The big news in Minnesota politics today is rightly assigned to Michele Bachmann, particularly after surging even with Mitt Romney in Iowa. That said, Tim Pawlenty made noteworthy news today, too. First, here’s CNN’s take on Michele Bachmann:

Forget political pedigree, executive experience or ties to deep-pocketed donors.

No Republican presidential candidate is better positioned to capitalize on the recent tide of conservative anger toward President Barack Obama than Michele Bachmann.

Her charisma and crossover appeal to both social and fiscal conservatives have the three-term Minnesota congresswoman rising in the polls and primed to make a serious impact on the GOP nomination fight.

Bachmann, unlike several of her rivals making appeals to the Tea Party movement, has the resources and fundraising potential to steer her campaign beyond the crucial early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Though firmly on the insurgent side of the Republican field, she is also taking steps to position herself as a credible alternative to the crop of establishment-friendly White House contenders with deep pockets and long political resumes.

Quite awhile ago, I thought that Michele Bachmann’s name didn’t belong in the same sentence with U.S. president. It wasn’t that I didn’t think she had the chops. I knew early on that Michele was a conservative superstar long before her getting the CD-6 GOP endorsement:

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to meet State Senator Michelle Bachmann. To say that I was impressed with her is understatement.

She was articulate in her presentation. She had a ready answer for all of the questions posed to her. Most of the people I talked with said that they were either impressed or very impressed with her speaking skills. Her energy was impressive, too.

It’s because I thought the DNC would mercilessly attack her in much the same way then-candidate Obama and the Obama shills in the media attacked Sarah Palin.

In the years since, Michele has given us plenty of reasons to be impressed. The reality is that, despite the noise her detractors make, she’s an impressive policy wonk on fiscal and national security issues.

Here’s Ed Morrissey’s take on Pawlenty’s good news:

For Pawlenty, his strong performance in a state-wide poll is rather remarkable, since Democrats here have been trying to dump blame on him for the current budget impasse in order to deflect criticism of the in-over-his-head new governor, Mark Dayton. Pawlenty wins majorities of voters between 35-64, although he trails with independents 39/51. He also wins big in the top two income demographics and ties Obama among $50K-$75K earners. Most impressively, Pawlenty comes within four points of Obama among Twin Cities voters, which are usually a Democratic stronghold. He also wins all other regions, including an 11-point margin in southern Minnesota, which is represented by Democrats in Congress (Peterson and Walz).

However, another way to look at this is that Obama has suddenly become very, very vulnerable in a state where he should be showing considerable strength. Despite efforts in the last three electoral cycles by national conservative organizations, Minnesota hasn’t come very close to going red in a presidential election. Upper Midwestern progressivism still thrives in Minnesota, even if it has seriously waned in Wisconsin. Republicans didn’t win a single state-wide office in the 2010 elections despite taking control of both chambers of the state legislature and scoring an upset in MN-08 with Chip Cravaack’s win over 18-term Rep. Jim Oberstar. Now, suddenly, Obama can’t score better than a tie against a candidate who has yet to gain significant national traction?

If I was Tim Pawlenty, I’d be encouraged by these results. If I was in Obama’s White House, I’d be very, very worried about them.

I agree with Ed saying that this is both good news for TPaw and terrible news for President Obama’s campaign. It fits, though, with my belief that President Obama is facing an uphill re-election fight. If President Obama has to spend tons of money to keep Minnesota in the blue column, then he’s a one-termer.

Still, this shouldn’t just be seen as President Obama’s weakness. TPaw is a formidable opponent who simply hasn’t caught fire yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gains momentum as people start deciding who they’re supporting.

Michele can tout her finish in the recent Iowa poll:

Romney, the national front-runner and a familiar face in Iowa after his 2008 presidential run, attracts support from 23 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers. Bachmann, who will officially kick off her campaign in Iowa on Monday, nearly matches him, with 22 percent.

“She’s up there as a real competitor and a real contender,” said Republican pollster Randy Gutermuth, who is unaffiliated with any of the presidential candidates. “This would indicate that she’s going to be a real player in Iowa.”

The fact that Michele’s running that strong this early says she’s doing something right. It says she’ll do well in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.
All in all, that’s a pair of pretty promising surprises for Republicans of national prominence.

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