Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty — who has not yet declared he’s running for president but is taking all the requisite steps — said Thursday that “it’s a free country” if Rep. Michele Bachmann wants to run for the White House.

In an interview with Politics Daily, Pawlenty said that he has respect for Bachmann, but he did not endorse the idea of a second Minnesota Republican getting into the presidential ring:

"Well, it's a free country. Anyone can run that's over the age of 35. I have respect for Michele Bachmann. I've had a cordial and positive relationship with her.”

The interview also touched on Pawlenty’s thoughts about new House Speaker John Boehner, his sports and music tastes, and being labeled too “nice.”

But with Wednesday’s news that Bachmann is weighing a presidential run, the two-term governor now could have to compete for media time (and potentially voters) not only with leading presidential hopefuls like former Govs. Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, but also with his fellow Minnesota Republican.

Pawlenty has a media offensive planned next week to coincide with the release of his book “Courage to Stand,” as he will appear on ABC’s "Good Morning America" and “The View,” as well as Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”

He won’t be the only one: Romney is also scheduled to appear on “The View” on Feb. 1, when the paperback edition of his book will be released.

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