The Week in 2012

HOWARD MEGDAL: The action this week is Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann going after each other, which seems to do little other than prove that Pawlenty will do nearly anything to position himself as Mitt Romney’s VP. But the real takeaway from this week, when the dust clears, will be how these candidates spoke about the debt ceiling crisis.

No one is even paying much attention to the Pawlenty/Bachmann fight. But remember the use the Obama campaign made of John McCain’s “The fundamentals of the economy are strong” in the aftermath of the September 2008 collapse. Well, now we have the real possibility of default, and whatever damage comes of it, all the congressional leaders are talking about how they wish to avoid such an outcome (whether their actions speak to that or not).

Which presidential candidate, catering to the Tea Party crowd, will say precisely the perfect 30-second soundbite this week, and have it used against him or her should the nomination come?

The drama is killing me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some mattresses to stuff, so my daughter can go to college someday.

CHRIS PUMMER: Pawlenty’s candidacy already looks like a stiff, but a number of hopefuls could benefit if he could share the embrace of electoral death with Bachmann. While Romney surely has a grin, probably nobody would be happier than Rick Perry, who I think has dawdled too long in making his presidential decision.

When the task at hand was merely elbowing Mitt out of the way, Perry’s potential entry loomed very large. As a long-time governor of a southern state, he could have filled a big piece of the gap left when Mike Huckabee decided he wasn’t running. With his credible resume, he could have connected to establishment types who don’t like Romney. With his right-wing street cred, he could have connected to the hearts of the tea party.

The later it gets in election season, though, the more people have given their hearts away.

Even if Bachmann can’t hold all of the support she’s gathering in recent polling, she’ll probably still keep a big chunk of it on an Iowa ballot. Romney supporters, even aren’t in love with their candidate, may not move toward Perry if they view him as a spoiler who only makes it easier for a wing-nut candidate like Bachmann to win. Consider that a marriage of convenience.

Perry will have to occupy his own space, and collapse some of the support of his top two rivals. Can he do that if he waits until mid-August to officially run? The rest of the field looks so weak that you can’t count him out. But the clock is ticking, and I’m becoming more skeptical by the minute.

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