SAN DIEGO -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, as the keynote speaker at the Republican National Committee meeting here this week, is positioning himself as a leading critic outside of Washington of the president's health care agenda, comparing it to one of the biggest scams in history.
"This is a scheme that would make Bernie Madoff blush," he said. "It ain't gonna work."
Pawlenty, who has chosen not to run next year for a third term as Minnesota governor, is turning his focus toward a possible 2012 White House run and rebuilding the GOP. Pawlenty appears to be using this week's meeting as a launching pad.
The convention is ground zero for opposition to what critics call a costly government health care takeover. On Friday members will vote on a resolution declaring that "Obama care is marching America further towards Socialism and urge that it be stopped before it destroys the best medical system the world has ever known."
Pawlenty even worries that GOP Senate negotiators, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, in their zeal to cut a deal with Democrats may compromise too much.
"They've got to be very careful not to agree to things that are going to be counterproductive, not just from a party standpoint but from what's going to work and what's not going to work," he said.
Pawlenty wrote Minnesota's members of Congress recently, urging them to reject national reforms modeled after the Massachusetts health care plan signed into law by then Gov. Mitt Romney, who's also preparing a 2012 White House bid. Pawlenty told FOX News' Greta Van Susteren Tuesday he was not zinging a likely rival, just Romney's plan, which would cost far more than expected.
"It would not control cost. It would make cost worse," Pawlenty said. "And so that is a model that we do not want to follow. But I want to make it clear that Mitt Romney is a friend."
Pawlenty made John McCain's 2008 shortlist for vice president but was passed over in favor of Sarah Palin, who could also run in 2012. Noting the GOP lost the White House and seats in Congress last year, Pawlenty told FOX News on a recent trip to Washington that it's time for new blood.
"There's going to be some intergenerational change," he said. "We had the era that was. Now we've got the era that's coming. It's a rebuilding time. It's a rebuilding year."