Newt Gingrich got his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination off to a bold, if perplexing, start by attacking Paul Ryan's budget plan as "right-wing social engineering" and affirming his support for the individual mandate in health care reform. In subsequent clarifications, he said he was opposed to the Obama mandate on constitutional grounds--the same rationale Mitt Romney offers in defence of his Massachusetts plan--and said he was not in a fight with Paul Ryan even though they disagree about how to reform Medicare. Ryan said, "With allies like that, who needs the left?"
Gingrich has backed some form of mandate in health care for years. Give him some credit for sticking to this line (which also happens to be correct). But still one wonders how he expects to get the nomination from a party so bitterly opposed to that view. Republicans in Congress and on the airwaves queued up to stamp on him. It's not good to be entirely occupied with damage control on day one of your campaign.
Something other GOP candidates might be asking themselves is how far, if at all, they are now allowed to disagree with the Ryan budget. The idea that it cannot be criticised would be strange, bearing in mind that the party has very mixed feelings about it. Many Republicans do in fact disagree with Ryan's Medicare plan. A lot of them think it's insane. Of course one can disagree with Ryan's proposal--suggest ways of improving it, let's put it that way--without contemptuously dismissing it as "right-wing social engineering". But the party would apparently rather not talk about it than thrash the issues out and come up with something better. Again, the permanent election campaign shuts down intelligent thinking about policy.