Republican Candidates’ Issues

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - January 02, 2008

So, finally, some votes will be counted. In Iowa, corn-growing, hog-raising, meat-packing Iowa.

Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, after what seems like years rather than months of fund-raising, debating, speechifying and polling, will find out whether anyone’s buying their brands of bread.

I’ve written about one of the Democratic contenders in this week’s cover story. Herewith some handicapping of the Republicans:

There are some good, experienced men in the GOP presidential field. But it’s difficult to discern them amidst the distractions, namely the never-ending discussions of immigration policy and theology.

Consider immigration. No poll that I’ve read puts immigration high among Americans’ list of concerns. Healthcare, Iraq and the economy lead them all by a considerable margin. But one Republican presidential candidate - a little-known Colorado congressman named Tom Tancredo - succeeded in making it the hot-button issue in debates held this past year. (Tancredo dropped out of the race Dec. 20 and endorsed the candidacy of Mitt Romney.)

With the exception of Arizona Sen. John McCain, Republican presidential hopefuls have followed Tancredo’s lead, attempting to outdo one another in their promises to build a higher fence, return illegal aliens faster and treat their children worse.

Or theology. At a May debate among 10 or so GOP presidential candidates, the moderator asked if any of them did not believe in evolution. Three raised their hands.

More recently, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney felt compelled to defend his Mormon faith against the fundamentalist charge that it was a cult rather than Christianity.

Huh? What’s that got to do with healthcare, the Iraq war or the economy? Mitt Romney has proven he can run a diverse state, that he can deal with healthcare concerns and that he understands economic issues (How else did he get so rich?)

If you want to disagree with Romney on the Iraq war, fine. He supports Bush’s policy, but so too do all the other Republicans, save Ron Paul, who’s never run a diverse state but - as a physician - probably has some interesting thoughts on healthcare.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee may trump the Republican field in Iowa with the theology card. Before politics, he was a pastor. He doesn’t believe in evolution, but he does support education - even to the extent of granting Arkansas scholarship aide to the children of illegal aliens. The Republican high fence builders have criticized him at length for that.

But he’s proud of his Christian faith and advertises it. Perhaps he should. Huckabee comes off as the nicest, most-reasonable guy in the Republican field. If being a Christian has something to do with that, Hear! Hear! for Huckabee’s faith.

Then there’s Rudy Giuliani, Mr. 9/11. He talks too much about terrorism; that may be a concern with folks, but terrorism was more a photo op for Giuliani than a strength. His strength lies in his extraordinary accomplishments as mayor of New York. He cleaned it up; he policed it; he made New York City shine again.

Don’t get me wrong. Giuliani is not a nice guy. Many New Yorkers had only two words for Giuliani on his departure: “Good riddance!” (Maybe two others that are unsuitable for a family publication.) But he managed the most diverse city in the United States very, very well, and that’s why he should be taken seriously.

As should John McCain, whose poll numbers in both Iowa and New Hampshire have been rising from the depths in recent weeks. He’s getting a second look, largely from Republicans unhappy by theological debates or big fence building. McCain’s strength is his steadfastness: on campaign finance reform, the Iraq war (whether you agree with him or not), on immigration reform. He’s not going to reconfigure himself (as, say, Romney seems so willing to do), and he will work with the opposition.

Then there’s former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, who got into the race late and may start running some day soon.

And Ron Paul. Paul is a Texas congressman and a Libertarian. He doesn’t want the federal government to do much of anything, and he would get rid of the Internal Revenue Service - which may explain why he’s raised a record amount of money of late.

‘Nuff said. Let’s see what Iowans have to say about them all.

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