Tim Pawlenty attacked his 2012 rival Michele Bachmann for having a "nonexistent" record in Congress on Meet the Press Sunday. It was the first time Pawlenty has so sharply attacked his fellow Minnesotan, but it was expected--Bachmann has been steadily climbing in the polls, and was the top choice in an Iowa Republican poll released over the weekend. Pawlenty is tied for third with Herman Cain, despite having made more campaign stops in Iowa than any of the other candidates save Rick Santorum. Pawlenty, once considered the establishment Not-Mitt-Romney candidate, faced several newspapers stories last week speculating whether he'd soon drop out of the race. A strong performance in the Iowa straw poll August 13 is considered the only way his campaign can survive.

"I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I've campaigned for her. I respect her. But her record of accomplishment in Congress is non-existent," Pawlenty said Sunday. "We're not looking for folks who just have speech capabilities. We're looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion. I've done that, and she hasn't."

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Bachmann fired back at Pawlenty ten hours later, Politico's Mike Allen reports, with a statement hitting Pawlenty on his support for a cap-and-trade plan to cut carbon emissions, which he has since denounced:

"Instead of negativity, I want to focus on my accomplishments. I have fought the cap-and-trade agenda, rather than implement it, and I will work to end cap-and-trade as President of the United States. I stood up against President Obama's support of the $700 billion bailout rather than defend it. I was a leading voice, fighting against Obamacare and the unconstitutional individual mandates; I did not lift my voice in praise of it."

Still, Pawlenty pulled a few punches, NBC News' First Read notes, declining to criticize Bachmann's characterization of the Obama administration as "gangster government." But he kept up the resume-related attacks Monday morning in a Fox News appearance, saying that to tackle the country's problems, the president needs experience as an executive, "not just giving speeches at rallies."

The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf says the real story here is that Pawlenty is right. Bachmann has "a resume that's absurdly thin for someone seeking the White House," he writes, with "no foreign policy experience, no executive experience," nor any legislation or committee chairmanships to her name.

In fact, the GOP argued four years ago that Barack Obama was too inexperienced for the Oval Office. By their lights, they've been vindicated: his performance is almost universally panned within the party. Is the partisan mind so powerful that they're now prepared to elevate someone based on the strength of her TV interviews and floor speeches?

Friedersdorf notes a glowing profile of Bachmann from the Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti highlighting the congresswoman's excellent soundbite skills. Continetti "is among the many people who can tell you why Bachmann has a chance to win the nomination," Friedersdorf writes. "Can anyone offer a persuasive argument that she should win it? The silence is deafening."