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USA Today: Will Minnesota budget crisis help Pawlenty?

After an interview with Tim Pawlenty in Iowa over the weekend, USA Today wonders: Will the Minnesota budget crisis actually help the former governor in his presidential bid?

Said the story:

Critics accuse the state’s two-term governor, who left office in January, of using short-term fixes that laid the groundwork for the state’s current fiscal problems. For Pawlenty, though, the crisis that has shut down the state government for a record 11 days and counting has provided a platform to tout his tight-fisted stance toward spending during a shutdown of his own in 2005.

That echoed his attitude Sunday on “Meet the Press,” when Pawlenty expressed pride in his role in shutting down the state six years ago. (On the national news program he also trashed Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and seemed confused about how he can like Lady Gaga and still oppose gay rights.)

The budget crises, both in Minnesota and Washington, may give Pawlenty a chance to improve his chances in the race, following a tough June where he didn’t look good in a debate, struggled to raise money and stayed mired in the single digits in the polls.

Said the USA Today story:

Pawlenty acknowledges he must show “progress and momentum” in an Aug. 11 Iowa debate and the Aug. 13 GOP straw poll, a carnival-like contest in Ames that sometimes winnows out the weak. He needs to climb out of his sixth-place standing in last month’s Des MoinesRegister poll to the top of the field, or at least within shouting distance of the top.

The consequences if he fails?

“The consequences won’t be good,” he said with rueful laughter in an interview in the lobby of his Des Moines hotel. Though the Iowa caucuses are seven months away, Pawlenty has opened a five-week sprint that may determine whether his presidential ambitions will continue to be taken seriously.

He is being forced to deny that his campaign already is over. “If I’m ‘dead,’ Heaven is a great place,” he tweeted Friday night, linking to a friendly article in the Cedar RapidsGlobe Gazette about his appearance there.

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