Mitt Romney’s campaign is stepping up their attacks against current GOP presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich today over his criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Medicare privatization plan. In a press release to reporters, Gail Gitcho, Romney’s communications director, charged, “Speaker Gingrich’s attack on Paul Ryan’s plan as ‘right-wing social engineering’ – and then denying his own attack before doubling down on it – is the kind of Washington politics that Americans are tired of.”
Romney backers John Sununu and former Sen. Jim Talent also insisted on a press call with reporters that Romney “recognized right away the features of Ryan’s plan” and embraced it. They portrayed Gingrich’s Medicare proposal as not a “substantive change” from the current system and again slammed the former speaker for his criticism of the Ryan proposal.
But as much as Romney may hope to out gun Gingrich on Medicare privatization, both candidates have backed away slightly from Ryan’s proposal, but share the same policy objectives: to reduce federal expenditures in Medicare by capping the amount seniors will have to spend for traditional Medicare or private insurance, irrespective of actual health care costs.
For months, Romney refused to fully embrace Ryan’s plan. “As president, Romney’s own plan will differ, but it will share those objectives,” a September campaign proposal stated. He followed up in October with, “You have a program like Paul Ryan has proposed, which says we’re going to give people vouchers to let them choose among private plans. I would not at the same time would want to remove the option for people who have standard Medicare.” His proposal reflects this view.
Gingrich — who famously proclaimed that he would like to see Medicare “wither on the vine” — has supported Medicare privatization since at least 1995 and had said that he would have voted for Ryan’s plan. In an effort to limit the conservative blowback following his comments on Meet the Press, Gingrich even proposed kick-starting premium support “this year“: “I would offer on a voluntary basis, a supplement plan, a voucher—I wouldn’t call it a voucher—but some kind of support plan this year,” Gingrich told conservatives.