WASHINGTON – Newt Gingrich voiced enthusiasm for Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care law when it was passed five years ago, the same plan he has been denouncing over the past few months as he campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination.
"The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system," said an April 2006 newsletter published by Gingrich's former consulting company, the Center for Health Transformation.
The two-page "Newt Notes" analysis, found online by The Wall Street Journal even though it no longer appears on the center's website, continued, "We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans."
The earlier bullish comments about the Romney health care plan are another potential embarrassment for Gingrich, who is leading Romney in most national polls for the GOP nomination.
But with a week to go before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, Gingrich has slipped to third place in that state behind Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Romney. On other issues including climate change and mortgage giant Freddie Mac, Gingrich has struggled to reconcile his stance as a conservative with his long history of policy positions that sometimes run counter to that.
Gingrich's rise to the top of the field has come in part from his bashing Romney for engineering a state health care expansion that became a model for President Barack Obama's 2010 health law. "Your plan essentially is one more big-government, bureaucratic, high-cost system," Gingrich told Romney during an October debate in Las Vegas. He said Romney was trying to solve Massachusetts' health care problems "from the top down."
R.C. Hammond, a spokesman for Gingrich, said the April 2006 essay shouldn't be read as an endorsement of Romney's health plan. He noted that it raised several questions about the Massachusetts effort, including whether the plan would work in the state. "Being critical … isn't endorsing it," he said.
Hammond said the Newt Notes essay wasn't written by Gingrich himself. The Journal was able to view a copy using a web search engine that archives old and even deleted versions of web pages.