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Bachmann vs. Pawlenty: Live from the 'spin room'

August 11, 2011|By James Oliphant
(Charlie Neibergall/AP )

Every debate features what’s called the “spin room,” where surrogates for the candidates tell the assembled media why their candidate performed the best during the event. Thursday evening, much of the attention was focused on bitter exchanges between Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty—and to little surprise, each contender’s camp offered a version of the truth.

“This was a planned assault on Gov. Pawlenty,” said Nick Ayers, Pawlenty’s campaign manager.  “It shows a campaign that’s highly volatile.”

“We were surprised,” he added. “We came to talk about our record. She came to pick a fight.”

Photos: Scenes From Iowa - Republicans at the State Fair

But David Polyansky, Bachmann’s deputy campaign manager, said, “The first salvo was fired by Tim Pawlenty.” (Pawlenty, in fact, was asked by  moderator Bret Baier about his past comments about Bachmann’s qualifications. That kicked off the brawl.)

“They feel the heat,” Polyansky said.

The sniping came just two days before the Straw poll in Ames, one that’s being heavily contested by both camps. The winner will have bragging rights in Iowa for at least a short time.

Pawlenty’s campaign, however, is still being coy about its expectations for Saturday.  “Success for us is to be able to show that he moved from the back of the pack . . . to the front of the pack,” Ayers said.

In the middle of the fracas was Mitt Romney’s camp, which had to enjoy the simple truth that the more time Bachmann and Pawlenty spent ripping each other, the less time they had to gang-tackle the front-runner.

But Romney’s campaign manager, Eric Fehrnstrom, wouldn’t say that. “Each campaign has its own agenda,” he said.  Instead, he lamented that there weren’t more questions in the Fox News Channel-sponsored debate that focused on the economy.

But Eric, who won the debate?  Romney, he said, “is head and shoulders above all the other candidates on the stage.”

“Tim Pawlenty won the debate,” Ayers said.

No, Bachmann did, her campaign said.

“She knows who she is and what she believes,” said Bachmann pollster Ed Goeas, “and why she believes it.”

A presidential candidate who can be definitely said to have not won was Thad McCotter of Michigan, who wasn’t invited.

That, of course, did not prevent McCotter from showing up in the spin room. That’s some high-level spinning.

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