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Former U.S. Speaker Newt Gingrich has been a consistent supporter of an individual mandate requiring the purchase of health care coverage – although he has hypocritically criticized former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for his costly efforts to impose just such a mandate in the Bay State.

Now, however – a week before the first votes are cast in the 2012 Iowa Caucuses – an old newsletter from Gingrich’s Atlanta-based Center for Health Transformation reveals his strong support for Romneycare.

The newsletter – an April 2006 edition of “Newt Notes” – was unearthed by reporters Brody Mullins and Janet Adamy of The Wall Street Journal.

“The most exciting development of the past few weeks is what has been happening up in Massachusetts,” newsletter notes. “The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system.”

The newsletter – which has since been removed from the organization’s website – also specifically reiterates Gingrich’s support for the individual mandate, which he had the audacity to refer to as the “conservative position” during the 1993 debate over former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s health care efforts.

“The individual mandate requires those who earn enough to afford insurance to purchase coverage, and subsidies will be made available to those individuals who cannot afford insurance on their own,” the newsletter continues. “We agree strongly with this principle.”

Ouch …

Aside from the dubious constitutionality of the individual mandate, “Romneycare” has been an unambiguous failure economically – costing the Bay State 18,000 jobs and driving up the cost of health insurance by an estimated $4.3 billion. Additionally, fraud in the system has been rampant, physician wait times have increased and the program is expected to exceed its original cost estimates by more than $2 billion over the coming decade.

Nonetheless, the program served as the model for U.S. President Barack Obama’s socialized medicine monstrosity – which both Romney and Gingrich claim to oppose.

Dizzy yet?

“Newt previously supported a mandate for health insurance and changed his mind after seeing its effects,” a Gingrich spokesman told the AP in response to the memo being made public.

Maybe so … but the fact that this document was scrubbed from the center’s website clearly shows that Gingrich didn’t want it ever seeing the light of day.

As scrutiny of Gingrich’s record (click here, here, here, and here) has intensified in recent weeks, his frontrunner status has been evaporating.

In Iowa, three polls taken a week before Christmas show Gingrich’s support has been cut in half from is early-December peak. He’s also slipping in New Hampshire and South Carolina, although he still enjoys a comfortable lead in the “First in the South” primary.

Frankly, we’re amazed Gingrich ever got a bump at all. In June, his campaign was as good as dead in the wake of plummeting poll numbers, a cash crunch and mass staff resignations – all of which stemmed from his critique of a middle-of-the-road GOP budget-cutting proposal as too much of a “radical change” for him.

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich said, neglecting to mention that he previously supported the proposals in lieu of more aggressive cuts.

Pic: via Daylife