Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich's $500,000 jewellery bill

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The US Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has come under attack from fellow conservatives over his views on healthcare and a reported $500,000 jewellery bill.

The former speaker of the House of Representatives ran foul of some conservatives for daring to suggest that a budget blueprint proposed by Republican congressman Paul Ryan might go too far in overhauling the state Medicare system.

And in another distraction, the Politico news website reported that Mr Gingrich owed as much as $500,000 to the jewellery company Tiffany between 2005 and 2006. That revelation came in ethics disclosures made by Mr Gingrich's wife, Callista Gingrich.

Mr Gingrich launched his bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination only last week, hoping to take on President Barack Obama. He ran into trouble in a swing through Iowa on Monday, his first stop after an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press where he was asked about Mr Ryan's plan. "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," he replied.

The response was fast and furious from conservatives who see Mr Ryan as part of an up-and-coming generation of Republican leaders. The three times-married Mr Gingrich is already viewed with suspicion by some right-leaning Republicans.