WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, trailing in public opinion polls, criticized Republican rival Michele Bachmann on Sunday for a "non-existent" record in the U.S. Congress.
Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota, is competing for the same conservative voters as Bachmann in the early voting state of Iowa.
Bachmann, also from Minnesota and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is running neck-and-neck in Iowa with front-runner Mitt Romney while Pawlenty had only 6 percent support among Republican voters in a recent poll by the Des Moines Register.
"Well, I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I've campaigned for her. I respect her, but her record of accomplishment in Congress is non-existent. It's non-existent," Pawlenty told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Bachmann has gained traction with a fiery speaking style that is altogether different from Pawlenty's laid-back manner.
"We're not looking for folks who just have speech capabilities, we're looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion," Pawlenty said, touting his own experience as a two-term governor of Minnesota.
Pawlenty also raised questions about Romney, saying the healthcare plan he developed for Massachusetts served as a model for President Barack Obama's overhaul that Republicans want to repeal.
"I don't think we can have a nominee that was involved in the development and construction of Obamacare and then continues to defend it," he said.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Vicki Allen)