Glenn Beck, who has been a tea party hero, put some tough questions to Newt Gingrich Tuesday morning, as the former House speaker has soared to the top of polls in early states, but continues to face questions about his past positions on health care, climate change and government regulation.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 28, Glenn Beck at his rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 2010. (TRACY A WOODWARD/WASHINGTON POST)

Asked about where he stands in relation to Teddy Roosevelt, who Obama invoked in a Kansas speech on Tuesday and is known for his progressive stance on government regulation, Gingrich said “there are minimum regulatory standards of public health and safety that are I think really important.”

“I think almost everybody will see this, I believe,” Gingrich said on GBTV, Beck’s cable channel. “You want to make sure, for example, if you buy certain electric things that they don’t start fires in your house.”

Digging up quotes from 1993, when Gingrich — as a member of the GOP House minority — said he was for “individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance,” Beck pressed Gingrich to clarify his stance on individual mandates, which are part of Obama’s health-care overhaul and almost universally reviled by conservatives.

“I’ve said consistently we ought to have some requirement to either have health insurance, or you post a bond or in some way you indicate you are going to be held accountable,” Gingrich said, adding that his stance was a “variation” on the individual mandate.

Unlike Mitt Romney, who has largely avoided the press, and appeared prickly in an interview last week on Fox News, Gingrich has done several press conferences and given interviews over the last few days, and frequently takes questions from reporters on the stump.

Romney also complained to Fox, saying that an interview he gave recently to Brett Baier in which he faced questions about his record was “overly aggressive.”

By contrast, Beck and Gingrich seemed to have an easy rapport, even given the tough questions.

“Newt, I have to tell’s obvious it was very clear in advance and I hope my staff made this very clear that this isn’t going to be an easy interview,” Beck told Gingrich after the interview. “There was no gaffes here by any stretch of the imagination. I didn’t expect any. But I appreciate your willingness to come on and answer the tough questions.”

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