In dropping out when he did, Tim Pawlenty may have done his apparent foe Michele Bachmann a big favor.   From their past scuffles in Minnesota politics to their fiery confrontation at last week’s debate to the fact that her defeating him in Iowa ultimately ended his campaign, it’s no secret that Pawlenty and Bachmann are far from friendly.

However, dropping out when he did may shield Bachmann’s first-tier status from the threat of Rick Perry.  I haven’t been able to find detailed polling data about each candidate’s supporters, but the conventional wisdom is that all three are/were competing for the religious vote as a significant part of their coalitions, and Perry’s strong entrance is bound to take a considerable share of that demographic.  There was even perhaps a chance that Perry would manage to push Bachmann below the critical mass of support required for first-tier status.

However, with Pawlenty releasing his disproportionately-Midwestern and religious voters back onto the market, Bachmann has more breathing room just as Perry suddenly goes from nowhere to being a first-tier candidate.  A more vengeful candidate might have waited a couple more weeks to see how Bachmann weathered Perry’s entrance.