Newt Gingrich calls himself an 'outsider': Will voters agree? (VIDEO)

After getting hammered by Republicans for criticizing Paul Ryan's Medicare-reform plan, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says the controversy shows he's a Washington outsider.

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Former House Speaker and current presidential candidate Newt Gingrich at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, on May 23.

Coming off a week when he was hammered by members of his own party for criticizing GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan, former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich sought to frame the critical response as a sign that he is a Washington outsider.

Speaking at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters, Mr. Gingrich said, “I can’t thank the Washington press corps enough for the last week. It is impossible to have watched television for the last week and not get the conclusion I am definitely not the candidate of the Washington insiders.”

The questioner, Sam Stein of The Huffington Post, noted that Gingrich was making his 36th visit at the Monitor Breakfast forum since 1985. Mr. Stein wondered how, given that, he could consider himself an outsider.

“Everywhere I go across Iowa, everywhere I see people randomly, they have figured out I am the guy who wants to change Washington and they can tell it because the people they see on TV from Washington aren’t happy with me," Gingrich said.

“And the fact is, if you look at my platform, I will clearly be the most change-oriented, the most fundamental reform candidate in this race,” he added

Earlier in the session with some 30 political reporters, Gingrich argued that, “I am not a Washington figure – despite the years I have been here. I am essentially an American whose ties are across the country and whose interest is: How do you change Washington, not how do you make Washington happy.”

Gingrich's skill at not making Washington happy was on full display last week, as he apologized for comments – made May 15 on NBC’s “Meet the Press” – that angered his fellow Republicans.

Asked about the Medicare reform aspects of the House Republican budget plan, Gingrich told host David Gregory, “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

Representative Ryan’s Medicare reform plan, passed by the House, would provide replace Medicare with government-subsidized private insurance for those under age 55.

When asked at breakfast whether he was on Medicare, the former speaker answered with a smile, “Yeah, I am over 65. So, by the way, I have a deep concern about what anybody is going to do to my Medicare.”

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