Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said on Meet the Press this morning that his 2012 rival Michele Bachmann has a "nonexistent" record of accomplishment during her three terms in Congress.
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"I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I've campaigned for her. I respect her. But her record of accomplishment in Congress is non-existent" were Pawlenty's exact words.
Pawlenty, who's behind in the polls and lagging in fundraising, says that as a former Minnesota governor, he has executive experience and achieved results under challenging circumstances.
"We're not looking for folks who just have speech capabilities," he said. "We're looking for who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion. I have done that, she hasn't."
Pawlenty also emphasized his fortitude and toughness in comparison to other candidates in the field.
"My goodness, I was the first governor in Minnesota's history to shutdown the government. I set a record for vetoes, I took more money out of the budget using an executive authority than all the other governors combined in my state," said Pawlenty. "I'm an old hockey player. I've been in more fights than the rest of these candidates combined."
Pawlenty avoided moderator David Greogory's question on whether Bachmann's characterization of the Obama Administration as a "Gangster Government" was appropriate.
"Well, I've called it incompetent, I've called them out of control, I've called them misguide, I've called them failed. I mean pick your choice," said Pawlenty. "But the point is, that this is a group of people who are disconnected from the economic needs of the people of this country."
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.
He tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that early polls aren't good indicators of anything.
Pawlenty says that over the next 60 days, he needs to show "significant progress." He's pointing to the Iowa Republican Party's straw poll on Aug. 13 and thinks he'll prevail.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.