It’s a fair cop. Her four and a half years in Congress are notably thin on bills passed and committees chaired and thicker than expected on earmarks. There are ways to spin that — “I went to Washington to stop runaway government, not enable it,” etc — but if/when Palin and Perry get into the race, this’ll be their chief line of attack on her too. They’ve governed states. What has Bachmann done except cast marginal dissenting votes and wave the Gadsden flag?

Now, show of hands. How many people expected three months ago that Michele Bachmann, not Mitt Romney, would be Pawlenty’s prime target weeks before the Ames straw poll? Yeesh.

Asked about Bachmann, who in last month’s Des Moines Register Iowa Poll was sitting at 22 percent in Iowa among likely Republican caucusgoers versus his own 6 percent, Pawlenty said: “Each candidate brings some different strengths to the table, and mine include having been an executive of a large public enterprise in a difficult environment and actually getting things proposed and results to conclusion. I’m not sure what she would say in that regard. … She’s been in the legislative arena, as to specific results that have been achieved, I’m not sure what they would be.”

Pawlenty said he’s confident his poll numbers will rise.

Said one commenter in this morning’s Headlines thread, remembering T-Paw’s debate whiff on RomneyCare, “Will he say that when she’s present?” Damn. What’s interesting about this criticism is that, while Palin and Perry can also use it, Romney really can’t. If he starts needling Bachmann about how thin her record is, we all know what the response will be. And it won’t be good. So Pawlenty, of necessity, is inadvertently doing Mitt a favor by weakening Romney’s chief rival for the nomination in a way that’s unavailable to Romney himself. And Bachmann, also of necessity, is doing Mitt an inadvertent favor by signing an elaborate pro-marriage pledge being pushed by a prominent Iowa social con. That’s a smart way of solidifying support among the state’s Huckabee voters, which she needs to do with Palin and Perry looming and T-Paw having just hired Huck’s daughter as a top consultant. But it also gives centrists, libertarians, and the media ammo to attack her later if/when she ends up in a two-man race with Romney. The left’s already trying to claim that the pledge commits her to, er, banning pornography — it doesn’t — but there’s lots of other attack-ad fruit in there for the picking. Lucky for Mitt — especially since T-Paw, Palin, and Perry will be under intense pressure to sign the pledge too.

Here’s the latest campaign premortem postmortem for Pawlenty, this time courtesy of the Times. Exit question: Should I back him in the name of beta-male solidarity? The betas, united, can never be defeated. (Actually, they can. That’s what makes them betas.)