Bachmann, Pawlenty debate conservative credentials

WASHINGTON (AP) — The campaigns of Republican presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty resumed their war of words Sunday, arguing via press release over which candidate has the stronger conservative credentials.

Minnesota Rep. Bachmann accused Pawlenty of supporting policies that are anathema to her tea party supporters, such as the individual mandate to buy health insurance and a “cap-and-trade” agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. And she slammed the former Minnesota governor for praising the federal government’s 2008 bailout of banks, auto makers and insurers.

“I have fought against irresponsible spending while Governor Pawlenty was leaving a multi-billion-dollar budget mess in Minnesota,” Bachmann added.

Pawlenty’s campaign swiftly rejected Bachmann’s claims, saying there is “very little difference” between the two candidates’ positions.

However, Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant said, “The difference is that when Governor Pawlenty was scoring conservative victories ... Congresswoman Bachmann was giving speeches and offering failed amendments, all while struggling mightily to hold onto the most Republican house seat in the state.”

Earlier this month, Pawlenty raised Bachmann’s ire when he called her record of accomplishment in Congress “nonexistent.”

Bachmann argued again Sunday against that assessment, saying, “I have demonstrated leadership and the courage of my convictions to change Washington, stop wasteful spending, lower taxes, put Americans back to work and turn our economy around.”

Later Sunday, Bachmann press secretary Alice Stewart reiterated her candidate’s earlier remarks, saying, “There is very little difference between Governor Pawlenty’s past positions and Barack Obama’s positions on several critical issues facing Americans.”

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