Repub­li­can 2012 hope­fuls aton­ing for flaws on their re­sumes

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

The GOP pres­i­den­tial field is firm­ing up, and all the ma­jor White House hope­fuls have some­thing in com­mon be­sides a de­sire to de­feat Pres­i­dent Obama: Each has on his re­sume a vi­o­la­tion of con­ser­va­tive or­tho­doxy cer­tain to anger pri­mary vot­ers.

Whether it’s back­ing state health care, ap­prov­ing tax in­creases or sup­port­ing ini­tia­tives driven by cli­mate change, the top can­di­dates have bag­gage that will have some Repub­li­cans swal­low­ing hard in the vot­ing booth.

“Ev­ery can­di­date in the field has a ques­tion that has to be an­swered with the Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers, and how each of them an­swers that ques­tion that per­tains to them in the mind of vot­ers is go­ing to be very im­por­tant,” said GOP strate­gist Ed Gille­spie, a for­mer Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man. “That is part of the test­ing process. That’s part of what forges win­ning can­di­dates.”

The field is de­fined as much by who has passed on a run as by who is in or still con­sid­er­ing it.

In­di­ana Gov. Mitch Daniels an­nounced May 22 that he would forgo a bid, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Mis­sis­sippi Gov. Ha­ley Bar­bour, for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee, Rep. Mike Pence and bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man Don­ald Trump.

That leaves a field where it seems the big­ger the name, the more ques­tions there are.

Many Repub­li­can vot­ers want to know why for­mer House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who an­nounced his bid two weeks ago, crit­i­cized on na­tional TV the House GOP’s plan to re­shape Medi­care and why for­mer Utah Gov. Jon Hunts­man Jr., an­other po­ten­tial con­tender, was will­ing to rep­re­sent the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for nearly two years as U.S. am­bas­sador to China.

Mean­while, Mitt Rom­ney, who has formed an ex­ploratory com­mit­tee, is dogged by the uni­ver­sal health care pro­gram he signed into law as gov­er­nor of Mas­sachusetts, and Tim Paw­lenty, who of­fi­cially kicked off his cam­paign May 23, has been crit­i­cized for sup­port­ing a re­gional “cap-and-trade” pro­gram on green­house gases as gov­er­nor of Min­nesota.

Or­tho­doxy con­cerns dog oth­ers al­ready in the race or con­sid­er­ing a run, in­clud­ing the call by Rep. Ron Paul of Texas for re­trench­ment of troops in­volved in mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions over­seas and sup­port for states in­ter­ested in le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana; for­mer New Mex­ico Gov. Gary John­son’s pro­choice stand on abor­tion, al­beit with re­stric­tions; for­mer corpo- rate ex­ec­u­tive Her­man Cain’s lack of a po­lit­i­cal track record; and Rep. Michele Bach­mann’s habit of shoot­ing rhetor­i­cal bombs from the hip.

For­mer Vir­ginia Repub­li­can Party Chair­man Jef­frey Fred­er­ick said the crop of can­di­dates has left many grass-roots ac­tivists “want­ing for some­body who hasn’t come around yet.”

“No­body is ex­cited about any- body,” Mr. Fred­er­ick said. “They are still look­ing, and it’s pretty bad when there are plenty of can­di­dates out there to choose from.”

Mr. Gille­spie shrugged off the crit­i­cism of the field and said that who­ever the nom­i­nee is will be ca­pa­ble of de­feat­ing Mr. Obama.

“Ev­ery­body al­ways wants more choices, but I think the choices are be­fore us, and I think

Whether it’s back­ing state health care, ap­prov­ing tax in­creases or sup­port­ing ini­tia­tives driven by cli­mate change, the top can­di­dates have bag­gage that will have some Repub­li­cans swal­low­ing hard in the vot­ing booth. “Ev­ery can­di­date in the field has a ques­tion that has to be an­swered with the Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers, and how each of them an­swers that ques­tion that per­tains to them in the mind of vot­ers is go­ing to be very im­por­tant,” said GOP strate­gist Ed Gille­spie, a for­mer Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man. “That is part of the test­ing process. That’s part of what forges win­ning can­di­dates.”

the choices are good,” he said.

Mean­while, some of the can­di­dates have of­fered ex­pla­na­tions, even apolo­gies, in an at­tempt to di­min­ish the blem­ishes on their records that threaten to un­der­mine their 2012 can­di­da­cies.

For in­stance, Mr. Rom­ney de­liv­ered an en­tire speech May 12 de­signed to an­swer ques­tions about the uni­ver­sal health care law he signed as gov­er­nor of Mas­sachusetts, say­ing it was a con­sti­tu­tion­ally ac­cept­able pol­icy ex­per­i­ment by a state, while cast­ing Mr. Obama’s health care over­haul as an un­con­sti­tu­tional power grab by Wash­ing­ton.

Con­ser­va­tive pun­dits said the speech may have back­fired, with Mr. Rom­ney’s de­fense of the in­di­vid­ual man­date serv­ing chiefly to bol­ster Mr. Obama’s plan.

Mr. Gingrich has had to apol­o­gize pro­fusely for his crit­i­cism of House Repub­li­cans’ plans to over­haul Medi­care. He has gone so far as to say that his words shouldn’t be used in at­tack ads against the GOP. Un­de­terred by the warn­ing, Democrats have glee­fully re­peated the for­mer speaker’s at­tacks.

Mr. Paw­lenty has em­ployed a “no­body is per­fect” de­fense of his pre­vi­ous stance on cap-and­trade, telling au­di­ences and in­ter­view­ers that ev­ery­body run­ning or con­sid­er­ing a bid for pres­i­dent has “a few clunkers” on their records, and that his are fewer and less se­vere than most.

“If any­body is per­fect, come on up here and stand by this podium, be­cause we’d like that per­son to be run­ning for pres­i­dent,” Mr. Paw­lenty said at the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate in South Carolina.

Chris Cho­cola, pres­i­dent of the Club for Growth, said that “the term of the cam­paign may be ‘clunkers.’ “

“They all have clunkers,” the for­mer con­gress­man from In­di­ana said. “I guess the ques­tion is whether they own up to them or not, and whether they learn from them or not.”

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