(CNN) – Newt Gingrich has been an official presidential candidate for only a week, but the former House Speaker is already under siege from fellow Republicans over recent comments that disparaged a House GOP budget proposal and appeared to endorse some form of a health care mandate that conservatives have long derided.
"This is a big deal," said Charles Krauthammer, the conservative Washington Post columnist. "He's done. He didn't have a big chance from the beginning but now it's over."
"I am not going to justify this. I'm not going to explain this," talk radio host Rush Limbaugh clamored. "The attack on Paul Ryan. The support for an individual mandate in health care? Folks, don't ask me to explain this. There is no explanation."
The uproar stems from Gingrich's comments during an interview on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, when the former House Speaker called a Medicare provision in the GOP budget proposal spearheaded by Rep. Paul Ryan a "radical change" and later indicated he supports requiring every citizen to buy health insurance or instead post a bond for insurance.
The two positions appeared contradictory, with Gingrich hammering Ryan's plan to impulse a mandatory voucher system in lieu of Medicare in one breath while offering support for mandated health coverage in the other.
"What you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose it," Gingrich said of the Ryan plan that has proposed replacing Medicare with vouchers to be used toward private health care plans. "I am against Obamacare imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change."
But in the same interview Gingrich sad of an insurance mandate, "I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay – help pay for health care…And, I think that there are ways to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy. I've said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond."
Amidst charges of inconsistency, Gingrich released a Web video Monday in which he emphatically stated he was "for the repeal for Obamacare, and …against any effort to impose a federal mandate on anyone because it is fundamentally wrong and I believe unconstitutional."
A Gingrich spokesman also insisted Monday that "there is little daylight between Ryan and Gingrich."
"Newt would fully support Ryan if it were not compulsory," spokesman Rick Tyler said. "We need to design a better system that people will voluntarily move to. That is a major difference in design but not substance."
Still, some conservatives remain befuddled when it comes to just where Gingrich stands on health care, an issue that is believe to be rival Mitt Romney's biggest vulnerability not the former House Speaker's.
"He can't help himself. Gingrich prefers extravagant lambasting when a mere distancing would do, and the over-arching theoretical construct to a mundane pander. He is drawn irresistibly to operatic overstatement – sometimes brilliant, always interesting, and occasionally downright absurd," Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review, wrote Monday.
Meanwhile House Majority Whip Eric Cantor called Gingrich's statements a "tremendous misspeak."
"I think that many have said now he's finished," Cantor Chicago radio station WLS, according to The Hill. "I haven't had a chance to really dissect what in the world he's thinking...so I probably would reserve judgment on that."
Meanwhile, it appears Gingrich is doing damage control at an event in Mason City, Iowa Tuesday, signing a petition calling for the repeal of the health care law.
And, in an interview with the Des Moines Register Monday, Gingrich said he is the victim of "gotcha" politics.
"I've for two years gone around the country making speeches about ObamaCare. I've said over and over, 'We should repeal it,'" he said. "And then people to go from all of that body of evidence to say, 'Yeah, but for 25 seconds yesterday, I thought you said X,' that's beyond gotcha."