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Three days later, Tim Pawlenty punches back at Romney (on Twitter)

June 16, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
(Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty…)

One of the standout moments in Monday's GOP candidates' debate was when Tim Pawlenty backed down from his attack just one day earlier linking the healthcare plans of President Obama and Mitt Romney as "Obamneycare."

For a candidate hoping to establish himself as the lead challenger to the GOP's nominal front-runner, Pawlenty's response was seen as a missed opportunity and a high-profile flub in the first debate of consequence for the GOP's presidential nomination.

On Thursday, Pawlenty seemed to admit as much, taking to the social media site Twitter to try and regain his footing.

"On seizing debate opportunity re: healthcare: Me 0, Mitt 1. On doing healthcare reform the right way as governor: Me 1, Mitt 0," Pawlenty tweeted.

The initial exchange went something like this: After asking Romney to defend his vision of health reform, CNN anchor and debate moderator John King gave Pawlenty a chance to stand by his "Obamneycare" snark attack that he leveled on "Fox News Sunday."

"In order to prosecute the case against President Obama, you have to be able to show that you've got a better plan and a different plan. We took a different approach in Minnesota," Pawlenty said.

King challenged Pawlenty again.

"You chose those words ... in the comfort of the Sunday show studio -- your rival is standing right there. If it was 'Obamneycare" on 'Fox News Sunday,' why is it not 'Obamneycare' standing here with the governor right there?" King asked

"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," Pawlenty responded.

The former Minnesota governor has been out of the spotlight since Monday. Politico reported Thursday that Pawlenty would be delivering a paid speech before the America's Health Insurance Plans' annual conference in San Francisco.

He returns to the campaign trail in Iowa on Saturday with a speech at a deficit summit. He'll also address conservative activists at the RightOnline conference in Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon.

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