Do the Right Thing

Republican presidential candidates

by by Emily Gogolak, Ashton Strait & Emma Whitford

illustration by by Emily Martin

What to consider as the race begins:
Wendy Schiller, US Politics expert and Professor at Brown, on the GOP

The GOP race for the presidential nomination for 2012 is wide open at this point in time. It appears that the Republican Party is currently choosing from familiar figures from the past (Gingrich, Romney) and newer faces (Michelle Bachmann, Donald Trump). But what is important is the issues that will become the focus of primary and caucus voters' attention next January. Will the Republican Party focus on Tea Party issues like the national debt, deficit, or more familiar social issues like gay marriage and abortion? Or will the Republican Party unite around a platform that calls for the repeal of ObamaCare even though that has already failed to pass the Congress?

Political scientists still argue over whether primary voters are sincere or strategic; in other words do they vote for their ideological or policy preferences, or do they vote for who they think can win the general election? President Obama has to be hoping that the Republicans nominate someone who is too far to the right to win the general election, or someone who is a lightning rod for controversy such as Palin, Gingrich, or Trump.

Just remember that most voters did not know who Bill Clinton was at the end of 1991, and they did not know much about Barack Obama in December 2007, so a strong contender could emerge in the GOP field that we do not know about yet.

Bobby Jindal (B’91)
STATUS: "I'm not being coy at all. I'm not running for president in 2012. Period. No if's, and's or but's, no caveats."
AGE: 39
BORN: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
LIVES: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
EXPERIENCE: Governor of Louisiana since 2007 (the youngest current one, the first Indian-American one)
PRO: Republicans would be able to make the case that they dislike Obama for his ideas, not because they're racist. Plus he's got a track record as Governor that's hard to criticize--35,000 new jobs, the largest income tax cut in Louisiana history.
CON: He reminds people of Kenneth Parcel from '30 Rock.' (See Facebook group 'Bobby Jindal is Kenneth the Page').
EXTRA: Graduated from Brown in 1991 with honors in biology and public policy. Was originally accepted as PLME. (Rhodes Scholar, too).

Tim Pawlenty
STATUS: Announced, March 21.
AGE: 50
BORN: St. Paul, Minnesota
LIVES: Eagan, Minnesota
EXPERIENCE: Second-term Governor of Minnesota
PROS: Lauded for his fiscal conservatism as governor. Midwestern roots would give him a boost in Iowa. T-Paw’s is considered a “common sense conservative” that would be able attract independents in the GE.
CONS: He's never had to raise money before.
According to "Meet T-Paw" on his official 2012 campaign website, "Tim has run the Twin Cities Marathon and is a fervent hockey fan. He plays in a regular pick up hockey game. Tim's ipod includes Bruce Springsteen and Kenny Chesney."

Michele Bachmann
STATUS: Announced, March 21.
AGE: 54
BORN: Waterloo, Iowa
LIVES: Stillwater, Minnesota
EXPERIENCE: Current US Rep. for Minnesota (the first Republican woman to represent the state in Congress).
PROS: Popular among Tea Party Activists. Proven $$ raiser. Her MN home base gives her great access her Iowan neighbors to the south.
CONS: Appeals to a small slice of the GOP electorate (i.e. the Tea Party strain), but can she broaden her appeal? Also is one of the few remaining global warming skeptics: “The science is on our side on this one, and the science indicates that human activity is not the cause of all this global warming. And that in fact, nature is the cause, with solar flares, etc.”
THE REPUBLICAN REVELATION: Bachmann grew up in a Democratic family, but says she didn’t become a Republican until her senior year at Winona State. It happened, she recently told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, when she was reading Gore Vidal's 1973 novel, Burr. "He was kind of mocking the Founding Fathers and…I just remember reading the book, putting it in my lap, looking out the window and thinking, 'You know what? I don't think I'm a Democrat. I must be a Republican.'"

John Bolton
STATUS: Not yet. “Yes, I am considering it."
AGE: 62
BORN: Baltimore, Maryland
LIVES: Bethesda, Maryland
EXPERIENCE: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, 2005-2006
PROS: Foreign policy powerhouse. GOP outsider.
CONS: The only 2012 GOP potential with direct ties to the Bush administration. Active NRA supporter.
Bush appointed him to his post at the UN, and some fear seeing the hawkish W in Bolton’s world policy platform:
“There is no such thing as the UN. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States,” he said.
Bolton is a GOP wildcard, and knows it. And, if he plays smartly, it might just be this outsider’s ticket through the primary.
"As I survey the situation, I think the Republican field is wide open. I don't think the party's anywhere close to a decision. And stranger things have happened. For example, inexperienced senators from Illinois have gotten presidential nominations."
Another thing Bolton has going for him: his mustache.

Herman Cain (calls himself "The Hermanator")
STATUS: Announced, September 24.
AGE: 65
BORN: Memphis, TN
LIVES: Atlanta, GA
EXPERIENCE: CEO of Godfather's Pizza Chain
Mathematician for Dept. of Navy
Chairman of FED in Kansas City
PROS: Business smarts, numbers savvy, grass-roots political game, says it like it is.
CONS: No political experience, says it like it is.
"ABC": At the CPAC, Cain talked about his role as an African American in a party that has been accused by liberals as being racist:
"I’m an American Black Conservative – an ABC — and I’m proud of it. And because I’ve been affiliated with the conservative movement, and had the audacity to go on talk radio and do a talk show, and promote conservative principles, I’ve been called a racist too. Go figure. I won’t stay on the Democrat plantation like I’m supposed to."
EARLY TO THE CAMPAIGN PARTY, BUT LATE TO POLITICS: He didn't get his first taste for politics until 1994. While still CEO of Godfather's Pizza, he went to a townhall meeting where Bill Clinton was trying to gain support for his flailing health-care plan. Cain challenged the President’s claim that restaurateurs would bear only a marginal new cost – and when Clinton objected, Cain wouldn't have it. He got home, ran the numbers, and the The Wall Street Journal published his findings. After Clinton’s plan collapsed, Newsweek called Cain one of its key “saboteurs.”
GROUND-UP: He founded the grassroots "Hermanator's Intelligent Thinkers Movement," aimed at organizing 100,000 supporters in every US congressional district in favor of a strong national defense. New members can join on Facebook.
Can this wildcard's gusto and grassroots game leave the mainstream candidates in the dust?
P.S. Catch the eponymous "Herman Cain Show" (which he dubs "The Hermanator Experience") on weeknights from 7 to 10, streamed online from WSB Atlanta to

Donald Trump
STATUS: Not yet.
AGE: 64
BORN: Queens, NY
LIVES: New York, NY
Experience: Chairman and CEO of the Trump Organization
Real estate mogul-turned-reality TV show star
PROS: Super rich. Universally recognized. The ultimate outsider. Finding unconventional ways to use his last name in the campaign. Did we mention that he’s wealthy?
“Part of the beauty of me is that I'm very rich. So if I need $600 million, I can put $600 million myself. That's a huge advantage over the other candidates,” he told ABC News in March.
CONS: Flooding TV with ads will be easy, but what happens when Trump has to defend his views on political issues? And Trump, wooing voters, sweating in the August heat at the Iowa State Fair, a hotdog in one hand, Mrs. Trump (no. 3) in the other.
At first, many suspected that Trump's flirtations with the presidency were all for show (and revenue). But his recent outreach to the evangelical community and key officials in early voting states suggests that Trump's political aspirations are for real -- and he has the rabblerousing rhetoric to match. DT brought back an old far-right favorite this week: the question of President Obama's citizenship.
“Maybe I’m going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate … I’d love to give my tax returns. I may tie my tax returns into Obama’s birth certificate,” he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday.
The birther debate might Trump Donald’s credibility, or it could be just the thing to give him the Tea Party street cred he’s looking for.

Sarah Palin
STATUS: Not yet.
AGE: 46
BORN: Sandpoint, ID
LIVES: Wasilla, AK
EXPERIENCE: Former Governor of Alaska
GOP Vice Presidential candidate, 2008
PROS: Everyone knows her (and Todd and Bristol and Bristol's boyfriend and Bristol's baby). A campaign-trail veteran, and the golden girl of social conservatives and Tea Partiers. A solid grassroots fundraiser, and her ability to dominate "free" media will save her money where her opponents fall behind on paid advertisings.
CONS: Overexposed. Lacks organizational campaign structure. She's an icon (and maybe a MILF), but is she really that electable?
ALL-BUT DECLARED: "I don't think there needs to be a rush to get out there as a declared candidate. It's a life-changing decision," Palin told reporters in March. The same week, she made a tour of Israel and India. Rubbing elbows with the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu and Manmohan Singh, it looks like Palin has already made up her mind.
Dancing with the Stars at the Inaugural Ball? Potential partner swap: Todd and JLO vs. Sarah and Marc Anthony.

Willard "Mitt" Romney
STATUS: Announced, April 11.
AGE: 63
BORN: Detroit, MI
LIVES: Between Belmont, MA and San Diego, CA
EXPERIENCE: Former Governor of Massachusetts, 2006-2009
PROS: Big name, campaign experience, successful fundraiser, and major private-sector success.
CONS: Controversial health care plan he signed into law in Massachusetts. Mormon, and religion is predicated to be an obstacle to support from Evangelical primary voters. Flip-flopped from a pro-choice to pro-life platform.
"THAT WAS EASY": With economy still dragging, Romney's private sector experience is his key selling point. Before entering politics in 1994 (when he ran and lost to Sen. Ted Kennedy), he first made a name (and fortune) for himself at the consulting giant Bain & Company, eventually serving as its CEO. He then went on to lead the company's venture-capital practice, quickly making Bain Capital one nation’s largest and most profitable private equity firms. It was Romney who got Bain to invest in a little-known early-90s start-up called Staples Inc.
If Romney wants to win the second time around, he'll need to cut the flip-flopping and stick to his gut.
"He should wake up every day and tell himself he is not John McCain. He will never be a Tea Party favorite, and he shouldn’t sell his soul the way McCain did in 2008 to woo the Right. It won’t work, it’s not authentic, and he’ll hate himself in the morning,” Douglas Cohn wrote in the conservative Commentary magazine.
Stay true to yourself, Mitt (you might want to even consider going my Willard again).

Newt Gingrich
STATUS: Announced, March 3.
AGE: 67
BORN: Harrisburg, PN
LIVES: Washington, DC
EXPERIENCE: Speaker of the US House, 1995-1999.
Led the "Republican Revolution" in 1995 in the House, ending 40 years of Democratic majority.
PROS: Household name. An effective grassroots organizer and well liked across the party board. The GOP’s fallen revolutionary. An “ideas guy.”
CONS: Messy personal life, with mistresses and multiple divorces. He is celebrated as a thinker, but sharply criticized for his frenetic leadership style.
“He’s a guy of 1,000 ideas, and the attention span of a 1-year-old. His discipline and his attention to any individual thing is not his strong suit,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
POLITICAL RX: His platform ranges from strong national security to personal responsibility, but he's not a by-the-book Republican. On immigration he favors a strong border policy, but also is a supporter of a guest worker program and a flex-fuel mandate for US-sold cars.
"MY VOWS TO AMERICA": In an interview aired on Christian Broadcasting Network, Gingrich discussed his infidelity: "There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

Recent titles by the GOP potentials. Who wrote what?
1) To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine
2) A Simple Christmas
3) America by Heart
4) Think Like a Champion: An Informal Education in Business and Life
5) No Apology, Believe in America
6) They Think You're Stupid: Why Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do to Keep It
- - - -
1) Gingrich
2) Huckabee
3) Palin
4) Trump
5) Romney
6) Cain