Current Gov. Tim Pawlenty underscored his backing of Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer by taking a swipe at Independence Party's Tom Horner.

"I’ve known Tom Horner for 30 years, and while he’s a decent man, his proposals to raise billions in new taxes and allow government to grow unquestionably will take Minnesota in the wrong direction," Pawlenty said in a statement sent out Sunday by the Minnesota Republican Party.

While supporters of Democratic candidate Mark Dayton say Horner, a former Republican staffer, is just a Pawlenty in disguise, Pawlenty begs to differ.

"Any Republican who votes for Tom Horner is not only helping Mark Dayton become governor, but casting a vote to undo the tax and spending cuts we’ve fought so hard for over the last 8 years," he said. "Tom Emmer is the only candidate for governor who will fight to ensure we create jobs in Minnesota and enjoy a better future."

That Pawlenty supports Emmer and doesn't want folks to vote for Horner shouldn't come as any surprise. That he needed to emphasize those facts in a Sunday statement is a bit more interesting. With just over three weeks left in the 2010 race, it may be the Republicans' attempt to shore up a shifting base.

The Horner campaign gave Pawlenty's statement a quick reaction.

It said Pawlenty, too, is a "decent person, but his policies have left Minnesota with job creation that has lagged the nation during much of the last decade, in good years and bad."

And then the campaign went to the jugular:

"The most telling part of the endorsement, though, is that the Republican nominee hasn't been able to secure the endorsement of a Republican governor until little more than three weeks left in the campaign. It speaks volumes about the reluctance of Gov. Pawlenty to jeopardize his national ambitions by tying himself to a gubernatorial candidate who increasingly is the choice only of Palin-Bachmann Republicans. We need to offer a vision that speaks to all Minnesotans to create new jobs in the private sector, to invest in our future, and to truly reform rather than continue to kick the can down the road."

In fact, Pawlenty has offered Emmer some support since he won the GOP endorsement last spring but the two haven't been oft been seen in the same place and Emmer has repeatedly called for a "new direction" for the state.