Tim Pawlenty has a simple explanation for why his poll numbers are so bad in Iowa: He claims he's barely campaigned in the state.
'This week is the first time that I've campaigned in earnest in Iowa," Pawlenty said in an interview with the Des Moines Register's editorial board Thursday.
It's an odd argument for Pawlenty to make. According to Democracy in Action, Pawlenty has visited the state 17 times this year, a tally that includes a Des Moines speech in May where he officially declared his candidacy for the 2012 GOP nomination.
Indeed, only GOP rival Rick Santorum, who has clocked in 20 trips since January, has visited Iowa more than Pawlenty this year.
But in his Register interview, the former Minnesota governor insisted that his previous visits to the state didn't really count because this week is "the first time we've actually had anything beyond small meetings for other causes."
However, that argument doesn't quite seem valid either: As the Register's Jennifer Jacobs notes, Pawlenty held at least 10 solo events in the state since May.
A Register poll released last month found Pawlenty with just 6 percent support in the state, trailing rivals including Mitt Romney (23 percent), Michele Bachmann (22 percent) and Herman Cain (10 percent).
"I think you'll see those numbers change," Pawlenty insisted yesterday.
The coming weeks may be make or break for Pawlenty, as he struggles to be considered as an alternative to Romney. A New York Times piece published Friday questioned whether Pawlenty will be the first candidate to bow out of the nomination fight--a headline that isn't likely to make Pawlenty's task easier.
Amid questions about his survival, the ex-governor has sharpened his rhetoric about his rivals. Just weeks after criticizing Romney over his health care plan, Pawlenty this week has began targeting Bachmann, who stands to be his biggest rival in the upcoming Iowa Straw Poll.
While he has previously declined to criticize Bachmann, Pawlenty questioned her experience during his sit-down with the Register yesterday, pointing out she brings only a legislative resume to the table.
"As to specific results that have been achieved, I'm not sure what they would be," Pawlenty said.