Since House Republicans unveiled their budget plan, Democrats have focused much of their ire on the GOP’s plan to end Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher system. For Dems, this is a radical proposal that would needlessly hurt seniors.

Democrats have been pretty successful in convincing the American mainstream the Republican proposal is an awful idea. As it turns out, they appear to have also convinced Newt Gingrich.

Days after formally announcing his candidacy for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich on Sunday sharply criticized a plan by House Republicans that would drastically overhaul Medicare, the federal health care program for retirees.

Mr. Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who led a conservative resurgence in the 1990s, said the Republican Medicare plan was “too big a jump” for Americans and compared it to the health care overhaul championed by President Obama.

“I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change,” Mr. Gingrich said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.”

That’s not a typo. David Gregory asked about replacing Medicare with vouchers — the host used the GOP-preferred “premium support” euphemism — and whether Gingrich would support such an approach. The disgraced former House Speaker replied, “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.”

Oh, good. In 2011, Newt Gingrich is the voice of Republican moderation.

It’s worth noting, of course, that Gingrich’s opinions on the radical House GOP budget agenda appear to be, shall we say, evolving. Jay Newton-Small traveled with Gingrich in New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago, and asked about the Paul Ryan plan, which includes Medicare privatization. Asked if he’d vote for it were he still in Congress, Gingrich said, “Sure,” adding that he sees it as a positive “first step.”

Two weeks later, he sees that same plan as “radical” and “too big a jump.”

But maybe he’s seen the light and now realizes the error of his ways. Either way, the more interesting observation here appears to the larger context. Democrats have been hammering Republicans on Medicare, and probably didn’t expect high-profile GOP voices — in this case, even a presidential candidate — to endorse the Democratic line. And yet, that’s exactly what Gingrich did on national television yesterday.

Imagine being one of the vulnerable House Republicans who stuck his or her neck out, voting for the radical GOP budget plan and fearing a voter backlash. Then imagine that same Republican watching “Meet the Press” yesterday and seeing Newt Gingrich say 98% of the House GOP caucus went too far and overreached on Medicare.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.