Pawlenty Admits Debate Mistake, Calls Romneycare and Obamacare 'Nearly Identical'

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," June 16, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty turned some heads earlier this week when he took a shot at one of his fellow presidential candidates Mitt Romney. Now it all occurred on "Fox News Sunday" when Pawlenty was asked if he sees similarities between Obamacare and Romneycare. Take a look.


TIM PAWLENTY, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare and basically made it Obamneycare.


HANNITY: Now, during Monday night's Republican debate in New Hampshire, Governor Pawlenty had the opportunity to repeat that line but he declined. And some are suggesting that he missed an opportunity to go after the GOP frontrunner.

And here to talk about that and more much is former Minnesota governor, Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Governor, how are you?

PAWLENTY: I'm doing great Sean, how are you?

HANNITY: I appreciate you being back. You know, it's interesting, I've read all the criticism and this was my take, I think the media was furious. You guys didn't kill each other or go after each other. And that everybody on that stage, rightly, I think went after President Obama's failed policies. Your reaction?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think in response to that direct question, I should have been much more clear during the debate, Sean. 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. And that was the question. I should have answered it directly. And instead, I stayed focused on Obama. But the question really related to the contrast with Governor Romney. And I should have been more clear. I should have made the point that he was involved in developing it, he really laid the ground work for Obamacare, and continues to this day to defend it. I think that's a legitimate point in response to the question I was asked and I should have been more clear.

HANNITY: When I had an opportunity to interview Governor Romney on the day that he announced that he was running for president, I spent a lot of time asking him about this. Because I think it was clearly the biggest challenge that he is facing in the primary. And his answer was, well, if the White House -- why didn't the White House come to me was his answer. In other words, that he would have given them advice on what worked and what didn't work. And his argument is -- I'm just giving you a chance to respond -- is that he doesn't think the federal government has a right. But he does think the states has the right to do it over the federal government. In other words, it is a state issue. I wanted to get your reaction to that.

PAWLENTY: Well, I don't think you can prosecute the political case against President Obama if you are co-conspirator and one of the main charges against the president on the political level. And so, it really puts our nominee, if that who it turns out to be in a very difficult spot. And I understand Governor Romney's argument that it is different at the state level. But when you look at these two plans with only modest variations they are very similar, and nearly identical.

HANNITY: Now, that you have had an opportunity for two debates, how do you feel about your chances? Who do you think -- do you think Romney -- I take it from your comments, he is probably the frontrunner in your mind. What did you think about your fellow group of candidates up there? Because, you know, everyone seemed to be getting along just fine. And sometimes you wonder if that is real or, you know, just people being nice.

PAWLENTY: Well, I think we do get along. And I think 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.

But beyond that, I think it's going to be decided on people's records. When you look at the records of these individuals not just the speeches or the amendments that they'd offered that didn't work. But who actually got it done, and if you look at my record in Minnesota -- cut taxes, cut spending, school reform based on performance not seniority, public employee pension reform before it was popular, market-based health care reform and much more. And getting an "A" grid from the Cato Institute. There's not another candidate up there who can say they actually delivered all of that. And as part of this is going to be not just who can talk about it but who can deliver it in a tough environment, I've done it.

HANNITY: How important is Iowa, a neighboring state, your name recognition higher. How important is that as you put together the pieces where you can win the nomination to you?

PAWLENTY: I think any serious or leading candidate for president has to do well in those early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. They're not the only states but they're the first ones. And it's important. So, I have to do well in Iowa, and New Hampshire and South Carolina. No, question about it. And so, we're not mentioning any words about it. I don't know that we have to win each one. I think we're going to have to win, you know, at least one of them and hopefully more. But we're going to have to do well in those early states, and we will.

HANNITY: All right. Governor, it's always good to see you. We appreciate you being with us. Thanks for your time.

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