It appears that the first great battle of the 2012 season is not coming from President Obama against the GOP, rather it is between former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Both sides arguing that the other either has no record or a record they shouldn’t be proud of.

Report from Salon:

The bickering between the two Minnesota Republicans running for president, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michele Bachmann, is getting pretty loud and angry. But it’s not surprising. It reflects their different roles in the GOP, and the white-knuckle pressure they both face as the 2012 contest moves toward its first real test in Iowa.

Pawlenty has made his “executive experience” and “results” as governor a centerpiece of his campaign, complemented by his eager adoption of harsh Tea Party stances that seem less than perfectly authentic coming from this mild-mannered Minnesotan. But recently, subthemes critical to his two most prominent rivals have been creeping into his self-laudatory discourse:

“We got one leading candidate in this race who’s running away from his record. We got another leading candidate in this race who has no record. I’m running on my record. That’s a big difference,” Pawlenty said.

He continued: “Well I think when you want to think about making somebody president you want to know some things. You want to know what have they done, not just by flapping their jaw or giving speeches or offering failed amendments in Congress. What have they really done? What results have they achieved?”

Pawlenty’s campaign has sharpened this thinly veiled reference to Bachmann’s jaw-flapping and speechifying and symbolic amendment-offering by comparing it to the record of a certain socialist Muslim in the White House when he began running for president in 2008.

After Pawlenty incautiously piled onto allegations that Bachmann’s migraines might occasionally incapacitate her as president (a comment he soon walked back), something seemed to snap in the Bachmann campaign, which soon released a missive turning the tables on Pawlenty’s innuendoes about their candidate’s similarities to Obama. Here’s a taste of that nastygram:

Governor Pawlenty would have us believe that there is ‘very little difference’ between his positions and those of Michele Bachmann.

But in fact, there is very little difference between Governor Pawlenty’s past positions and Barack Obama’s positions on several critical issues facing Americans. 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.

And of course, President Obama would surely applaud Governor Pawlenty’s 2006 statement that the ‘era of small government is over,’ and that the government will have to be ‘more proactive and more aggressive.’

Governor Pawlenty has changed his positions in recent years, but he can’t run from his big government record as governor of Minnesota that left the state’s budget in a multi-billion dollar mess. That’s not executive experience we need.

Coming from someone (or at least the surrogates of someone) who served in the Minnesota Senate while Pawlenty was a House leader and then governor, Bachmann’s blast has some credibility. Her attack on his fiscal record, moreover, echoes Democratic complaints about his signature accomplishment as governor (balancing the budget without tax increases), and also reflects her role in the Minnesota GOP as an ideological enforcer suspicious of “pragmatic” pols like Pawlenty. She clearly aims to spread those doubts to hardcore conservatives — who cannot help but view Bachmann as one of their own — in Iowa and elsewhere.

It is interesting here that Bachmann feels the need to respond given that she is lingering around a comfortable 2nd place to Romney in Iowa, sometimes first depending on the poll. So far, Pawlenty has fizzled in Iowa and it appears that he believes his voters have flocked in Bachmann. Therefore, his attacking Bachmann should drive voters back to him? I think that is the strategy being employed here. Bachmann must fear this line of attack somewhat since she brought out the big guns against Pawlenty on his fiscal record.