The gloves came off in thebetween former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann in Iowa's first 2012 Republican presidential debate Thursday night.
"It's an undispatuble fact in Congress her record of accomplishment and results is nonexistent," Pawlenty said of his fellow Minnesota Republican. "The American people are going to expect more."
Pawlenty said that Republican voters want a presidential candidate who can compete with President Obama when it comes to results. For instance, he said he tackled health care reform "the right way" in his state.
Bachmann rattled off a list of charges against Pawlenty that she's: That Pawlenty as governor "implemented cap and trade," that he supported an "unconstitutional" health care mandate, and that he once said, "the era of small government is over."
"That sounds a lot like Barack Obama to me," Bachmann said. By contrast, she said, "I have fought all of these unconstitutional measures against Barack Obama."
Bachmann's team was ready for the confrontation: Her staff handed out to members of the press at the debate a two-page document entitled "The Big Government of Tim Pawlenty." The document, among other things, charged, "Tim Pawlenty was for government bail-outs before he was against them."
Pawlenty shook his head in exasperation as Bachmann criticized his record, retorting that she had different things to say about his leadership while he was serving as governor. He added, "She's got a record of misstating and making false statements."
Furthermore, Pawlenty pointed out that while Bachmann has been vocal in her opposition to policies like raising the debt ceiling and the bank bailouts, those policies were nevertheless implemented.
"It's not her spine we're worried about, it's her results," he said. "If that's your view of effective leadership with results, please stop, because you're killing us."
Pawlenty refrained from attacking Bachmann on one issue -- he said he never criticized the congresswoman following reports that she.
"I have not questioned Congresswoman Bachmann's migraine headaches. I don't think that is an issue," he said. "The only headache I hear about on the campaign trail is the headache Barack Obama has given the people of this country with his lousy leadership and this lousy economy."
The Iowa debate, along with, are critical for both Pawlenty and Bachmann. For Bachmann, her best chances of solidifying her status as a strong presidential contender may lie in Iowa, where conservatives have been drawn to her social and fiscal conservatism.
For Pawlenty, a victory in Iowa would give a much-needed boost to his campaign. When questioning Pawlenty about his past attacks against Bachmann, the Fox News debate moderator Chris Wallace asked, "Is she unqualified, or just beating you in the polls?"