Gingrich encourages GOP on Medicare after special-election loss

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) encouraged Republicans to push ahead with Medicare reforms despite a loss in New York's special election attributed at least in part to dissatisfaction with the GOP's overhaul plan.

Gingrich, a Republican presidential candidate who hit a political speedbump by criticizing the Medicare plan, only to backtrack on that criticism, sought to encourage the GOP the day after a disappointing defeat in a race viewed as a referendum on the House Medicare plan.

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"We need to stand firm against these attacks. We need to be bold and offer real solutions that improve Medicare so we can preserve it for future generations," Gingrich wrote to House Republicans, drawing on examples of past Democratic attacks on the GOP based on Medicare. "The Democrats' Mediscare big lie campaign will inevitably collapse if we cheerfully insist on telling the truth."

Gingrich pointed to Republican victories in 1980 and 1996 after Democrats raised the specter of serious, GOP-led changes to Medicare as examples of why Republicans shouldn't back down.

Republicans are smarting after losing a seat to Democrat Kathy Hochul in New York's 26th congressional district Tuesday night. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the author of the House budget plan, acknowledged that Democratic attacks on Medicare played a role in the GOP's loss in the typically Republican district, and Republicans will huddle in the days to come to consider how to regroup.

Ryan released a video on Wednesday suggesting Republicans won't back away from the proposal, which would transform Medicare into a voucher-based system for Americans under the age of 55. But Democrats have gleefully seized on the proposal, making no bones about their intention to use the plan against Republicans in the 2012 elections.

Gingrich called the Democratic attacks "Mediscare 3." His words of encouragement represent a political pivot from his initial skepticism toward the Ryan plan, for which the former Speaker later apologized and said he was mistaken.

Gingrich accused Democrats of trying to "divide" Republicans, and turned Democrats' argument of a new Republican "litmus test" on its head.

"Even though it is the Democrats who will destroy healthcare for seniors through rationing and who will drive doctors out of Medicare, the Democrats claim: 'Ending Medicare is the new GOP Litmus test,'" he wrote. "In fact, saving Medicare so it is affordable with no government rationing of healthcare for seniors is the new GOP litmus test."