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Minnesota Twins: Bachmann, Pawlenty Compete Minnesota Twins: Bachmann, Pawlenty Compete

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Politics

Minnesota Twins: Bachmann, Pawlenty Compete

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NEW ORLEANS, LA - JUNE 17: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) speaks during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference on June 17, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The 2011 Republican Leadership Conference runs through tomorrow and will feature keynote addresses from most of the major Republican candidates for president as well as numerous Republican leaders from across the country. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Is this Republican presidential campaign big enough for two Minnesotans?

It's a tricky question at the RightOnline conference in Minneapolis, where some 1500 conservative activists have gathered to hone their internet organizing chops and be wooed by conservative organizations and office-seekers, including two home-grown presidential candidates: Former Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michele Bachmann, who represents the state's sixth Congressional district.

This early in the race, support hasn't solidified around any one candidate. Bachmann's hard-hitting style attracts activists' hearts and Pawlenty's selling card is electability.

Pawlenty, whose second term ended last year, offers the traditional package for a presidential candidate: A television ad-ready narrative of a blue-collar upbringing, time governing as a conservative in a left-leaning state, and a coterie of top Republican strategists to run a campaign predicated on his willingness to make tough fiscal choices.

Bachmann, on the other hand, has found herself running for president almost by accident. An evangelical Christian in her third term in the House, she proudly touts her five children and 23 others she cared for as a foster parent. Following President Obama's election, she became an ardent supporter of the Tea Party movement - and the founder of the congressional Tea Party Caucus. That, and her willingness to stand up to her own party's leadership has made her a grassroots favorite and fundraising powerhouse.

"Tim Pawlenty has a really good message, his truth-telling platform will resonate," Beka Romm, came to the conference from Topeka, Kansas, said. "Michelle Bachmann is a fascinating figure. People really like her story."

But if her tea party momentum made exploring a run practically inevitable for Bachmann, her official entry into the contest -- announced live during this week's debate in New Hampshire -- left home state pols, activists and nominating delegates nervous about being caught in a tug of war.

After Pawlenty rescheduled his speech at RightOnline from a morning session that he would have shared with Bachmann to a time later in the afternoon, and Bachmann's speech, though well-received, went about fifteen minutes longer than expected, activists speculated about gamesmanship between the two candidates. (Both campaigns declined to comment for this story.)

Tensions are running higher after the Granite State debate. Pawlenty got bad marks failing to challenge former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on health care issues, while Bachmann exceeded expectations with a poised performance.

At RightOnline, activists have plenty of praise for Pawlenty, but the locals at the conference express some measure of reluctance about seeing their ex-governor on a bigger stage.

"Bachmann is more of a tea party candidate, she sticks on principle and represents my values," Mark Ford of Shakopee, Minnesota, said after her speech. "Pawlenty was a good governor but I don't think he has the national appeal Republicans probably need."

"With Michelle, you are going to get what she says," says Republican Minnesota state Rep. Mary Franson, who hasn't made up her mind whom she'll support. "Pawlenty, on the other hand, is a little more watered down."

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A bystander interjects with a complaint about Pawlenty's change of mind on energy -- the governor supported a regional greenhouse gas reduction policy to combat climate change before reversing himself. Franson herself wasn't pleased that Pawlenty left it to the new Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, to decide whether Minnesota should opt for early participation in the new health care law's Medicaid provisions. Dayton promptly signed the state up.

So far, Pawlenty and Bachmann have steered clear of each other, even avoiding mentioning the other's name in their speeches, to focus their critiques on President Obama. But should both still be in the race when primary and caucus season begins, voters around the country will see what happens when Minnesotans stop playing nice.

Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Excellent!"

Rick, Executive Director for Policy

Concise coverage of everything I wish I had hours to read about."

Chuck, Graduate Student

The day's action in one quick read."

Stacy, Director of Communications

I find them informative and appreciate the daily news updates and enjoy the humor as well."

Richard, VP of Government Affairs

Chock full of usable information on today's issues. "

Michael, Executive Director

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