After weeks on the receiving end of a fellow candidate’s criticisms, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) yesterday turned the tables with the release of an e-mail comparing former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s record to that of President Barack Obama.

Bachmann’s press secretary yesterday evening sent out the following statement by e-mail blast:

Governor Pawlenty would have us believe that there is ‘very little difference’ between his positions and those of Michele Bachmann.

But in fact, there is very little difference between Governor Pawlenty’s past positions and Barack Obama’s positions on several critical issues facing Americans. On issues such as unconstitutional healthcare mandates, climate change regulations, and Wall Street bailouts, there’s very little daylight, indeed, between Governor Pawlenty’s record and the Obama administration’s policies.

And of course, President Obama would surely applaud Governor Pawlenty’s 2006 statement that the ‘era of small government is over,’ and that the government will have to be ‘more proactive and more aggressive.’

Governor Pawlenty has changed his positions in recent years, but he can’t run from his big government record as governor of Minnesota that left the state’s budget in a multi-billion dollar mess. That’s not executive experience we need.

As Michele Bachmann said earlier today, she ‘has a lifetime record of success and action in the real world. Real-world actions speak louder than his words as a career politician.’ And so the more Republican voters examine Michele Bachmann’s record and Governor Pawlenty’s record, the more they will see that there is a world of difference between the two.

Pawlenty spent the last week traveling through Iowa, attempting to make the case that Bachmann’s lack of executive experience resembles the record Obama brought to the presidency. His campaign chief Nick Ayers summed up the Pawlenty line of attack in an e-mail yesterday, writing:

I spent the week on the road with the Governor and Mrs. Pawlenty. We traveled nearly 700 miles through Iowa, stopped in 18 counties, slept in five different hotels, visited four Subway sandwich shops, and ended the week with one game of pick-up hockey in Des Moines (T.Paw even scored!). No matter where we went, Iowans were interested to learn about Governor Pawlenty’s values, experience, and vision for our country. It was clear his authenticity resonated with them. He successfully made the case, that in 2008, voters elected a member of Congress with no executive experience. We can’t afford the cost of inexperience any longer, and Iowans get are getting that.

But when Bachmann first fought back on the experience issue, the Pawlenty campaign responded by arguing no difference exists between Bachmann’s opinions and Pawlenty’s. On the surface, the strategy to isolate experience as the only difference between them was sound — but Bachmann refused to cooperate. The statement she released today should give Pawlenty pause. Does he really still want to fight this fight?

None of this helps the GOP, in general. It just makes both Bachmann and Pawlenty look petty and, should either of them end up the GOP nominee (admittedly, an unlikely proposition), gives the Obama campaign ammunition against them (“Why not pick the real deal? I’m not just like me … I am me.”). Most importantly, it distracts from the issues. Bachmann’s response outshines Pawlenty’s attack for the simple reason that it does bring the squabbling back to more solid footing. Where do the candidates stand with respect to unconstitutional health care mandates, climate change regulations and Wall Street bailouts? The candidates need to keep hammering the issues home.