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2012 battle of the titans: Bachmann vs. Perry?

Political analyst Charlie Cook -- of Cook Political Report fame -- is warning political observers not to underestimate Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in her 2012 bid for the White House.

In fact, if the rumors are true and Texas Gov. Rick Perry enters the race, Cook predicts it will be up to Bachmann and Perry to battle it out for tea party support:

The potential for Perry and Bachmann to suck all the conservative oxygen out of the campaign is great, and their rivals for the right side of the GOP bracket, such as businessman Herman Cain and former Sen. Rick Santorum, will have to fight for attention. Just as the battle between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008 left their nomination rivals gasping for air and attention, a Bachmann-Perry duel could have the same effect in the more conservative and larger of the two GOP tournament brackets. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson will have their own competition for the narrow but vocal libertarian faction of the party, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich will have to deal with the perception that he is running against himself—and losing.

That leaves former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Huntsman battling over the smaller, less conservative bracket. Each is hoping that he can emerge as the non-fire-breathing conservative contender in the GOP nomination championship game. Each believes that the electability argument will work in his favor, that Republican voters will choose him as the one who can play the best game against President Obama. ...

The obvious danger for Bachmann and Perry is that they might move too far to the right in trying to outflank each other. In that case, whoever wins the one-on-one game could realize only a Pyrrhic victory—unable to make a convincing case that he or she could attract enough moderate voters to defeat Obama. So the question for Bachmann and Perry may be less about how conservative they are and more about where they will end up after fighting it out among themselves.

One last thing…
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