AMES, Iowa, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Presidential hopeful and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Sunday he's looking to gain ground in a GOP debate and in the Ames, Iowa, straw poll.
"My record of cutting government spending, appointing conservatives justices, doing health care reform the right way and more is now getting out as we've had TV ads and radio ads and spending a lot of time here in Iowa," Pawlenty said on "Fox News Sunday."
"So I think we'll show good progress for the Ames straw poll. But our real goal is those caucuses next January and February. That's the ultimate objective for Republican candidate in Iowa."
The Ames straw poll Saturday is conducted in an election cycle in which there is no incumbent Republican and the party presidential nomination appears undecided. The first Iowa debate for GOP presidential hopefuls is Thursday.
Pawlenty has some daunting numbers to overcome. He's spent 42 days in Iowa and conducted at least 100 events, yet the RealClearPolitics.com average of Iowa polls indicates fellow Minnesotan, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, has 27 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with Pawlenty in single digits at 7.5 percent.
While not totally dismissive of polls and averages of polls, Pawlenty said he expected observers would see his campaign "moving up from back of the pack to closer to front of the pack, because [of] my record of Minnesota's governor in getting those things done in a very liberal state."
After weeks of silence concerning Bachmann, Pawlenty began questioning her congressional accomplishments and whether she has the chops to be president.
"I think I'm unique in the race in that I can unite the whole conservative movement," Pawlenty said. "I have got a record that can authentically and genuinely appeal to the whole [conservative movement]. Many of the other candidates appeal primarily to one chunk of that, but not all of that. So that is one of the advantages I bring forward."
Plus, he said, one prerequisite to lead the country in these times is having executive experience.
"And my comments of her record, if you just looked at her record in Congress, you know there's great comments, and … offering amendments that didn't pass and the like, but as to these things that we're concerned about -- cutting government spending, getting healthcare done the right way -- not talking about it, but actually doing these things, accomplishing these things, getting results," he said. "I said her record is non-existent. That's not disputable, that's a matter of fact."
He pointed to Obama's presidency to back his sentiment.
"He hadn't run anything. He hadn't done anything," Pawlenty said. "And his record of results is essentially non-existent. We don't want to repeat that mistake."
To Bachmann's criticism about his being a big spender in favor of big government and leaving a $5 billion budget mess that was one reason for the Minnesota government shutdown, Pawlenty said his record was "one of the best of any governor in the country."
"Anybody who looks at my record of taking spending from historic highs to historic lows … on down the list, everything that Republicans are talking about needing for the country to need, I have actually done," Pawlenty said. "I don't just flap my jaw, I don't just say maybe I'll do it someday. I don't talk about the hopes of getting it done, I have done it under difficult circumstances in Minnesota."