NPR logo Tim Pawlenty Endorses Mitt Romney; Ignores Health-Care Differences

Mitt Romney

Tim Pawlenty Endorses Mitt Romney; Ignores Health-Care Differences

Remember what Tim Pawlenty said about "Obamneycare"? Never mind.

That's one message that can be drawn Pawlenty's endorsement Monday of his former rival, Mitt Romney, for the Republican presidential nomination.

Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who dropped out of race following his poor showing in the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa in August, endorsed Romney Monday. The endorsement is getting big play on former Massachusetts governor's campaign website.

An excerpt:

Alone among the contenders, he possesses the unique qualifications to confront and master our severe economic predicament. His abiding faith in our country's exceptional historical position as a beacon of freedom will make him the most important leader in a world that depends upon a strong America to stay at peace.

Having served as Governor of Massachusetts, he turned that state's budget around from deficit to surplus while simultaneously cutting taxes, but that is not the full measure of what he will bring to the Presidency. His time in government was a moment of service - a way to give back to our country—following a distinguished career in the private sector, where he launched companies and turned around troubled ones.

When the 2002 Winter Olympics were on the verge of collapse thanks to a bid-rigging scandal, Romney was asked to take over. The attacks of September 11 created a security nightmare. Romney presided over a highly complex security mobilization, addressed the management troubles plaguing the games, and staged one of the most memorable competitions ever seen on American soil.

No mention of the signature Romney achievement as Massachusetts governor of enacting a health-care law that significantly lowered the uninsurance rate in the state. Of course, it did that by instituting an individual mandate for most people in the state and served as a model for the federal law President Obama signed into law.

The failure to acknowledge any of that previous criticism is curious since Pawlenty delivered one of the most stinging shots at Romney's health care law heard in recent years, styling it "Obamneycare." And it's not like Pawlenty won't be asked frequently about his criticism of Romney on health care.

Pawlenty's endorsement, just like his failure to attack Romney at one of the first debates, is fueling speculation that he's jockeying to be Romney's vice presidential choice.

That's reasonable. In a close race, Pawlenty could help bring the 10 electoral votes of his home state of Minnesota into the Romney column. But a southern governor like Bob McDonnell could bring more geographical balance to a ticket topped by Romney.

But first Romney has to get past Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the nomination.