Republican presidential hopeful, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty delivers a policy address at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy in Chicago, Tuesday, June 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Thursday called rival Mitt Romney a “co-conspirator” in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, his sharp language a contrast to his refusal to criticize the former Massachusetts governor when they appeared together in a televised debate.

Pawlenty’s debate performance Monday night in New Hampshire was widely panned in political circles, with critics contending that he appeared weak for failing to challenge Romney in person. A day earlier, on “Fox News Sunday,” the former Minnesota governor had used the term “Obamneycare” to describe the similarities in the Obama health care law and the health care initiative Romney had led in Massachusetts.

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