The Washington Times - June 9, 2011, 11:15AM

University of Virginia political guru Larry Sabato thinks that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s potential BFF in the race for the GOP presidential nomination could be no other than Rep. Michele Bachmann, the hard-charging conservative from Minnesota.

The reasoning is that Mrs. Bachmann’s possible entrance into the race could throw a serious roadblock on former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s perceived path to victory, which starts with a win or — at the very least — a strong showing in Iowa.


Mrs. Bachmann “could torpedo Pawlenty’s chances,” Mr. Sabato writes in his latest rundown of the GOP field. “Bachmann has a good shot to connect with the born-again Christians who make up roughly three of every five GOP caucus goers in calendar-leading Iowa and could effectively knock out Pawlenty if she defeats him in Iowa.

“In that, Bachmann might end up being Romney’s best friend,” he said, alluding to the fact that Mr. Pawlenty is the perceived No. 2 in the field. “After all, winning Iowa is not a required stop on the way to the Republican nomination. McCain barely competed there in 2008, and evangelical leader Pat Robertson finished ahead of eventual Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1988.”

Mrs. Bachmann recently hired former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 campaign manager, Ed Rollins, who helped steer Mr. Huckabee to victory in Iowa, the state in which she was born.

Mr. Sabato, meanwhile, warns that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman could prove to be Mr. Romney’s Kryptonite in New Hampshire, a scenario that could throw the race on its head.

“There’s a chance Huntsman could play well in New Hampshire, which may be much more responsive to his message because Granite State Republicans are less conservative and religious than their kin in Iowa,” he said. “Imagine a scenario in which Bachmann wins Iowa and then someone like Huntsman wounds Romney in New Hampshire, perhaps not winning but holding Romney to a closer-than-expected victory. What then?”