Pawlenty says could have, should have gone after Romney in debate

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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After a couple days of insisting that he didn’t understand what the “kerfuffle” was, Tim Pawlenty finally owned up to having messed up in the debate by refusing to attack Romney and doubled down on his attacks of the former governor of Massachusetts’ health care program.

In an interview with Sean Hannity Thursday night, Pawlenty said he should have been more direct in his criticism of Romneycare.

“I should’ve been much more clear during the debate, Sean,” Pawlenty said. “I don’t think we can have a nominee that was involved in the development and construction of Obamacare and has continued to defend it.”

“He really laid the groundwork for Obamacare,” Pawlenty added.

“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 a political level,” he said.

“I understand Governor Romney’s argument that it’s different at the state level, but when you look at these two plans with only modest variations, they’re pretty similar and nearly identical,” Pawlenty said.

“The main focus does need to be on President Obama and his failure as a president, but there’s going to be some policy differences between the rest of us and bringing those out in a respectful policy based way, I think, is appropriate, particularly in the context of a debate,” Pawlenty said.

(SHOTS FIRED: Pawlenty attacks Romney on Twitter after backing down in debate)

Pawlenty has come under criticism for his refusal to attack Romney to his face during the debate, after coining the term ‘Obamneycare’ the previous day to explicitly link the health care program that Romney implemented as Governor of Massachusetts to the much-maligned Obamacare.

Despite urging from the moderator, Pawlenty refused to use the term to criticize his opponent in the debate. On the morning shows the next day, Pawlenty justified his response as taking the civil tack because it was about beating Obama, not about attacking other Republicans.

Nonetheless, people called the move cowardly, and Pawlenty was generally declared to have lost the debate.

Pawlenty re-upped his attack on Romney Thursday afternoon on Twitter, tweeting: “On seizing debate opportunity re: healthcare: Me 0, Mitt 1. On doing healthcare reform the right way as governor: Me 1, Mitt 0.”