Scott: First up is Michele Bachmann, the only woman in the field. She currently represents Minnesota’s sixth district in the U.S. House of Representatives. One position Bachmann has taken that is different from some of her colleagues: she would keep giving financial aid to Pakistan, even though many say that country has not been helping the U.S. go after terrorism suspects like Osama bin Laden.
Bachmann’s strengths include her ability to raise money. She is popular with evangelical voters since she supports a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. But her weakness is she is seen as too extreme for moderate voters. She has ignited controversy over remarks claiming the HPV vaccine causes mental disabilties. It does not.
Next, Newt Gingrich, the poll leader of the pack.
Gingrich is the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. He thinks illegal immigrants with deep family ties should be allowed to stay in the United States.
Gingrich’s strengths are his wealth of political experience, and his work helping to create the 1994 Contract with America, a list of reforms that Republicans promised they would enact if they won a majority in Congress.
His weaknesses include ethics violations he was charged with during his time as speaker. Plus some religious voters are concerned because he has been married three times.
Moving on to Jon Huntsman, who used to be the governor of Utah. Huntsman wants to open up global trade markets and expand trade routes for U.S. exports as a way to create more jobs and grow the economy.
Huntsman biggest strength is his strong grasp of foreign policy, working with foreign countries, especially compared to his fellow Republican candidates. Some Republicans might not like that he worked with President Obama, serving as the U.S. ambassador to China, a post he left in order to run for president. He supports same-sex unions, a cause that is unpopular among religious Republican voters.
Next is Ron Paul, who represents the fourteenth district of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Paul wants to severely limit the federal government’s reach and overhaul the U.S. banking and money system including abolishing the Federal Reserve and the IRS.
Paul is a doctor by training and is popular among college students and young Republicans. His strength lies in his consistency. He has been a critic of the war in Iraq from its start and has always voted against bailouts for big banks.
But his weakness is that even though his fan base is loyal, it is still small, perhaps because his views are so extreme. For example, Paul has said he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a landmark bill that outlawed discrimination against black people and women.
Next, Rick Perry. As governor of Texas, Perry is in charge of a large portion of the U.S.’s border with Mexico. Although he is against illegal immigration, he did sign a law allowing children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition and to become eligible for scholarships.
Perry’s strength is he was able to create jobs in Texas even while the country was in a recession. However, Perry is known for making public stumbles during his campaign, including mis-stating the voting age and date of the election.
He is often compared unfavorably to his predecessor in Texas, former President George W. Bush. He may have turned off older voters with his criticisms of social security, a government program that pays citizens after they retire.
Mitt Romney is the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, a state which usually elects Democrats. Romney wants to give states the right to control and overhaul their own healthcare systems, a position he took after President Obama signed the national healthcare plan.
Romney’s biggest advantage is that he is seen as most likely to beat President Obama in the general election because he is moderate. He also raises a lot of money. His weaknesses include changing positions on key issues and also for starting a popular healthcare plan in Massachusetts while he was governor, which is also a source of controversy as most Republican voters don’t like the idea of the government requiring people to buy medical insurance.
And our last candidate, Rick Santorum, who used to be a U.S. senator representing Pennsylvania. Santorum believes religion should be a part of public schools and attempted to sign into law the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in science classrooms. Intelligent design is a theory that contradicts evolution and brings a ‘creator’ into the explanation of the earth’s origins.
Rick Santorum has visited all 99 counties in the state of Iowa and is known for being a very religious conservative, appealing to evangelical voters. That could also be his weakeness, as he would be considered too extreme for moderate voters. He also does not have high name recognition.