WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said Sunday that 2012 rival Michele Bachmann has a "nonexistent" record of accomplishment during her three terms in Congress.
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Pawlenty, who's behind in the polls and lagging in fundraising, said that as a former Minnesota governor, he has executive experience she lacks.
"We're not looking for folks who just have speech capabilities," Pawlenty said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We're looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion. I've done that, and she hasn't."
He continued, "I've got executive leadership in a public setting with a record of accomplishment and results under difficult and challenging circumstances, and she has served in Congress. And in that regard, her record of accomplishment is, you know, like I said, nonexistent."
Bachmann rejected Pawlenty's criticism. She cited her efforts in the House against President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul, saying, "My message brought tens of thousands of Americans to Washington, D.C., to oppose Obamacare."
The Minnesota congresswoman also cited her votes against "cap-and-trade" legislation to control greenhouse gases, and against the government's 2008 bailout of banks, financial firms and automakers.
"I am proud of my record of fighting with resolve, and without apology, for our free markets, for sane fiscal policies, and in opposition to the advancement of the big government left," Bachmann said.
A poll last month in early-voting Iowa put former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and tea party favorite Bachmann at the top. Pawlenty was back in the pack despite an aggressive campaign in the state.
"These early polls are not a good indicator of anything," Pawlenty insisted on NBC. "If they were, Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton would be president of the United States."
But he acknowledged that over the next 60 days, he needs to show "significant progress." He pointed to the Iowa Republican Party's straw poll on Aug. 13 and said he thinks he'll prevail.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.