Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) - Tim Pawlenty said Monday that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's health care record will be "fair game" at this evening's Republican presidential debate.
"I don't think contrasting policy differences between the candidates is out of bounds in a debate," Pawlenty told reporters after touring an orthotics and prosthetics company in Manchester. "The American people want to know what you stand for and what do you believe. If you get asked a question about how that differs from other proposals, I think that's fair game."
The former Minnesota governor delivered his most pointed attack to date against Romney over the weekend, claiming that his health care overhaul in Massachusetts inspired President Obama's national health care reform law.
Pawlenty called the two laws "Obamneycare."
He urged reporters Monday not to read too much into those comments, saying that he was simply responding to a question about the Massachusetts law. He said he would "certainly respond" to similar questions if they come up during the debate.
Pawlenty, though, brushed aside questions about whether his sharpened message is intended to draw a tough contrast with Romney and gain some traction in the polls.
"The object isn't to stir some kind of internal rift in the Republican Party," he said. "The focus here is to get Barack Obama out of the White House. If you want to ask somebody to be the pundit in the race, go talk to John King."
Despite his tough criticism of Obama's health care legislation, Pawlenty said he does support the law's requirement that health insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions.
A handful of Democrats from the pro-reform group Protect Your Care demonstrated outside the event. They quickly pounced on Pawlenty's statement.
"It's great rhetoric that he says he likes the pre-existing conditions provisions, but by supporting both the Ryan budget and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act he has already twice said he would take those very protections away from the young boy he met today," said Protect Your Care spokesman Eddie Vale.
CNN hosts the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate tonight from Manchester at 8 p.m. ET. Follow all the issues and campaign news about the debate on CNNPolitics.com and @cnnpolitics on Twitter. Watch the debate on CNN TV, CNN.com and mobile devices. And participate with your questions on the live blog at cnn.com/ticker.
Does that mean it's "fair game" for the other clowns there to point out that expert criticism of Timmeh's idiotic economic plan is pretty much universal? Economists have called his plan's cornerstone...that he would create an economy with a 5% annual growth rate for 10 years...everything from unrealistic to daydreams to a blatant and mathematical impossibility. Me, I prefer "unicorn farts"...I think it captures the fairy tale nature of GOP economic ideologies and policies quite nicely. It's like they ate the brown acid and then, when they got to Wavy Gravy's tent, they used the crayons he provided to try to explain how the universe works.
While you're at it, could you explain the 6 BILLION DOLLAR deficit you left the State of Minnesota Mr. Fiscal Self Rightous Dewd?
Milquetoast Polenta vs. Mr. Brylcreem. Great stuff.
There are only losers at this 'Debate'...NO winners!?!
BTW, bad speaking fist in that picture. Clearly doing it wrong.
Gee, Mr. Pawlenty. "The focus here is to get Barack Obama out of the White House".
I thought the focus was to get us out of this mess. They do not give a damn about fixing anything they just want power.
American people already know what Republicans stand for "a snow job" to get elected and a promise to cut taxes for the rich and they haven't failed at either.
How cute. Obameycare?
Yiu want to come up with an original thought that wil help the country? Go build a bridge somewhere since thanks to you people died in your state!
Did I hear him say anything about jobs? The American people want to hear a solution for jobs creation. Please note, they do not want another GOP plan for jobs destruction.
1. Please do not spout off the typical talking points about entreprenuership. We want "shovel" ready industries to make up for jobs outsourced overseas. Entreprenuers have outsourced green technology manufacturing to China, including electric car batteries.
2. Please do not spout off about tax cuts for businesses because not only have Senate Republicans filibustered such tax cuts over the past two years, they have claimed that they would not create jobs.
3. Please do not spout off about no tax increases because the American people still want to get rid of those tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who are not the job creators. If they are, then they need to file their business taxes separately.
4. Please do not spout off about how much current policies have failed without producing some facts to back your claims because their are facts to deny your claims like the current Dow average and jobs growth numbers.(up +900k since 1/20/09)
5. Please do not spout off about "Obamacare". It is a horrible thing that terrifies me to no end, and a lot of other people. I know that it is just a ghost story but most people do not understand that. Talk about the "Affordable Care Act", or ACA.
"Outta Time" Delorean license plate registered to Dr. Emmet Brown.
Where's that "replacement" plan they were going to write? ...oh yeah....
Pawlenty,who is this guy? He is so American, to want to rip-off mainstreet Americans from their "Payed in Advance Medicare, to pay for the Crash they caused? You have to be a "Lunatic" to even listen to this "Bernie Madeoff" of the republicans????? Scarry?
Why not ask why MA was 47th in job creation when Mitt was governor? Why not ask about the bridge that collapsed under Pawlenty and his failure to fund anything? Why not ask Minnesota & Mass residents about what a horrible job both did when governor????