(CNN) - Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty stepped up his attacks on Mitt Romney Sunday, labeling the current health care law "Obamneycare" for its similarities to the plan instituted in Massachusetts while Romney was governor.
"President Obama said that he designed 'Obamacare' after 'Romneycare' and basically made it 'Obamneycare," Pawlenty said on "Fox News Sunday."
The former Minnesota governor previously tiptoed around criticism of Romney's health care plan and the new attack line is the most direct shot at his rival. The two will meet for the first time on a debate stage Monday in New Hampshire.
"The president's own words is that he patterned in large measure 'Obamacare' after what happened in Massachusetts," Pawlenty said. "What I don't understand is they both continue to defend it."
Romney has been critical of President Obama's plan while defending the Massachusetts law as a state experiment that was not meant for the nation.
But Pawlenty used the opportunity to tout his past in Minnesota, where he decided against an individual mandate, the biggest similarity in the Obama and Romney plans.
"I think it's a dramatic overreach by government forcing the consumer to buy a good or service because of a government edict or mandate," Pawlenty said. "I was asked to consider the individual mandate when I was governor on several occasions and I rejected it every time."
CNN hosts the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate on Monday from Manchester at 8 p.m. ET. Follow all the issues and campaign news leading up to the debate on CNNPolitics.com and @cnnpolitics on Twitter.