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Pawlenty and Bachmann friendly rivals? Maybe not

The spin from the camps is that the two Minnesotans charging ahead in the Republican presidential nomination race are happy to compete with each other.
But Politico has a story today calling it a grudge match between Congresswoman Michele Bachmann

The spin from the camps is that the two Minnesotans charging ahead in the Republican presidential nomination race are happy to compete with each other.

But Politico has a story today calling it a grudge match between Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

It notes that Bachmann didn’t back Pawlenty when he first ran for governor in 2002:

Pawlenty ultimately won, setting the stage for years of mostly below-the-radar conflict between the two Republicans on issues ranging from tax breaks for rural counties to education policy and cigarette taxes. She bucked him repeatedly during his first term, rained on his parade in January by unexpectedly releasing her presidential trial balloon on the eve of his much-ballyhooed book tour, and is at present poised to take him on directly in Iowa, an early presidential state that will be key to both their fortunes.

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Though some still describe their relationship as a friendly rivalry, “a longtime Minnesota Republican operative who hasn’t taken sides but knows Pawlenty well and has a good relationship with Bachmann” said Pawlenty “would like to rip her lungs out right now.”

“He has planned [the presidential run] out methodically for years,” the operative said. “To see her, in his mind, recklessly come in, in a slapdash fashion, and ruin, potentially, his plans makes him insane to even think about,” the operative said.

 Said the story:

Locals compare the intrastate rivalry to another from Minnesota’s storied political past — the 1968 battle for the Democratic nomination, when Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy challenged Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the one-time Minneapolis mayor.

 “When I talk to my Democrat friends, they still remember who was on what side in ‘68,” said a veteran Minnesota Republican who expressed a desire to stay out of any potential conflict between Pawlenty and Bachmann. “These are deep and wide fissures within the party. When you talk to the old, really lefty liberals that were for McCarthy, that’s a lot like the Bachmann people this time.”

 And:

Pawlenty dealt with Bachmann as little as possible while governor because she was difficult to work with, according to three former Pawlenty staffers.

 “We actually kept her at arms’ length because if you’re dealing with a bomb thrower, it was very precarious building this coalition of folks and earning the trust of the public,” said a conservative who worked in the state’s department of education when Bachmann and Pawlenty were at odds over the implementation of the No Child Left Behind law. “When that happens, you can’t afford to have a wrecking ball come in and mess up what you’re doing.”

While most Minnesota Republicans who served in the House with Pawlenty are likely to side with him, some won’t:

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[M]any of the 52 Republican freshmen elected to the state House and Senate last November — a majority of them hard-charging conservatives — are thought to be open to supporting Bachmann.

 “If you measured it today, where Congresswoman Bachmann might have more support among some of the grassroots activists, Governor Pawlenty might have more support of the rank-and-file Republicans — the long-term donors and supporters of the state organization,” said Phil Krinkie, [a former legislator] who is now head of the Taxpayers League.

 It may all come to a head in Iowa, many expect.

By outperforming Pawlenty at the Ames Straw Poll in August Bachmann could land a serious blow to perceptions of his viability.

 “I think Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann are setting up similar to what Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback were in 2008,” said Steve Deace, the longtime conservative radio host in Des Moines. “I think that’s a loser-leave-town match, and whoever finishes ahead is in, and whoever finishes behind quits.”

 Other Iowans downplay the notion that Bachmann will hurt Pawlenty’s chances there.

 “They’re both from Minnesota, but other than that: One could be from Mars and the other from Venus politically,” said Doug Gross, a powerful Republican lawyer in Iowa who is uncommitted. “Probably 40 percent of the caucus goers are economic conservatives. And half the social conservatives are economic conservatives in this environment. Michele will be fighting over the 25 to 30 percent. They’re not playing in the same playground.”