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Pawlenty Walks Back Criticism of Snowe

Minnesota governor and potential 2012 presidential nominee Tim Pawlenty made headlines yesterday when he criticized fellow Republican Olympia Snowe for her "deviations" from conservative GOP orthodoxy, and refused to say whether or not he was happy that she was a Republican. Snowe shot back at Pawlenty today, telling Politico, “I've been a lifelong Republican -- I haven't changed, I don't know what the problem is -- I really don't. I know Gov. Pawlenty to be a thoughtful person and I know if he could have rephrased it or re characterized it he would."

Well, I gave Pawlenty that chance in an interview I had yesterday with him--and Snowe was right, sort of. “Maybe it was inartful, the wording,” he admitted.

I was being asked in the context of the New York state race, and I just subscribe to what Ronald Reagan says, if you agree with us 80 percent or so of the time, you’re our friend, not our enemy, and so there is room for variation, who our candidates are, their views and opinions. But they’ve got to agree with us, the party platform, most of the time.

So does Pawlenty think she agrees with the party most of the time?

I don’t know, I haven’t studied her record. Clearly she’s in a very tough state … I think we’ll defer to what happens in Maine, and she’s certainly serves us better than she would from the other side of the aisle. … You don’t have to agree with us all the time, but we hope you agree with us most of the time, and you can’t thumb your nose at us on everything and expect us to be happy about that

So there you have it: Not the most full-throated defense of Snowe, but at least he’ll admit he’s happy she is a Republican. It will be interesting to see where Pawlenty positions himself in the party as he ramps up his national profile over the next year. His endorsement of Hoffman in yesterday’s NY-23 race puts him firmly in Palin territory, but there’s still a long way to go before 2012.