* Pawlenty struggles to get out of Bachmann’s shadow: What does it say about today’s Republican Party that one of the dominant storylines of the 2012 primary is that Tim Pawlenty, a reasonably accomplished Governor with a reasonably credible resume as a presidential candidate, continues to struggle to get out from under the shadow of ... Tea Party warrior queen Michele Bachmann?

That was the main plotline of last night’s debate in Iowa, and you can’t help but sympathize with Pawlenty, because when he said this, he was absolutely right:

“It is an undisputable fact that in Congress her record of accomplishment and results is nonexistent.”

Also amusing: T-Paw is now at the point where he has to hope that Bachmann continues to engage him, which she did last night, because it’s the only way he’ll have any chance of achieving the visibility he needs to be a contender in Iowa.

* Iconic moment from last night’s GOP debate: What does it say about today’s Republican Party that every single candidate robotically raised his or her hand when asked to pledge to turn down any deficit deal containing 10-to-one spending cuts to tax increases?

The DNC is out with a new Web video that features footage of that remarkable episode, in order to highlight the candidates’ obesiance to the Tea Party.

The Dems’ use of the Tea Party to tar the GOP as extreme didn’t fare too well in 2010. But Dems hope this time will be different, now that the American people have seen what happens when the Tea Partyers play a real role in governing, which seems to have caused their support to plummet with the public.

Either way, this may have been the iconic moment of the year — one that perfectly captures our present political reality. It shows that the GOP candidates have concluded that for primary voters, compromise itself is an inherent evil that must be opposed at all costs.

* GOP allegiance to the Tea Party the emerging message: David Axelrod amplified that message on Good Morning America today, claiming the candidates were “pledging allegiance to the Tea Party,” a line that hints (without saying so outright) that the GOP is putting the Tea Party before the country.

* Forget the debate. The race will be Romney versus Perry: A good read from the AP’s Thomas Beaumont explaining why what you’re seeing now is just a sideshow in advance of the likely standoff between Mitt and Rick Perry.

Cliff notes version: Romney is viewed skeptically by conservative voters and by GOP establishment figures, both of whom view Perry as credible.

* Perry has a clear opening in Iowa: Also: Religions conservatives and evangelists in Iowa that would have supported Mike Huckabee are emerging as a major, up-for-grabs constituency that could help determine the eventual nominee, and that gives the Perry a clear opening.

* Perry will take back America from the godless hordes: Mike Allen has an amazing excerpt of the announcement speech Perry will deliver tomorrow:

“The change we seek will never emanate out of Washington. It will come from the windswept prairies of middle America; the farms and factories across this great land; the hearts and minds of God-fearing Americans — who will not accept a future that is less than our past, who will not be consigned a fate of LESS freedom in exchange for MORE government. We do not have to accept our current circumstances. We will change them. We’re Americans. That’s what we do. WE roll up our sleeves, WE get to work, WE make things better.”

Oh, to be a fly on the wall while Romney and his advisers, who have struggled mightly to reinvent him as a real conservative, ponder what to do about this.

* Takedown of the day: Timothy Egan on Rick Perry’s prayerful approach to governing amid crisis in Texas A taste:

Perry’s tendency to use prayer as public policy demonstrates, in the midst of a truly painful, wide-ranging and potentially catastrophic crisis in the nation’s second most-populous state, how he would govern if he became president.

“I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God, and say, ‘God: You’re going to have to fix this,’” he said in a speech in May, explaining how some of the nation’s most serious problems could be solved.

* What if all the GOP 2012 candidates are completely out of touch with reality? Eugene Robinson hints at what must not be said in polite company: The 2012 GOP candidates all inhabit a world dominated by total fantasy, or at least they are pretending to.

* Why T-Paw and Bachmann are fighting so hard in Iowa: Ed Kilgore explains all: “Both Bachmann and Pawlenty, however, need a first-place finish: Bachmann in order to maintain her momentum and establish herself, once and for all, as a top-tier candidate, and T-Paw, more likely than not, in order to convince donors to keep his campaign afloat.”

* Obama reelect reality check of the day: A very sobering analysis of new Post polling on Obama’s reelection chances. Note in particular the softening on the left:

In the new poll, 31 percent of liberals say they are certain to vote for Obama next year, down from 46 percent in June. One in five liberals says they “definitely will not” vote for him, while a 43 percent plurality says they’ll considering casting a ballot for Obama.

Keep in mind: Such numbers are a snapshot of current dissatisfaction more than a reliable predictor of actual voting patterns.

* Americans giving members of Congress an earful: An interesting overview of the voter anxiety members of Congress are hearing back in their districts; unlike the targeted rage of 2010, there just seems to be general confusion and a desire for members to figure out how to break gridlock, which seems like a reflection of economic angst more than anything else.

Note in particular the Minnesota man wondering aloud to his Dem Rep why Obama “rolls over,” and then reread the above item on softening liberal support.

* Get to know your “super-committee”: Check out the Post’s useful interactive guide to the “super-committee” members.

* And the Very Serious Centrists are the problem: As Paul Krugman writes, hard-line Republicans can be expected to prioritize the deficit over jobs for cynical reasons. The real problem is the self-proclaimed “centrists” who enable them by telling us that we must worry far more about long-term sustainability than about short-term fixes to our unemployment crisis, in order to burnish their own “Seriousness” credentials.

What else is happening?