Video: Gingrich campaign has rocky rollout

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    >> now to the presidential race in 2012 . the candidacy of former house speaker newt gingrich . he declared a week ago and it's already a tough road for the georgia republican. andrea mitchell joins us with the latest.

    >> good morning, ann. newt gingrich 's presidential campaign is only a week old but he's already battling fellow kentuckys and refusinging to explain credit card charges that could fight his current image. it's the iconic little blue box, the signature of luxury, tiffany's. holly golightly made it a cultural icon in capote's classic. hardly what gingrich expected to be asked about when he announced his candidacy.

    >> i'm announcing my candidacy for president of the united states .

    >> reporter: there are hundreds of thousands of dollars of unpaid debt during 2005 and 2006 listed as her spouse's to tiffany. on fox he called it trivial pursuits.

    >> i'm not commenting on stuff like that. i'll talk about what we need to do for americans but i don't want to play the games.

    >> reporter: it comes after a rocky rollout with former allies, conservatives. in gingrich 's first big interview on "meet the press" he slammed paul ryan 's plan to slash medicare.

    >> i don't think right wing social engineering is any more desirable than left wing social engineering . i don't think imposing radical change from the right or left is a good way for a free society to operate.

    >> reporter: ryan wasn't amused.

    >> with allies like that who needs the left?

    >> reporter: others are firing back.

    >> cuts off paul ryan at the knees, supports the obama administration.

    >> reporter: headlining an editorial, gingrich to house gop, drop dead . the wall street journal wrote, mr. beginning p rich chose to throw his former allies in the gop house not so much under the bus as off the grand canyon rim. the formerer speaker was confronted by a critic in iowa.

    >> what you just did to paul ryan --

    >> i didn't do anything.

    >> yes, you did. you are an embarrassment to the party. why don't you get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself.

    >> reporter: at the risk of losing his base, gingrich went on fox, his former employer, tuesday night to take it back.

    >> i made a mistake. i called paul ryan today who is a close personal friend and i said that.

    >> reporter: topping off a bad day , gingrich 's book signing was briefly interrupted by a glitter attack, a gay protest.

    >> stop the hate! stop anti-gay politics!

    >> this is a case where candidacy is almost imploding before the candidate leaves the starting gate .

    >> reporter: whether gingrich 's comments satisfy critics remains to be seen. a spokesman says chairman ryan accepted gingrich 's apology.

    >> tough week for newt gingrich .

updated 5/18/2011 8:03:21 AM ET 2011-05-18T12:03:21

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said Monday that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich does not fully understand a GOP proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher system, dismissing criticism from the former House speaker that the plan would be a radical change.

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"I just think he's missing the mark on what our plan actually does," Ryan, chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, told reporters after a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago. "Our plan is one of the most gradual things one could do," because it would not affect people over age 55 and would not kick in for 10 years.

On Sunday, Gingrich had told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Ryan's plan is "too big a jump" and that he's against implementing radical changes.

"I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," Gingrich said. "I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate."

Video: Gingrich: Ryan’s Medicare proposal is ‘too big a jump’ (on this page)

Gingrich stood by his criticism during a stop in Iowa on Monday, but softened his language a bit. He said he generally supports the GOP budget proposal, but differs with Ryan's approach to Medicare, saying he believes "you need a much more fundamental, much more comprehensive approach to fixing Medicare." Gingrich said it would be too jarring to recipients to change the program from a guaranteed benefit to a voucher program.

Gingrich walks back support of mandates

Both Gingrich and Ryan have said that they want to repeal the federal health care bill signed by President Barack Obama last year.

Ryan, of Wisconsin, also said Monday that he will decide quickly whether he will run for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Democrat Herb Kohl.

He said his Medicare proposal would not hurt him if he decides to seek the seat because he's talked about the issue for years and has "a long relationship with Wisconsinites."

Story: Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan mulling Senate bid

But he also said his decision would be based on where he believes he would have the greatest influence on solving the nation's economic problems, and answered "yes" when asked whether his position as House Budget Committee chairman might give him more influence than as the junior senator from Wisconsin.

'The biggest threat to Medicare is the status quo'
Under Ryan's plan, the government would provide a certain amount of money to health insurers — giving more money to poorer people and less to the wealthy — with the exact coverage not locked in, rather than covering seniors' health expenses as Medicare has since the 1960s.

It's an approach he says would give seniors greater control over their own health care and ultimately save Medicare, noting that health care costs, including from Medicaid and Social Security, are growing faster than the economy.

Ryan also took issue with a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which said the typical beneficiary would be expected to pay more than two-thirds of his or her medical costs by the year 2030 under the GOP plan. He said the CBO assumes that Medicare costs always will go up instead of down under any reform plan, and said measuring any plan against the status quo "is a fantasy."

"The biggest threat to Medicare is the status quo," Ryan said.

Story: The 2012 GOP presidential field

Ryan, who has been greeted with cheers and jeers at scores of town hall-style meetings on his plan, avoided protesters who gathered Monday outside Chicago's Palmer House Hilton. Dozens of demonstrators chanted "Tax the rich" and carried signs that read, "Hands off my Medicare" and "Don't make us go all Wisconsin on you," referring to the massive protests at the Wisconsin Statehouse during the legislature's fight over weakening negotiating rights for teachers.

"They are taking away basic rights that have been placed as a safety net for people," said Larry Roth, 58, of Chicago.

Doug Adams of Chicago said he came out to "defend the rights of the middle class and working class people" because "Republicans, Wall Street and big business" think older Americans are an expensive commodity.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explainer: The 2012 GOP presidential field

  • A look at the Republican candidates hoping to challenge Barack Obama in the general election.

  • Rick Perry, announced Aug. 13

    Image: Perry
    Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry

    Mere hours before a major GOP debate in Iowa (and a couple of days before the high-interest Ames straw poll), the Perry camp announced that the Texas governor was all-in for 2012.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas governor.

    While some on ground in the early-caucus state criticized the distraction, strategists applauded the move and said Perry was giving Romney a run for his money.

    Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career

    He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

  • Jon Huntsman, announced June 21

    Image: Jon Hunt
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman

    Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made his bid official on June 21 at at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former governor of Utah.

    He vowed to provide "leadership that knows we need more than hope" and "leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems."

    The early days of his campaign were clouded with reports of internal discord among senior staffers.

    Slideshow: Jon Huntsman Jr.

    Huntsman, who is Mormon, worked as a missionary in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. But his moderate credentials — backing civil unions for gays and the cap-and-trade energy legislation — could hurt him in a GOP primary. So could serving under Obama.

  • Michele Bachmann, announced on June 13

    Image: Michele Bachmann
    Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
    Rep. Michele Bachmann

    Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman announced during a June 13 GOP debate that she's officially in the running for the Republican nomination.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Minn. congresswoman.

    Bachmann tells The Associated Press she decided to jump into the 2012 race at this time because she believed it was "the right thing to do."

    She's been criticized for making some high-profile gaffes — among them, claiming taxpayers would be stuck with a $200 million per day tab for President Barack Obama's trip to India and identifying New Hampshire as the site of the Revolutionary War's opening shots.

    Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann

    But Bachmann's proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

  • Rick Santorum, announced on June 6

    Image: Rick Santorum
    Charlie Neibergall  /  AP file
    Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum

    A staunch cultural conservative vehemently against abortion and gay marriage, the former Pennsylvania senator hopes to energize Republicans with a keen focus on social issues.

    He announced the launch of a presidential exploratory committee on FOX News, where he makes regular appearances. He make his run official on June 6 in Somerset, Pa., asking supporters to "Join the fight!"

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Pennsylvania senator.

    No stranger to controversy, Santorum was condemned by a wide range of groups in 2003 for equating homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. More recently, Santorum faced criticism when he called Obama’s support for abortion rights “almost remarkable for a black man.”

    Slideshow: Rick Santorum's political life

    Since his defeat by Democrat Robert Casey in his 2006 re-election contest — by a whopping 18 percentage points — Santorum has worked as an attorney and as a think-tank contributor.

    A February straw poll at CPAC had him in twelfth place amongst Republicans with 2 percent of the vote.

  • Mitt Romney, announced on June 2

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Paul Sancya  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

    The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate has spent the last three years laying the foundations for another run at the White House — building a vigorous political action committee, making regular media appearances, and penning a policy-heavy book.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Mass. governor.

    In April, he announced, via YouTube and Twitter, that he'd formed an exploratory commitee. Romney made his run official in Stratham, N.H., on June 2.

    The former CEO of consulting firm Bain & Company and the president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney frequently highlights his business background as one of his main qualifications to serve as president.

    Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics

    To capture the nomination, Romney will have to defend the health care overhaul he enacted during his governorship — legislation that bears similarities to the Obama-backed bill despised by many conservatives. He'll also have to overcome the perception of being a flip-flopper (like supporting abortion rights in his 1994 and 2002 bids for office, but opposing them in his '08 run).

    In the first quarter of 2011, he netted some $1.8 million through his PAC "Free and Strong America."

  • Herman Cain, announced on May 21

    Image: Herman Cain
    Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
    Talk show host Herman Cain

    Cain, an Atlanta radio host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has support from some Tea Party factions.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Atlanta radio host.

    An African-American who describes himself as a “citizen’s candidate,” he was the first Republican to form a formal presidential exploratory committee. He officially entered the race in May, telling supporters, "When we wake up and they declare the presidential results, and Herman Cain is in the White House, we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!"

    Prior to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Cain rehashed the birther theory, telling a Florida blogger, “I respect people that believe he should prove his citizenship ... He should prove he was born in the United States of America.”

  • Ron Paul, announced on May 13

    Image: Ron Paul
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Rep. Ron Paul

    In 2008, Texas congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian rallying cry — and his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — did not fall on deaf ears. An idiosyncratic foe of the Federal Reserve and a passionate advocate for limited government, Paul mounted a presidential run that was characterized by bursts of jaw-dropping online fundraising.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas congressman.

    Slideshow: Ron Paul

    He officially launched his 2012 campaign in New Hampshire, saying, ""The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building ... Our time has come."

    In the first quarter of 2011, raked in some $3 million through his various political organizations.

  • Newt Gingrich, announced on May 11

    Image: Newt Gingrich
    John M. Heller  /  Getty Images file
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

    The former speaker of the House who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Gingrich remains a robust presence on the GOP stage as a prolific writer and political thinker. In recent years, Barack Obama has provided a new target for the blistering critiques Gingrich famously leveled at President Bill Clinton.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former speaker of the House.

    In early May, he made his 2012 run official. "I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run," Gingrich wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

    But a month later, the campaign was practically in ruins — with his campaign manager, spokesman, senior strategists all resigning en masse. Most cited issues with the "direction" of the campaign. But Gingrich vowed to press on.

    Slideshow: Newt Gingrich

    Also at issue: Gingrich’s personal life could make winning the support of social conservatives thorny for the twice-divorced former lawmaker. In a damning interview earlier this year, Esquire quoted one of Gingrich’s former wives describing him as a hypocrite who preached the sanctity of marriage while in the midst of conducting an illicit affair.

    Additional obstacles include his recent criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering" and reports of a $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry company.

  • Gary Johnson, announced on April 21

    Image:Gary Johnson
    Jim Cole  /  AP
    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson

    The former New Mexico governor took a big leap in late April, not by announcing an exploratory committee, but by actually announcing his official candidacy. “I’m running for president of the United States,” he told a couple of supporters and cameramen gathered for his announcement outside the New Hampshire State Capitol.

    He's a steadfast libertarian who supports the legalization of marijuana. He vetoed more than 700 pieces of legislation during his two terms as governor.


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