Former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge said Tuesday that fellow Republican Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who has been surging in the 2012 GOP presidential sweepstakes in recent weeks, was unelectable and unqualified to be commander in chief.
The former Pennsylvania governor, who also served in the U.S. House, gave the stinging assessment in an interview with The Washington Times on the sidelines of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition conference in Washington.
"We have a pretty inexperienced president right now," Mr. Ridge said. "You see the range of issues in the 21st-century world. We are interconnected, we are integrated. Our ability to connect for both security and prosperity reasons now and forever more, I think, requires a set of experiences that she just doesn't have in her portfolio."
"I think she obviously has great appeal to certain members of the party," he said. "I'm looking for a winner."
Mr. Ridge, who said he was "very partial to the governors that are in the race," leavened his criticism of the three-term House lawmaker with praise, calling her a "very articulate" and "very formidable" candidate with "a level of sophistication" and "a hell of a personal story."
"There's much to be admired," he said. "But not enough to be endorsed by me."
The Minnesota Republican lawmaker, who leads the House Tea Party Caucus, has been rising in the polls lately.
Two surveys released in recent days found her opening up a lead in Iowa, and she is polling second in New Hampshire. Nationally, a Fox News poll late last month had her in third place at 11 percent, behind only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (18 percent) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (13 percent), and well ahead of fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty, the state's former two-term governor.
Mr. Pawlenty, who has been struggling to gain traction in the race, called Mrs. Bachmann's congressional record "nonexistent" in a Sunday appearance on "Meet the Press," prompting her to respond Monday with an attempt to reframe the debate about her experience.
"Executive experience in government is one thing, but not when it comes to a promise of more of the same big government as usual," Mrs. Bachmann said during an Iowa campaign appearance.
Mr. Ridge, though, said that if the GOP nominated Mrs. Bachmann, the party risked sacrificing a White House victory on the altar of ideological purity.
"We have to say to ourselves as a party: Consistent with principles that we have, do we want to win or are we into Pyrrhic victories?" he said. "Do we want to appoint Supreme Court justices? Do we want to appoint a Cabinet? Do we want to set a domestic and foreign policy agenda? If the answer is yes, then I think we're going to have to be a little more tolerant of differences in the party."
"Now, of course," he added, "if we're into Pyrrhic victories if we like to win battles and lose wars who knows who we'll nominate?"
Asked whether he thought Mrs. Bachmann had been unfairly compared to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, also thought to be considering the 2012 race, Mr. Ridge chuckled. "I think she compares quite well," he said.
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