As Mitt Romney sought to reconcile his Massachusetts health care plan with his opposition to President Obama's, he had, until recently, one constant foe: Potential running mate and Tim Pawlenty.
The former Minnesota governor's's first attack on Romney came in the midst of the first push by Congress to pass the Affordable Care Act in July of 2009. Pawlenty dinged the former Massachusetts Governor in a Washington Post op-ed in early August. The op-ed was countering a now infamous op-ed by Romney which ran in USA Today in which he argued President Obama could copy his plan in Massachusetts.
“Massachusetts's experience should caution Congress against focusing primarily on access. While the Massachusetts plan has reduced the number of uninsured people, costs have been dramatically higher than expected,” wrote Pawlenty.” The result? Increased taxes and fees. The Boston Globe has reported on a current short-term funding gap and the need to obtain a new federal bailout”
Pawlenty added that Congress should think about applying that approach to the nation during the debate to pass ObamaCare saying “Imagine the scope of tax increases, or additional deficit spending, if that approach is utilized for the entire country.”
Later that September, during an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Pawlenty doubled down on his criticism of Massachusetts, calling it the state has “the most expensive health care in the country. They have increasing waiting lines, and it's not working."
Romney took issue with Pawlenty’s frequent attacks on his record in Massachusetts, and when asked if Pawlenty was right in his attack replied “No” adding “I'm afraid facts are stubborn things.”
In a January 2010 appearance with Neil Cauvto on Fox News Pawlenty further attacked Romney on health care. When asked if Romney’s plan in Massachusetts was a model for national reform Pawlenty replied, “we don’t need to have a government run program” after having laid out specifics for how he would reform health care.
Two months later in March, just after the signing of ObamaCare, Pawlenty expanded upon his attack on Romney and his health care plan.
“The plan is dramatically propped up by federal money,” he said in an interview in New Hampshire. “Take that away and there would be dire economic consequences.”
“Looking at the Massachusetts experience, it would not be one I would want for the country to follow any further,” he added.
Pawlenty largely toned down his attacks on Romney’s health care reform plan for the rest of 2010. Pawlenty instead focused his efforts on stopping the implementation of ObamaCare in Minnesota and worked to elect Republicans in Congress in the 2010 midterms.
Pawlenty avoided attacking Romney on his healthcare plan during the beginning of his failed run by the Presidency, at times passing on the chance when prompted by reporters and television hosts. But amidst stagnant poll numbers the former Minnesota Governor finally decided to pounce.
"President Obama said that he designed ObamaCare after Romneycare and basically made it Obamneycare," Pawlenty said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday in June. Pawlenty added that he did not understand how Obama or Romney “both continue to defend" their health care plans.
Days later, Pawlenty backed down from criticizing Romney face-to-face during a debate in Iowa. Pawlenty’s failure to deliver the “Obamneycare” line to Romney in person added fuel to the narrative that Pawlenty was shaky and unable to confront his rivals with tough rhetoric.
Three days after failing to confront Romney in person over RomneyCare, Pawlenty doubled down on his attack.
“I should have been much more clear during the debate,” Pawlenty said in an interview with Sean Hannity “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.”
Earlier in the day Pawlenty had tweeted about Romney’s plan “On seizing debate opportunity re: healthcare: Me 0, Mitt 1. On doing healthcare reform the right way as governor: Me 1, Mitt 0.”
Pawlenty finally decided to confront Romney face-to-face on his health care plan during an August debate in Iowa. Lamenting on his failed opportunity to attack Romney to debate host Chris Wallace “I don’t want to miss that chance again Chris.”
“Look,” Pawnlenty said. “Obamacare was patterned after Mitt's plan in Massachusetts. And for Mitt or anyone else to say there aren't substantial similarities or they are not essentially the same plan -- it just isn't credible. So that's why I called it Obamneycare, and I think that's a fair label. I'm happy to call it that again tonight."
Pawlenty’s belated attacks on Romney seemed to fall on deaf ears, and he finished a disappointing third the Ames Straw Poll days after debate. Pawlenty ended his presidential run just one day later.
Just one month after ending his presidential run Pawlenty endorsed Romney for president and has been a loyal surrogate ever since. While Pawlenty has been an active campaigner for Romney for almost year, opponents of Romney will most likely be dredging up his past attacks on the Governor should he find himself on the bottom of the Republican ticket in Tampa.