A day after dismissing Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) GOP-endorsed plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system, Newt Gingrich spent Monday walking back his comments. But after calling the plan "radical... right-wing social engineering," Gingrich's explanations proved too little, too late for many conservatives, who continue to hammer the former House speaker and newly minted presidential candidate. So who gained from Gingrich's "operatic overstatement" — and who got burned?
One of Romney's biggest obstacles to the Republican nomination is the Obama-like health care reforms he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts. Well, "Romney should thank Gingrich," says Daniel Foster at National Review. Newt's "opportunistic and inconsistent attack" on Ryan's Medicare plan made Republicans forget Romney's ill-received speech defending "RomneyCare." An unforced error like this by "the GOP contender with the next-highest name recognition" can only help Romney cement his place as the presumptive frontrunner.
Ryan's plan has always been unpopular with Democrats, and they've been "pretty successful in convincing the American mainstream the Republican proposal is an awful idea," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. Still, I'm pretty sure they "didn’t expect high-profile GOP voices — in this case, even a presidential candidate — to endorse the Democratic line" on national TV. Yeah, "don’t be surprised if you see Newt's attack on Ryan and the GOP in the next DNC ad," says Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit. "Thanks, Newt."
The real winner is Palin, and her much-criticized strategy to sit out the race so far, says Doug Brady at Conservatives 4 Palin. "Indeed from where I sit, it's working pretty well." Potential rivals Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump have taken themselves out of the race, and Romney and Newt "are collapsing before our eyes without any help from her." That leaves who? "Junior varsity player" Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain? "Enough said."
Gingrich is "backpedaling furiously," says Steven Hayward at Power Line, but the damage is done. "The GOP grassroots — that is, the people who vote in primaries — are outraged. Fox News last night ran a devastating video clip of an Iowan lighting into Gingrich in savage terms." I don't see how he can recover from this gaffe. This is especially forehead-slapping since he messed up "after a three-day period that wiped out two of his greatest potential rivals," says Paul Constant at The Stranger. "I'm starting to feel sorry for Newt Gingrich."
Ryan was "blindsided" by the friendly-fire criticism, says Byron York at The Washington Examiner, especially since it "came the day before Ryan was scheduled to make a high-profile defense of his budget plan." Well, it's too late for that now, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. "Ryan's plan had already been shelved to all intents and purposes," but Newt's critique rubs salt in the wound.
Even more than Ryan, "Newt has hurt a lot of freshman Republicans sitting in swing districts in the Midwest," says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. Imagine the "thousands of Democratic ads: Congressman X voted for the plan that even Newt Gingrich called radical right-wing social engineering."