In comparing Pawlenty to Obama, Bachmann channels McCain

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Well, that didn’t take long. As you might have heard, Rep. Michele Bachmann has attacked former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, comparing him to … (gulp) Barack Obama.

Describing a Republican primary opponent as similar to Obama — in this environment — might be described as the “nuclear option.” It’s one thing to call your opponent a liberal, but comparing him to Obama … now that‘s a low blow!

And whether she realizes it, or not, Bachmann is actually taking a page from the John McCain playbook — albeit, prematurely. At least, McCain is the last Republican I can recall who made such an accusation.

After a 2000 John McCain ad said then-Texas Governor George W. Bush “twists the truth like [Bill] Clinton,” Bush sought to push back. During a CNN debate from South Carolina, Bush chided his opponent, saying: “You can disagree with me on issues, John, but do not question — do not question my trustworthiness and do not compare me to Bill Clinton.”

Just weeks later, McCain would accuse Bush of pandering to evangelical leaders he dubbed, “agents of intolerance.” (Which leads me to wonder what might be next in store for the Bachmann-Pawlenty feud.)

It is unclear whether part of the Bush campaign strategy was to draw McCain into such a fight in order to lure him into acting irrationally. Regardless, McCain’s attacks on Bush backfired. McCain (who was probably the real victim of the harshest and most cruel personal attacks) actually came across looking like a desperate bully.

It is worth noting that both attacks happened in February of 2000 — seven months later in the election cycle than when Bachmann’s attack on Pawlenty was lodged.

Matt K. Lewis