Tim Pawlenty wants to turn back time.
The former Minnesota governor said Thursday during an interview on Fox News that he should’ve been “much more clear” in Monday’s presidential debate about the role he thinks Mitt Romney had in developing what some view as the blueprint for the health care overhaul signed into law by President Obama.
“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,” Mr. Pawlenty said, alluding to the universal health care system Mr. Romney implemented as governor of Massachusetts.
“He really laid the groundwork for Obamacare,” Mr. Pawlenty said. “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.”
“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,” he added, echoing a charge of many conservatives.
The comments cap an awkward five-day period in which Mr. Pawlenty coined the term “Obamneycare,” but a day later refused to repeat it during the GOP debate on Monday — even after being egged on by CNN host and moderator John King.
In their post-debate spin room, the Pawlenty camp tried to shrug off the questions as Mr. King trying to stir up a fight for good ratings.
But since then, Republicans and Democrats alike have said that Mr. Pawlenty came off like a chicken and missed an opportunity to take a public shot at the front-runner and possibility make up some ground in the polls. Others said Mr. Pawlenty was smart to keep the discussion focused on Mr. Obama.
Whatever the case, the campaign blasted out an email Thursday night highlighting their boss’s renewed charge against Mr. Romney.