Tim Pawlenty is showing that he can take on Mitt Romney on health care and the individual mandate — in venues where Romney is not standing in front of him.
Pawlenty was widely criticized for a key moment at Monday night’s GOP debate, when he refused to repeat his “Obamneycare” attack from a day earlier to Mitt Romney’s face. But then on Thursday, Pawlenty decided to take another bite at the apple, posting this on Twitter: “On seizing debate opportunity re: healthcare: Me 0, Mitt 1. On doing healthcare reform the right way as governor: Me 1, Mitt 0.”
Then Thursday night, he appeared on Fox News with Sean Hannity, and said it bluntly: He should have taken on Romney at the debate.
“Well, I think in response to that direct question, I should have been much more clear during the debate, Sean,” said Pawlenty. “I don’t think we can have a nominee that was involved in the development and construction of Obamacare, and then continues to defend it. And that was the question, I should have answered it directly. Instead, I stayed focused on Obama, but the question really related to the contrast with Governor Romney. And I should have been more clear, I should have made the point that he was involved in developing it — he really laid the ground work for Obamacare, and continues to this day to defend it. And I think that’s a legitimate point in response to the question that I was asked, and I should have been more clear.”
Hannity asked Pawlenty about Romney’s contention that a crucial difference between his Massachusetts health care reform and Obama’s federal health care reform is that the former was done at the state level, while Romney does not think the federal government can or should implement a similar national policy.
Again, in Romney’s absence, Pawlenty had a strong reply: “Well, I don’t think you can prosecute the political case against President Obama if you are a co-conspirator in one of the main charges against the president on the political level. And so, it really puts our nominee — if that’s who it turns out to be —in a very difficult spot. And I understand Governor Romney’s arguments, that it’s different at the state level. But when you look at these two plans, with only modest variations, they’re very similar, and nearly identical.”