Bachmann and Pawlenty in Iowa: A Contrast in Styles

Bachmann and Pawlenty in Iowa: A Contrast in Styles

By Erin McPike - August 10, 2011

HUMBOLDT, Iowa -- The first of Minnesota's two presidential candidates rolled up to the fairgrounds here Tuesday afternoon in a tour bus emblazoned with her campaign logo; the bus was honking as she arrived and country music was blaring in the background.

When Michele Bachmann emerged and took the stage at the Humboldt County GOP picnic, her bus was parked flush with the stage, not more than a few feet away. To the left was a big, blue tent, also splashed with her name, and flanking her to the right was a truck with the same logo.

An hour later, as Republican picnic-goers moved inside to eat dinner, Tim Pawlenty strolled into a quiet room with a few photographers trailing him and snapping pictures.

A study in contrasts, Pawlenty and Bachmann are winding their way toward Thursday night’s debate and Saturday’s straw poll in Ames, and they’re on a collision course as each seeks the biggest benchmarks yet in the run-up to the Iowa presidential caucuses early next year.

While Pawlenty hopes his slow-and-steady approach pays off, Bachmann is already fashioning her events to mirror splashy, general election-style rallies. And so far, the latter seems to be working.

Voters who have seen both candidates tend to be drawn more toward the congresswoman than the former governor, in part because she can communicate powerfully and fire up a crowd. Pawlenty may be more in line with the niceness that pervades Iowa and his nearby home state of Minnesota, but voters may be looking for something different from a pleasant, middle-aged Midwestern dad.

Both candidates bashed President Obama at the picnic, but Bachmann’s remarks were more cutting. Where Pawlenty talked about the nation’s budget deficit, Bachmann railed about the debt and brought the issue back to the country’s founders. And when they ended their presentations and asked for support at Saturday’s straw poll, Bachmann screamed to the crowd that she needed their help. Pawlenty asked meekly for their votes.

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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