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Despite his conservative orthodoxy on the campaign trail, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann calls Tim Pawlenty — her state’s former governor and rival for the Republican presidential nomination — a veritable clone of Barack Obama on the issues.

Call it war by press release.

In an interview with David Gregory on “Meet the Press” a few weeks ago, Pawlenty criticized his fellow contender Rep. Michelle Bachmann, calling her record in Congress “nonexistent.”

That remark set off a war-of-words that has alternated between hot and cold, as Pawlenty has sought to bring the Tea Partier Bachmann down from her burst of momentum and she, in turn, has swatted at him like a pesky fly.

One of her latest releases — which is currently making the rounds on the cable shows — frames Pawlenty as an advocate of “big government” while touting her supposed accomplishments. “Actions speak louder than words,” it says.

Another campaign statement, released today, compares Pawlenty with conservatives’ bête-noire, President Barack Obama:

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.

When describing Bachmann’s accomplishments in Congress, the release is rather vague. Apparently she has “led the fight against the job-killing Obamacare legislation” — an effort that has not panned out well so far. Emphasizing her work outside Washington, she cites her experience as a tax litigator and her leadership of a “successful private company.” She does not name the business by name — perhaps because Bachmann and Associates, a Christian counseling service run by her husband, Marcus, has recently come under fire for its alleged use of discredited reparative therapies on gay patients.

Bachmann also criticizes Pawlenty for his role in the “multi-billion dollar mess” — referring to the budget shortfall that led the Minnesota government to shut down for 11 days.

Their spat comes just as President Obama and congressional leaders try to head off another multi-billion dollar mess — the likely outcome of failure to raise the debt ceiling. Both Pawlenty and Bachmann oppose raising the debt ceiling if it means ceding any ground to Democrats.

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