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Bachmann, Pawlenty throwdown

"Oh, hey, Tim, I didn't even know you were running for president."

"Oh, hey, Tim, I didn't even know you were running for president."

As his campaign gasps for breath, Tim Pawlenty is trying to pull Michele Bachmann down with him even if it's the last thing he does.

On Friday, Pawlenty, increasingly desperate as his poll numbers shrink in Iowa, took a direct shot at Bachmann. Without using her name, T-Paw told CNN that the times were too serious for someone to go right from the U.S. House of Representatives to the White House.

Bachmann's campaign shot back right away, issuing a press release that took on Pawlenty's record in the most direct confrontation to date between the two Minnesotans running for president.

"These are serious times that require serious solutions -- not more of the same," Bachmann's statement said. "Executive experience is not an asset if it simply means bigger and more intrusive government."

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Bachmann went on to link Pawlenty the ultimate conservative bogeyman, Barack Obama:

"Governor Pawlenty said in 2006, 'The era of small government is over... the government has to be more proactive and more aggressive.' That's the same philosophy that, under President Obama, has brought us record deficits, massive unemployment, and an unconstitutional health care plan.

"Actions speak louder than words. When I was fighting against the unconstitutional individual mandate in healthcare, Governor Pawlenty was praising it. I have fought against irresponsible spending while Governor Pawlenty was leaving a multi-billion-dollar budget mess in Minnesota. I fought cap-and-trade. Governor Pawlenty backed cap-and-trade when he was Governor of Minnesota and put Minnesota into the multi-state Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord. While Governor Pawlenty was praising TARP -- the $700 billion bailout in 2008 -- I worked tirelessly against it and voted against it. I have demonstrated leadership and the courage of my convictions to change Washington, stop wasteful spending, lower taxes, put Americans back to work and turn our economy around. I'm a hard worker who exhibits that courage in the halls of Congress and will take that same conviction to the White House."

Oh, snap! It's on now.

As if that weren't enough, Bachmann's spokesperson Alice Stewart rubbed salt in Pawlenty's wound, saying that he's pretty much exactly like Barack Obama, except that he's white and will never be president.

"On issues such as unconstitutional healthcare mandates, climate change regulations, and Wall Street bailouts, there's very little daylight, indeed, between Governor Pawlenty's record and the Obama administration's policies."

In response Pawlenty's spokesman Alex Conant framed T-Paw as a man of action, and actual success, while Bachmann is merely a speechifying Congressional do-nothing. Conant's attack was a callback to when Pawlenty recently  described Bachmann's legislative record as "nonexistent." Although, the thing about that is... he's kind of right.

There's no clear winner here yet. Pawlenty is clearing trying to siphon off some of Bachmann's support, which seems to grow larger by the day. But at the moment, this looks a bit like a big, powerful white Evangelical horse using its tail to shoo away a tiny white Evangelical mosquito.

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