Retreating from a tough attack on a rival, Tim Pawlenty is backtracking on his suggestion that Michele Bachmann’s migraines may disqualify her from the presidential race.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Meet The 2012 GOPers: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)]
“I think it’s mostly a sideshow,” Pawlenty told FOX News on Wednesday, when asked about the story. “I’ve observed Congresswoman Bachmann. I’ve never seen her have a medical condition or impairment that would seem to be a concern.”
But earlier in the day, Pawlenty became the first and only presidential candidate to directly go after Bachmann on the issue.“All of the candidates I think are going to have to be able to demonstrate they can do all of the job all of the time,” he told reporters on Wednesday.”There’s no real time off in that job.”
According to Pawlenty on Thursday, his comments were meant to be broadly applicable to all potential nominees. But given the context — and his well-documented rivalry with Bachmann — it was hard to interpret them as innocent speculation.
Perhaps sensing that Pawlenty had overextended himself in going after Bachmann, Romney swooped in to defend her from questions about her health on Wednesday.
“There’s no question in my mind that Michele Bachmann’s health is in no way an impediment to her being able to serve as president,” he said.
Pawenty’s attack/retreat pattern recalls a similar incident earlier in the contest in which, after condemning Mitt Romney’s record on health care in the press, Pawlenty declined to repeat his remarks in a debate with Romney there in person.