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Pawlenty Regrets Backing Down From "Obamneycare" During Debate

If he wasn't clear before, he's making it known now.

On Thursday, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty appeared on Hannity and said he missed the opportunity to link Mitt Romney and President Obama's health care plans during the recent New Hampshire GOP debate.

"I think in response to that direct question I should have been much more clear during the debate...I should have answered it directly and instead I stayed focused on Obama, the question really related to the contrast with Governor Romney."

GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty appeared uncomfortable during Monday night's debate when given the chance to stand by the term "Obamneycare," which he had coined the day before on Fox News Sunday to show the similarity between the state-run health plan enacted in Massachusetts when Romney was governor and President Obama's healthcare plans.

When pressed why he wasn't using the term 'Obamneycare' in his rival's presence, Pawlenty said, "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."

On Fox News Thursday, Pawlenty resumed his attack stance, saying Mitt Romney's plan is "very similar" and "nearly identical" to that of 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," he told Sean Hannity.

The former Minnesota governor also talked about his strategy for winning the nomination, stating Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina as the "first" and most "important" ones he's looking to.

"I think we're going to have to win at least one of them and hopefully more, but we're going to have to do well in those early states, and we will."

Pawlenty took to Twitter earlier Thursday to show his regret about backing down during the debate, tweeting "On seizing debate opportunity re: healthcare: Me 0, Mitt 1. On doing healthcare reform the right way as governor: Me 1, Mitt 0."

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