are skipping tonight’s Republican debate in South Carolina because they believe it’s ‘too soon’ to begin the presidential campaign against Barack Obama. I only hope that it’s not too late,” he said.
Conant used the Democratic response effort to drive home that refrain.
“The Obama reelection campaign and DNC’s coordinated attack on Governor Pawlenty is more evidence that Republicans should not wait to start the campaign,” he said.
“This hyperventilating on his part is nothing more than Governor Pawlenty trying to distract attention from his budget busting, failed fiscal record,” Woodhouse responded.
- Tim Pawlenty: ‘We’ve Got To Get Off The Sideline’ (huffingtonpost.com)