Minneapolis, Minnesota (CNN) - In front of a friendly group of conservatives, Tim Pawlenty once again did what he declined to do while standing next to Mitt Romney in Monday’s GOP debate: go on the attack against his presidential rival.
At the RightOnline conference in Minneapolis on Saturday, the former Minnesota governor and presidential candidate re-stated a fresh line he’s recently used: that the former Massachusetts governor is a “co-conspirator” in the nation’s health care law that conservatives love to hate.
“If we’re going to have political charges against Barack Obama about health care reform, we better do it with somebody that is not a co-conspirator in the charge,” Pawlenty said, repeating the phrase he’d used previously this week.
And once again, the line was delivered from afar, as Romney is not attending the weekend conference.
In last week’s first 2012 presidential debate in New Hampshire - sponsored by CNN, WMUR and the New Hampshire Union Leader - Pawlenty declined to criticize Romney while the two men were on stage with five other candidates.
Since then, Pawlenty has acknowledged that not going after Romney in the debate was a missed opportunity.
When asked about the incident on Fox News' Hannity Thursday, Pawlenty partly said he "should have been much more clear” at pointing out how the health care law passed in Massachusetts during Romney’s administration contributed to the nation’s health care law.
During his speech, Pawlenty also re-stated a full-throated defense of conservative values.
He talked about a government that “crowds into our lives” and takes over functions previously reserved for families, communities or entrepreneurs; he pushed themes he’s recently delivered on a so-called “Truth Tour,” such as phasing out ethanol subsidies in Iowa or telling seniors and young people in Florida “what it’s really going to take to fix social security”; and he bragged about being the first Minnesota governor to shut down state government in 150 years over taxes and spending, and confronting bus drivers and other transit workers over public employee pensions and benefits.
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