(CNN) – The Newt Gingrich campaign pushed back Tuesday on reports the former House speaker previously expressed enthusiasm for rival Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care law–before eventually announcing his opposition.
Team Gingrich continued to contrast the candidate's record with that of Romney in its response to reports of a 2006 newsletter showing Gingrich's support for Romney's health care law, which included an individual mandate.
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In the analysis - called "Newt Notes" - originally found online by The Wall Street Journal, Gingrich praised the Massachusetts bill passed while Romney was governor for its potential to change the American health care system. But Gingrich Campaign Spokesman RC Hammond said the newsletter published by his candidate is "old news."
"Newt previously supported a mandate for health insurance and changed his mind after seeing its effects," Hammond said in a statement to CNN. "The real question is why Mitt the Massachusetts Moderate won't admit that health insurance mandates don't work. Newt is more than willing to discuss with Gov. Romney why the Romneycare model doesn't work, and why the governor's moderate tax reshuffling won't create jobs, in a one-on-one debate this week in Iowa."
Gingrich has become one of the harshest critics of the Massachusetts plan as well as the plan signed into law by President Barack Obama, both of which included an individual mandate. He has called his previous support for Romney's plan a "mistake" and warned against the potential for an overreach of government.
"In retrospect we were wrong because what happens, once you go to a mandate, you have turned so much power over to the government that the politicians rather than the doctors end up defining health care," Gingrich told CNN's Wolf Blitzer earlier in December. "So it was a mistake."
Gingrich has also used the plan, passed in 2006, as a major point of contention against Romney throughout his bid for the GOP nomination.
"Your plan essentially is one more big government, bureaucratic, high-cost system," Gingrich said in October during the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas. "There is a lot of big government behind 'Romneycare,' not as much as 'Obamacare,' but a heck of a lot more than your campaign is admitting."
However, as recently as May 2011 Gingrich left the door open to backing "some requirement" for health insurance.
"I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay, help pay for health care," Gingrich said in May on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I've said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond."
Romney weighed in on the controversy during a campaign appearance in New Hampshire Tuesday morning.
"I'm familiar with the fact that he has supported individual mandates in the past and was supportive, generally, of the plan in Massachusetts," Romney said at a campaign stop in Londonderry, New Hampshire. "And he's changed his views in the election year."
Romney's comments follow increased criticism about his record from Team Gingrich, who circulated an email Monday hitting Romney's conservative credentials.
An email "fact sheet" from the former House speaker's campaign Monday night took issue with Romney's latest campaign ad titled "Conservative Agenda," labeling him "Mitt the Massachusetts Moderate."
Gingrich's Communications Director Joe DeSantis pointed to "moderate" proposals and statements Romney made while governor of Massachusetts, including criticism of the Republican "Contract with America," drafted by Gingrich, as well as his past support for universal health insurance and abortion rights.
Gingrich vowed to refrain from negative campaigning earlier in the month after a back-and-forth with Romney over their personal wealth, but he reserved the right to defend his record and respond to direct attacks.
At the time, Romney called for Gingrich to return the money he made while working for mortgage giant Freddie Mac and Gingrich called for Romney to return the money he made from failed ventures while at the helm of Bain Capital.
Since then, Gingrich has largely refrained from outwardly hitting Romney, but he has taken issue with ad spending from the superPAC that supports Romney, which has repeatedly hit Gingrich on the airwaves in early voting states. Romney has said he has no power over the group, as federal law demands.
However, at a campaign event Friday in South Carolina, Gingrich not so subtly critiqued Romney's record, while simultaneously insisting he would remain positive.
"The strongest thing I'll say about Gov. Romney is that he is a Massachusetts moderate trying to come down and pretend to be a conservative," Gingrich said. "But I'm not going to say anything stronger than that. I'm going to focus on positive things. And frankly, I actually think that kind of says it all, so I don't think we have to spend a lot of time being negative."
- CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.