Pawlenty co-chairman: Bachmann will be 'very hard to beat' in Iowa

Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) is going to be "very hard to beat" in Iowa's Republican caucuses, a co-chairman of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's campaign said Wednesday.

Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman from Minnesota who is serving as co-chairman of Pawlenty's presidential campaign, said he expected Pawlenty to begin to perform better, but said that Bachmann would be a tough candidate to top in Iowa.

"It's going to be very hard to beat Michele in Iowa. Period," Weber said of both the Iowa caucuses and August's influential straw poll in Ames.

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"She's got hometown appeal, she's got ideological appeal, and, I hate to say it, but she's got a little sex appeal too," he said in a phone interview. 

Pawlenty and Bachmann have both staked a great deal of their political capital on the Hawkeye State, which hosts the 2012 cycle's first nominating contest at its early February caucuses.

Bachmann's currently running second in the polls in Iowa, just behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R). She launched her campaign last month in her hometown of Waterloo and will begin running ads there this weekend. 

Pawlenty's stuck a little further back in Iowa, checking in as the choice of 6 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers in a late June poll. But his campaign's run two television ads there since then, and yesterday announced that it had hired Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), to help its effort in Iowa, where Huckabee Sanders helped guide her father's campaign to a win in the caucuses in the 2008 campaign.

Weber downplayed the notion of a slow start by Pawlenty, who hasn't yet gotten any major traction in the polls. Weber said his candidate has done an admirable job of building steady support, and would only gain traction as the campaign wears on. 

As for next month's straw poll, in which Pawlenty's said he doesn't have to finish first, Weber still described it as important. 

"I think it's fair to look at the Iowa straw poll. I think that's an early test of support," he said.

Update, 9:18 p.m.: Weber apologized in a subsequent statement Wednesday evening: "I made a mistake that was disrespectful to my friend Congresswoman Bachmann. I've been a Bachmann supporter in her Congressional bids and I apologize. I was not speaking on behalf of Governor Pawlenty's campaign but nevertheless, it was inappropriate and I'm sorry."