Tim Pawlenty goes after Mitt Romney, part two

at 06:30 AM ET, 06/17/2011

Just 72 hours after backing down from a confrontation with Mitt Romney over health care, Tim Pawlenty made clear Thursday night he won’t miss his moment again.

“I should have been much more clear during the debate,” Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, acknowledged in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity. “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.”

Later, 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.”

Earlier in the day on Thursday, Pawlenty had tweeted: “On seizing debate opportunity re: healthcare: Me 0, Mitt 1. On doing healthcare reform the right way as governor: Me 1, Mitt 0.”

Pawlenty’s comments on Thursday are a frank acknowledgment that he swung and missed on the health care question during Monday night’s debate in New Hampshire, as well as an attempt to re-seize the initiative against the frontrunning former Massachusetts governor.

The Romney campaign had no comment on Pawlenty’s attacks.

At issue is the health care law that Romney signed as governor of Massachusetts. Obama has said that Massachusetts plan formed a baseline for the legislation he pushed and passed at the national level in 2010.

On Sunday in a television interview with “Fox News Sunday”, Pawlenty seemed to be testing out a line of attack designed to link what Romney and Obama did on health care; “President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare, basically, and made it Obamneycare,” Pawlenty said.

But, given the opportunity to repeat that attack in Monday night’s debate, Pawlenty shrunk from the question — choosing instead to focus on Obama and making no mention of Romney.

That decision was cited by political observers — The Fix included — as a major slip-up for Pawlenty, who had been building considerable behind-the-scenes momentum heading into the debate.

The question for Pawlenty is whether retroactively admitting that he pulled his punches in the first major showdown of the 2012 Republican presidential race will, ultimately accrue to his benefit or reinforce the idea that he dodged when given the chance to attack.

The answer will likely be determined by how aggressively Pawlenty is willing to prosecute the health care attack against Romney in the weeks to come. The candidates are both set to appear in Ames, Iowa at a debate on August 11.

Ad campaign praises Ryan budget, Medicare reform: The conservative retiree group 60-Plus is going on the air to defend Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget and its changes to Medicare.

Amidst continuing Democratic attacks, 60-Plus is going up with $1.4 million worth of national ads aimed at rallying support for the reform.

The 30-second ad begins running today on cable and features video of Ryan, who says that the changes don’t affect seniors who are currently enrolled in the program.

“And future seniors get guaranteed health care choices,” the ad says.

The Medicare reform has been weighing on Republicans in recent weeks, with some candidates declining to jump on board. It has often been cited as a reason the GOP lost a special election in upstate New York.

Fixbits:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is officially out of debt, paying off the relatively mild $6.5 million in debt that it had after 2010.

A generic Republican leads Obama 44 percent to 39 percent in the most recent Gallup polling.

Former New Hampshire Senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne is gauging the GOP field for a 2012 run for governor.

Sarah Palin makes her own Weiner joke.

Pawlenty speaks to health insurers.

Missouri GOP Senate candidate Sarah Steelman isn’t completely on-board with Ryan’s budget.

Former senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) says Democrats shouldn’t join Republicans in forming Super PACs, which the Obama Administration previously denounced.

Must-reads:

Probe into gap in Watergate tapes comes up empty” — Lisa Rein, The Washington Post

Weiner begins comeback” — E.J. Dionne, The Washington Post

GOP candidates for president don’t embrace Bush years” — Seth McLaughlin, Washington Times

 
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