By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
Maine's Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe told Politico in reaction to Minnesota's Gov. Tim Pawlenty's refusal this morning to say he's glad she's in the Republican party: "I've been a lifelong Republican -- I haven't changed, I don't know what the problem is -- I really don't....I know Gov. Pawlenty to be a thoughtful person and I know if he could have rephrased it or re-characterized it he would."
This morning on MSNBC, Pawlenty said of Snowe: "We want Olympia Snowe in the big tent but she can't say she's a Republican and then vote against the Republican position much of the time."
The comments from Pawlenty, who appears to be paving the way to a 2012 presidential run, set the chattering classes atwitter with tales of Pawlenty's litmus test and warning to Snowe.
To Politico, Snowe said: "All I know is that I've been a life-long Republican, I [spent] 16 years toiling in the minority in the House of Representatives and [was part of] the effort to get us the majority in 1994 -- now were in the minority and I'm still here."
This afternoon, Pawlenty's political spokesman Alex Conant said in reaction to the Snowe-storm: "Governor Pawlenty has a lot of respect for Senator Snowe, and believes in the Ronald Reagan rule that my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy. As the Governor said this morning, he is glad Republicans -- not Democrats -- represent Maine in the U.S. Senate."