“I made a mistake,” Newt Gingrich said Tuesday night, the latest in a series of mea culpas designed to resuscitate a campaign that conservative commentators believe to be on life support. After calling Paul Ryan to apologize for characterizing the House Republican budget as a “radical” plan that amounts to “right-wing social engineering,” Gingrich said during an interview with Fox News that he was behind Ryan. “The budget vote is one that I am happy to say I would have voted for,” he said.
As the GOP picks over the wreckage of Gingrich’s presidential launch, Democrats are rubbernecking at the crash site with delight. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, Senator Chuck Schumer argued the hailstorm of criticism suggests Ryan’s blueprint to overhaul Medicare, already backed by House Republicans, has become party doctrine–a development that will help Democrats hold the White House in 2012. “These events suggest that the new litmus test within the Republican Party will be how you come down on Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan. The pressure from the right is going to inflict a heavy political toll on these Republicans. It’s a no-win for them,” Schumer said. “If Republicans make endorsing the Ryan plan the standard in their presidential primary, it will make their nominee virtually unelectable in the general election.”
Gingrich has argued that since he has disavowed his criticism of the Republican budget, Democrats would be dishonest to use his comments against GOP congressional candidates. But Schumer said the party, whose campaign committees have already cut a slew of ads battering House Republicans for attacking Medicare, would make the proposal the linchpin of a relentless messaging campaign. “If Republicans want to double down on the Ryan plan to end Medicare, that’s up to them. But they should know: it’s never going to pass, and we will not miss a single opportunity to remind the public of what it means for seniors,” Schumer said. “This is actually very good news for us as Democrats in 2012.
The New York Senator expressed gleeful sympathy for the former House Speaker, who he argued was “nearly turned into a political outsider overnight” for daring to break with his party. “Speaker Gingirch’s offense was saying what everyone else knows: that the House Republican plan is extreme. It’s a major liability. He is the Republican canary in a coal mine. When that canary speaks truth, he is snuffed out.”
Gingrich did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Update, 3:40 p.m.: Gingrich’s spokesman, Rick Tyler, sends the Huffington Post this statement blaming the candidate’s problems on the press:
“The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding,” Tyler wrote. “Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.”