Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty renewed his attack on Mitt Romney’s healthcare plan Thursday, acknowledging it was a blunder to avoid confronting him on the ObamneyCare and focus on President Barack Obama at the first GOP presidential debate.
“I should have been much more clear during the debate,” Pawlenty said during an interview on the Sean Hannity Show Thursday. “I don’t think we can have a nominee that was involved in the development and construction of Obamacare and continues to defend him,” Pawlenty added, referring to Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and leading candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Pawlenty admitted that CNN anchor and debate moderator John King gave him a chance to confront Romney over his healthcare policy. “That was the question; I should have answered it directly and instead I stayed focused on Obama. But the question really related to the contrast with Gov. Romney… I should have made the point that he was involved in developing and he laid the groundwork for Obamacare and continues to this day to defend him,” Pawlenty said.
On the eve of Monday’s debate in New Hampshire, Pawlenty had said on Fox News Sunday, “President Obama said that he designed ‘Obamacare’ after ‘Romneycare’ and basically made it ‘ObamneyCare.’”
When host Hannity asked about policy differences among the Republican candidates, the Minnesota native said while the focus needed to be on the failure of President Obama, people were going to look at the record of the GOP candidates and not speeches and see “who actually got it done.”
“If you look at my record in Minnesota, cut taxes, cut spending, school reform based on performance not seniority, public employee pension reform before I was popular, market-based healthcare reform, and much more … there’s not another candidate up there who can say they actually delivered all of that … in [a] tough environment … I have done it,” Pawlenty boasted.
Pawlenty seemed happy he was back in the spotlight. “Just finished my interview with @Hannityshow. Had the chance to discuss Monday’s debate & health care,” he tweeted soon after the interview.
A few hours earlier, he had sent another tweet hinting he was reverting to his attack on Romney. “On seizing debate opportunity re: healthcare: Me 0, Mitt 1. On doing healthcare reform the right way as governor: Me 1, Mitt 0,” his tweet reads.
During the debate Monday, Pawlenty had surprisingly refused to say a word against Romney’s healthcare policy. Missing the opportunity, he said, “In order to prosecute the case against President Obama, you have to be able to show that you’ve got a better plan and a different plan. We took a different approach in Minnesota.”
The moderator gave him a second chance, saying, “You chose those words ... in the comfort of the Sunday show studio – your rival is standing right there. If it was ‘Obamneycare’ on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ why is it not ‘Obamneycare’ standing here with the governor right there?”
Pawlenty still seemed sure he didn’t want to touch Romney. “President Obama is the person who I quoted in saying he looked to Massachusetts for designing his program. He’s the one who said it’s a blueprint and that he merged the two programs. And so using the term ‘Obamneycare’ was a reflection of the president’s comments that he designed ‘Obamacare’ on the Massachusetts healthcare plan,” he said.
Following the debate, Pawlenty’s spokesperson Nick Ayers defended him, telling reporters, “The answer that he gave was not what John King wanted … Opening up the ObamneyCare, I know that’s what CNN wanted. It would have made for great political and cable news, but the American voters want solutions and that’s what our candidate spent the last three weeks promoting and it’s resonating here in New Hampshire.”