The dig on Tim Pawlenty going into the 2012 presidential primary was that he was too nice, too bland and insufficiently tough to take on President Obama. He reinforced that view when he skewered Mitt Romney on Fox New Sunday (“Obamneycare”) and then whiffed when he appeared face-to-face with Romney in a debate. Small moments become big when they reinforce preexisting impressions of a candidate.
Once again, Pawlenty threw some elbows when the story about Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) headaches surfaced. However, his own campaign was swept up in the controversy.
In New Hampshire yesterday:
State Rep. Win Hutchison (R-Manchester) fired off an e-mail this morning to a Tim Pawlenty field staffer, saying that he “decided to drop my support for Gov. Pawlenty,” upset over what he believed to be the former Minnesota governor’s role in leaking a story that rival Michele Bachmann suffered from migraine headaches.
“His recent attack on Michelle Bachmann is thw (sic) lowest form of gutter politics and certainly does not reflect my type of campaign,” Hutchison said in an e-mail obtained by WMURPoliticalScoop.com.
That sent at least one staff member to see Hutchison at his home to discuss the matter.
In an interview, Hutchison said the staffer visit made him feel better about the matter. “I left feeling that the whole thing is a sideshow,” he said.
Hutchison says that he is “with Pawlenty, for now.” He thinks that Pawlenty is only “reasonable candidate” in the race. That said, he wants to see how Pawlenty handles himself in debates and how well he fares in Iowa to see if the support continues.
“I wasn’t happy with how the whole Bachmann thing went down, but after talking to the campaign I feel better about the situation.”
Whew, that was a close one.
On Wednesday night, Pawlenty was retreating without ever directly answering whether he or his campaign had any involvement in spreading the story. He told Greta van Susteren this was all a “sideshow.” Umm, then why did he pounce and begin questioning Bachmann’s ability to serve? A Republican operative e-mailed me: “He slams her during the day when he should’ve been quiet and let the story play, and then he tries to walk it back when it’s too late. Heckuva strategy.”
If a candidate is going to throw a punch, he’d better be willing to hang in there. If he then shies from the fight, people will perceive a lack of tenacity and toughness, even a lack of character.
The problem with Pawlenty’s campaign is that Republicans aren’t buying him as a potential president. And unfortunately for his campaign, he keeps showing that the doubters have a point.