Tim Pawlenty and Walter Mondale Trade Barbs in Minnesota Shutdown Blame Game

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With the Minnesota government shutdown now in its sixth day, the blame game has broken out in full force, playing not just on the state level but on a national one.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale, a Democrat, and GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty Tuesday fired the latest shots.

After announcing creation of a bipartisan panel to try to end the stalemate in St. Paul, Mondale told Politico that Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, is to blame for the state's budget problems that have been at the root of the shutdown.

"He left basically the mess that we see, the huge deficits," Mondale, 83, said of Pawlenty, the two-term governor who left office in January. "He shifted these issues into the future so that he wouldn't be around."

Mondale, a native Minnesotan, served under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.

Pawlenty, 50, quickly fired back at Mondale, as well as at former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson, who joined Mondale today in unveiling the new committee.

"Walter Mondale ran for president against Ronald Reagan on a platform that called for higher taxes," Pawlenty said in a statement of the 1984 presidential campaign. "Arne Carlson supported John Kerry, Barack Obama and other Democrats. It should surprise no one that they both support more spending and higher taxes in Minnesota.

"We did it the right way for the last eight years, with dramatically lower spending and tax cuts. I commend the Republicans in the Legislature for sticking to their guns, even when politicians of the past call for old-fashioned high tax and spend solutions.

"The last budget on my watch ended last week with a positive balance," he added. "The projected deficit for the upcoming two years is based on large projected spending increases, which I never would have allowed as governor. Minnesota government is shutdown because of Democrats' insistence on Obama-esque solutions to increase spending and raise taxes."

That is only the latest salvo fired by Pawlenty, who has gone on the offensive in recent days in an effort to convince Republican voters that he is capable of solving a budget mess far larger than Minnesota's. As the fight for the GOP presidential nomination heats up, a central issue for the candidates is how they would deal with the country's soaring deficits.

With the state government poised to shut down last Thursday, Pawlenty held a brief news conference to voice his support for the GOP legislators who are at odds with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton on how to solve the state's projected $5 billion deficit for the next two years.

Pawlenty Tuesday released a new television ad in Iowa touting his role in Minnesota's last government shutdown six years ago, a stalemate in 2005 that lasted 10 days.

"Minnesota government shutdown. Why? Because Tim Pawlenty would not accept Democrats' massive tax and spending demands. Result: Pawlenty won," the ad says.

Not so fast, critics warn. The Democratic National Committee responded to the new Pawlenty ad by stating that the GOP candidate did not shut down the government six years ago because of a desire to cut taxes but, rather, because he wanted to raise taxes on cigarettes.

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