Bachmann, Pawlenty square off

If all Michelle Bachmann accomplishes in her run for the White House is delineate the difference between the real conservatives and the John McCain/Mitt Romney-style RINOs, she’ll have done the nation a huge service. Her first chance to accomplish that came last night at a debate in Iowa between the eight declared GOP presidential candidates. (Texas Gov. Rick Perry did not attend, as he intends to announce his official campaign on Saturday.)

After the floundering campaign of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty took the first swipe last night, accusing Bachmann of accomplishing nothing more than “she’s got a record of misstating and making false statements.” Pawlenty, who is polling in the single digits, seems to have fixated on discrediting Bachmann to lift his own profile, rather than focusing on front-runner Mitt Romney.

But Bachmann refused to wear Cherokee scrubs and play the role of Pawlenty’s punching bag, countering his weak, unfocused, non-specific criticisms with specific issues she took with the way the Governor governed while in power in Minnesota.

Bachmann pointed out that Pawlenty implemented a state cap-and-trade energy policy, praised President Barack Obama’s “unconstitutional individual mandate” that will requires all Americans to buy health insurance, and quoted Pawlenty as uttering the phrase, “the era of small government is over.”

“That sounds more like Barack Obama, if you ask me,” Bachmann said, capping the list of Pawlenty’s left-wing prevaricating.

Of course, for Bachmann, upending Pawlenty’s history of RINOism is like shooting fish in a barrel; he’s from her own state and her knowledge of his shortcomings comes from first-hand experience. With Bachmann emerging from the debate still impressive and relatively unscathed, she’ll need to move on soon to a new target.

Lord knows, there are plenty of weak-willed RINOs still in the race, like Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and most importantly, current front-runner Mitt Romney.

Let’s be honest; Rick Perry is probably the best-qualified to take on Barack Obama. He has ingratiated himself to the Tea Party, has executive experience by winning three consecutive terms as Texas Governor, and is a solid conservative suspicious of the overreaching aspects of federal power, a devoted Constitutionalist.

The best scenario is for Bachmann to act as the conservative bulldog, revealing the unclothed emperors in the GOP field and helping clear the way for Perry to win the nomination. Then, if he could select Bachmann or Herman Cain, either way, the GOP would have a virtually unbeatable ticket that would be the best the nation has seen since Reagan-Bush.

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