By Miriam Raftery
January 2, 2011 (San Diego's East County) – On the eve of Tuesday's Iowa Caucus, polls show the race could be close—with a number of candidates striving to win the Republican Presidential Primary election or prove viability with a strong showing.
All Republican contenders are conservatives who believe in smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation of businesses and corporations, rolling back environmental regulations, and outlawing or restricting abortions. Each has spoken out against President Obama’s healthcare reforms and all but one has indicated support for either privatizing or eliminating Social Security. (For detailed, nonpartisan comparisons of candidates’ stances on many issues, visit www.ontheissues.org.)
But there are key differences. Scroll down for the key qualifications and biographical highlights for each major contender in Iowa, as well as Jon Huntsman, a viable contender in the upcoming New Hampshire primary. Also included are standout statements which differentiate their stances from most competitors and key controversies.
Candidate: Michele Bachmann
Key qualifications: Congresswoman from Minnesota
Interesting biographical highlights: Chairs Tea Party Caucus in Congress, holds J.D. degree from Oral Roberts University and a tax degree from William and Mary School of Law. She is a mother of 5 and has been foster mother to 23 children. She and her husband co-own a Christian counseling service.
Standout positions: Supports eliminating minimum wage. Wants to phase out Medical and Social Security. Supports “mother of all repeal bills” to eliminate U.S. Department of Education. Calls for U.S. to stand up against Iran’s “genocidal mania.” Opposed Iraq troop surge measure. Introduced bill to repeal Dodd-Frank, the measure regulating financial institutions , but opposed bank bailout bills. Signed a no-new-taxes pledge, but did vote to increase cigarette taxes. Wants to change tax code “from the inside out.” Opposes U.S. involvement in “global economy” due to dependence on actions of other countries.
Controversies: Mental health advocates have criticized a clinic run by the Bachmanns for providing “therapy” to convert gays to become straight, a practice denied by Bachmann’s husband but confirmed by an undercover video. Bachmann took heat for accepting federal subsidies for her farm and business while calling for cuts in government spending. FactCheck.org has called out Bachmann for numerous false statements on the campaign trail. Recently, her Iowa campaign co-chair defected to endorse Ron Paul.
Candidate: Newt Gingrich
Key qualifications: Former Speaker of the House and former representative from Georgia
Interesting biographical highlights: Name “Man of the Year” by Time Magazine for his role in ending 40 years of majority control by the Democratic Party. Now works as a political consultant and chairs several conservative think tanks.
Standout positions: Supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, wants to cut federal spending in half and balance the budget, calls for repeal of the National Labor Relations Board and Environmental Protection Agency, supports repeal of child labor laws including allowing children to work as janitors in public schools, believes greatest danger to U.S. is rise of “radical Islam” without our nation.
Controversies: Resigned House amid ethics scandals and was fined for an ethics violation. He married three times had had a 7-year affair with his current wife while still married. Reportedly asked former wife for divorce while she was in the hospital for cancer surgery; a former aide claims Gingrich, who planned to run for President, said his then-wife was not attractive enough to be First Lady.
Candidate: Jon Huntsman, Jr.
Note: Huntsman is skipping the Iowa Caucus, pinning his hopes on winning New Hampshire.
Key qualifications: former Governor of Utah; Chair, Western Governors Association
Interesting biographical highlights: served in administrations of four U.S. presidents, including ambassador appointments by both Presidents Bush (to Singapore) and Obama (to China). He was also a White House assistant to President Ronald Reagan and Deputy Secretary of Congress under President George H.W. Bush. Served as CEO of his family’s Huntsman Corporation, a global chemical company. Like Romney, Huntsman is a Mormon, however he is married to an Episcopalian and has an adopted daughter who honors the Hindu tradition.
Standout positions: Believes global warming is man-made and is the only Republican who supports action to reverse climate change. Says it’s time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. Thinks border fence is “inconsistent with America’s image.” Supports traditional marriages but also civil unions. Would eliminate tax loopholes, make tax code flatter and simpler, but opposes taking pledges including on taxes.
Controversies: Huntsman receive high approval ratings from voters as Governor, up to 90%, but drew criticism from the conservative CATO Institute for a 10% per capita increase in spending during his tenure. He stirred up controversy when he tweeted, “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”
Candidate: Ron Paul
Key qualifications: Texas Congressman
Interesting biographical highlights: A former medical doctor who previously ran for President as a Libertarian, at 75 years old he would be the oldest person elected president should he win.
Standout positions: Paul wants to eliminate most government agencies, the federal reserve system, and federal income taxes. He believes government should not regulate education or healthcare and opposes the war on drugs. An isolationist on foreign policy, Paul called sanctions against Iran “an act of war” and believes Iran has a right to nuclear. He voted against the Iraq War and supports withdrawal from the United Nations. A civil libertarian, he opposed the Patriot Act. The former doctor also wants to see Roe v. Wade negated and believes abortion laws should be decided by each state.
Controversies: Newsletters under his name have made many statements through the years regarding blacks, Jews and homosexuals viewed by critics as bigoted; Paul has claimed he did not read the newsletters. Opposed the Civil Rights Act. He has called for a stop to U.S. military aide to Israel and indicated in a Nov. 22, 2011 CBS TV interview that Israel can "take care of itself."
Candidate: Rick Perry
Key qualifications: Governor of Texas
Interesting biographical highlights: Former Air Force captain, cotton farmer, and Texas Agricultural Commissioner
Standout positions: Supports a 20% flat tax. Believes federal government has failed to secure border and wants more boots on the ground, not a fence. Says “you don’t have a heart if you don’t educate immigrant kids.” Believes it was “unprincipled” to create Dept. of Homeland Security. Would protect the unborn via a “sonogram requirement.” Criticizes “job killing” Environmental Protection Agency. Plans to eliminate federal departments of Commerce, Education, and Energy.
Controversies: Perry has faced allegations of corruption and cronyism as Governor, including questionable dealings with coal companies from which he personally profited. Texas has the highest carbon dioxide admissions in the nation under leadership of Perry, who appointed industry polluters to key environmental watchdog posts and cut clean air regulations.
Candidate: Mitt Romney
Key qualifications: former Governor of Massachusetts
Interesting biographical highlights: Holds both a law degree and master’s in business administration from Harvard University; former CEO of Bain Capital, the nation’s largest private equity firm. Romney recently bought a vacation home at La Jolla, raising the prospect of a western White House right here in San Diego County.
Standout positions: Would veto the Dream Act; supports alien employment cards but not amnesty; supports border wall. Wants to raise retirement age for Social Security, but not eliminate program. Calls for a 4% increase in Defense budget. Supports withdrawal from Afghanistan and sanctions on Iran.
Controversies: His top 20 contributors are big banks, leading to allegations that financial institutions are attempting to buy the election. Romney has flip-flopped on several issues. He stated climate change is man-made, but recently said he’s not sure what’s causing it; he used to be pro-choice but now says he’s “proudly pro-life”; He supported healthcare mandates as Governor but now says he would repeal mandates in Obamacare and leave healthcare up to the states.
Candidate: Rick Santorum
Key qualifications: former Senator from Pennsylvania
Interesting biographical highlights: Since leaving Congress, he has worked as a lawyer, conservative think tank member and Fox News commentator and has strong Evangelical support
Standout positions: A staunch Catholic, Santorum says he does not believe a right to privacy exists under the Constitution even within marriage; he has criticized a Supreme Court decision legalizing birth control and opposes homosexuality. He supports completion of the border fence and opposes amnesty. He does not believe in global warming and supports a policy of “drill everywhere” for oil.
Controversies: Santorum says he opposes abortion even for rape, incest, or when a mother’s life is in danger. But when his own wife’s life was in danger due to a pregnancy, she terminated the pregnancy at 20 weeks. Santorum has been caught fibbing to cover up his involvement in the K-Street Project involved in a lobbying scandal. He drew heat for remarks on gays and for likening Catholic priests’ sexual abuse of children to homosexuality. When he criticized working mothers, Sarah Palin called him a “knuckle-dragging Neanderthal.”