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Has Newt Gingrich hurt himself on health care? (Poll)

at 03:19 PM ET, 05/16/2011


Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich (Newt Gingrich/Getty Images)
Yesterday on “Meet the Press,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich talked about the Medicare plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in surprisingly strong terms: “radical” and “right-wing social engineering” among them.

Ryan, hit back on the radio this morning: "With allies like that, who needs the left,” he joked. Fellow presidential contender Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, is out with a statement saying Gingrich’s position “is out of line with conservative principles.”

Gingrich appears to be in damage control mode today. A campaign spokesman told the Weekly Standard that there’s “little daylight” between Gingrich and Ryan. Gingrich then put out a web video saying he is “completely opposed to the Obamacare mandate on individuals,” calling it “fundamentally wrong” and “unconstitutional.” He followed it up with a statement: “Gingrich Committed to Repealing Obamacare.”

As detailed in a Huffington Post article last week and shown in a clip on “Meet the Press,” Gingrich seems to have supported mandates at the state and national level in the past, saying that individuals should either be required to buy insurance or post a bond. He and his staff continue to say that the former speaker is fundamentally opposed to the idea of a mandate, however.

Individual mandates were originally a Republican idea and were endorsed by the Heritage Foundation as part of the party’s attempt to offer an alternative vision to President Clinton’s health-care plan in the 1990s. However, conservative opinion has coalesced against mandates in the past few years. The conservative group Club for Growth called Gingrich’s position “problematic” in a white paper released today.

Gingrich has strugged to avoid these sort of policy pitfalls throughout his political life. As he told “Meet” host David Gregory on Sunday:

“One of the painful lessons I’ve had to learn -- and I haven't fully learned it honestly -- is that if you seek to be president of United States, you are never an analyst, you're never a college teacher. Because those folks can say what they want to say. And someone who offers to lead America has to be much more disciplined and much more thoughtful."

The question is whether Gingrich’s latest misstep is just a reminder that he is not the most on-message candidate in the field, or whether a deviation from the party line on a hot button issue like health care will seriously hamstring his campaign going forward. What do you think?

 
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