Looks like CNN’s John King had it right. King predicted the Republican candidates will be polite tonight at the first Republican presidential debate in Manchester, NH. Pawlenty, at least, plans to play nice. The Daily Caller reports:

Tim Pawlenty downplayed the political significance of his newly coined term “Obamneycare,” saying he likely won’t use it tonight to attack Mitt Romney at the GOP presidential debate. …

“The point wasn’t to make a swipe at Mitt Romney. I was responding to the question of the similarities and the differences between Obamacare and what happened in Massachusetts,” he said Monday.

But he added: “During the debate, I’ll certainly respond to any questions that come up.”

Mixed feelings on this. All along, I’ve said I’d rather Pawlenty “respond to any questions,” as he put it, rather than whine about other candidates (“We need to quit worrying about bus tours”). But the Obamneycare comment was different: It was pointed, it was sharp and it directly raised the most relevant issue of the Romney campaign. Incidentally, as Allahpundit pointed out this weekend, it also provided Romney with ammunition against Pawlenty, who wasn’t always so opposed to Romneycare. Ideally, competition improves the performance of all the competitors involved. The primary process ought to refine all the potential nominees, but, for that to happen, some friction has to exist. I’d prefer it to spark over crucial issues like health care and I was hopeful Pawlenty’s Obamneycare comment signified that substantive — if also wittily veiled — sparring was ahead. Perhaps it still is. Pawlenty still has time to use it tonight — or to surprise us all with an entirely new term that casts doubt on another contender or, better yet, captures the essence of his own campaign in an equally unforgettable way.

Update: T-Paw flatly refused to take the bait CNN moderator John King tossed him tonight. Politico’s Maggie Haberman has the story:

CNN’s John King just asked Tim Pawlenty four different  ways, including finally head-on, to repeat his “ObamneyCare coinage from Fox News on Sunday, but to no avail.

The exchange began with Mitt Romney getting asked about the criticism, which he declined to discuss but did call Obama’s plan “terrible.” It was also a moment that Pawlenty needed to turn effectively, and with strength, and he failed to do it.