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Pawlenty Digs at GOP Competition Ahead of Debate

One day before appearing at a GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty went to the greatest lengths yet to tie former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s health care plan to the one signed into law last year by President Barack Obama.

Asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether, as Romney says, there is a difference between insurance mandates at the federal and state levels, Pawlenty said, “You don’t have to take my word for it, you can take President Obama’s words for it. President Obama said he designed Obamacare after Romneycare and basically made it Obamneycare.”

Pawlenty also criticized Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman for limiting their efforts in Iowa. Romney announced Thursday that he would not compete in any straw polls, but his campaign insisted he would still campaign in Iowa. Huntsman, who said in an interview aired Sunday that he is close to announcing his own presidential bid, revealed early this month that he would not compete in the Iowa caucuses.

“I think if you’re going to be a leading candidate for president of the United States, you have to compete in these early states — all of them — and compete well,” Pawlenty said. “That’s what we intend to do. We’re committed to competing in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. We plan to do well in those early states.”

Pawlenty also responded to his poor showing in early polling and recent criticism that he is not an exciting candidate. A late-May Iowa poll from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed him finishing sixth, behind former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.

“There’s going to be a lot of bouncing around in these polls,” he said. “But as you know, they’re not good predictors of who’s going to actually win. If they were we’d have President Hillary Clinton or President Rudy Giuliani.”

Shown a recent clip of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly calling him “vanilla,” Pawlenty said he’s “not running for comedian-in-chief or entertainer-in-chief. If people want that they should go to the ballpark or a Broadway play or a Las Vegas show.”

“If you want a clown-in-chief, vote for somebody else. That’s not me,” he said.

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