Republican presidential candidates former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, left, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., center, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman are seen before the start of the Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate at the CY Stephens Auditorium in Ames, Iowa, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Former governor Tim Pawlenty got things started by calling into question Rep. Michele Bachmann ’s depth of experience as a congresswoman, and Bachmann responded in kind by questioning Pawlenty’s leadership in her state, including his support for a cigarette “fee” and for environmental legislation that is opposed by most conservatives.

Pawlenty, who needed a good performance at Saturday’s straw poll in Ames and the Iowa caucuses early next year, repeated an earlier attack that Bachmann hasn’t accomplished much of anything during her time in the state Senate and Congress.

“She’s done wonderful things in her life, but it’s an indisputable fact that her record of results is non-existent,” Pawlenty said.

Bachmann, who leads the polls in Iowa, was ready, and she decided to engage Pawlenty directly, slamming his record as governor, which included support for cap-and-trade energy legislation.

“That sounds a lot more like Barack Obama if you ask me,” she said.

Pawlenty also accused Bachmann of exagerrating the facts — a charge that has lingered as her campaign has caught fire. He suggested her evaluation of his record as governor was further evidence of her trouble with the facts.

“She’s got a record of misstating and making false statements,” he said.

Later in the debate, the two re-engaged, with Bachmann attacking Pawlenty for supporting a cigarette “fee” — labeled by many as a tax — when he was trying to balance the budget as governor.

“Governor Pawlenty cut a deal with the special interest groups,” she said.

Pawlenty noted that, as a state senator, Bachmann supported the bill. Bachmann said she did so because it included anti-abortion provisions that she felt outweighed the fee.

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