Pawlenty concedes he missed an opportunity to attack Romney at debate

GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty conceded on Thursday that he missed a prime opportunity to go after Mitt Romney during this week's presidential primary debate.

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The former Minnesota governor initially rebutted his critics, saying the day after the debate that he didn't back down from the GOP's front-runner on healthcare reform. While he missed an opportunity, Pawlenty said he is better on substance when it comes to healthcare.

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

Pawlenty again appears willing to throw punches at Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, after pulling his punches with him during the debate. alt

On the Sunday preceding the debate, the Minnesotan tied the healthcare law Romney implemented as governor to President Obama's, calling the latter's plan "ObamneyCare."

But during the debate, Pawlenty refused to repeat the term.

"I think people may have been expecting an attack on Mitt Romney and I just repeated what I said on the Sunday show and tried to focus on President Obama," Pawlenty said during an interview on CNN the day after the debate. "President Obama was the one who indicated he used the Massachusetts healthcare plan as the blueprints for ObamaCare."

Pawlenty's treatment of Romney raised eyebrows and caused some GOP strategists and commentators to question the candidate's toughness.

Other Republican candidates, and Democrats, have hit Romney on healthcare. They argue that the plan he passed as governor of Massachusetts is strikingly similar to Obama's healthcare law and that the presumed front-runner lacks credibility when criticizing Obama's law.