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Who aims at the presidency?

Part II: The Republican presidential hopefuls

04.05.2007 · Mirela Isic

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John McCain

Senator John McCain is the most prominent supporter of the Iraq war. The 70-year-old son of an admiral made his candidacy for the presidential race public in the "Late Show with David Letterman". If he wins, McCain would be the oldest president the United States ever had and the first one not born in the United States. This may reduce his prospects in the primary election, because conservative Republican voters could see this fact as incompatible with their nationalistic understanding of the United States

The main obstacle, however, to having a real chance of winning the primary elections may be his debatable flip-flopping. Firstly, he lost the affection of the churches due to his lack of supporting them in the former decades. Today, the support of the churches is something John McCain would appreciate. For that reason, he reconciled with Jerry Falwell, the popular preacher of the "New Religious Right", after having been in conflict with him since the electoral campaign 2000. During that campaign, McCain had called Falwell "the agent of intolerance". Many people regarded McCain's recent conversion as flip-flopping. The same applies to the Christian community, which still distrusts McCain. But his disagreement with Falwell is not the only reason why John McCain’s statements are not credible. John McCain seems to be a big flip-flopper especially concerning issues most important to Republican voters: Sometimes he opposes the right for abortion, sometimes he is in its favor. For a long time, he resisted subsidies for farmers who produce bio-diesel fuel. Now, he favors them and makes climate protection a big target for his future policy goals. McCain was the driving force of the law to ban torture by the CIA, but again and again he reminds the government to show more resolve against the Islamic terrorists. Generally, his position on the Iraq war is indeed known to be the same as President Bush’s. Not only has McCain been a flip-flopper on several occasions, but also sometimes he is inconsistent contradicting himself. As a Vietnam veteran and war hero, he really believes in his position on Iraq, favoring the increase of troops since the beginning of the war. He was also one of the first to criticize Donald Rumsfeld as being the worst Secretary of Defense America ever had. But when Rumsfeld resigned last November, McCain made him a high compliment and thanked him for serving the American nation for long years. This event left the impression that John McCain’s word could not be relied upon.

Furthermore, besides all the political flip-flopping, John McCain had other trouble in the past as well, when he conducted risky transactions in the 1980s for a credit company, which eventually went bankrupt. Lastly, his seniority as well as his physical condition (he was medicated because of skin cancer in 1993) may be an obstacle on the way into the White House.

In conclusion, McCain's nomination for the presidential office will depend on three questions: Will he be able to dissipate doubts about his physical condition? Can he convince the base of the Republican Party of his political position? And finally, can he provide resoluteness in issues like national security, climate protection, ethical questions like abortion and same-sex marriage and, of course, zeal for the faith, all of which are essential for the Republican constituency? Gallup Polls from March 7, 2007, show that John McCain is second in Republican’s primary nomination preferences with 20% of the votes. His competitor Rudolph "Rudy" Giuliani seems to seize the opportunity better than McCain does.

Rudolph Giuliani

In these days, the real front-runner for the presidential race on the Republican side is Rudolph "Rudy" Giuliani, the former major of New York City. Surprisingly, Giuliani developed to the top choice among both moderate and conservative Republicans although there were a lot of doubts regarding his conservative credentials. In the Gallup Polls published on 7th of March 2007, Giuliani is on the way to win the race for the Presidential nomination, preferred by 44% of the Republican voters. In the beginning, his candidature was ill-omened. Rudy Giuliani is very liberal compared to the other Republican candidates. For example, his support for gay marriage and opposition to unrestrained possession of guns let Giuliani fade from the nomination spotlight. In addition, Rudy Giuliani has been married three times and he is a pro-choice campaigner. But Giuliani knows how the political show business works. He succeeded in improving his image in public by disagreeing with his own statements. This could have been misinterpreted as flip-flopping. In spite of that, it seems that the Republican voters believe in Giuliani's "conversion", most likely due to his abundant merits in his time as major of New York. These are powerful accomplishments that are the reason for Giuliani’s wide acceptance in the U.S. He has greatly decreased the crime rate in New York City with his "zero tolerance" strategy. New York City is now one of the cleanest and most secure cities in the United States. And his crisis management after 9/11 made of him a national hero and one of the most popular people in America.

Consequently, Giuliani continues to smooth away any difficulties by saying that carrying a handgun is part of the constitution and marriage should be between man and woman. According to this, he pledges that this was the position he always had. Rudy Giuliani is aware of the fact that the Republicans are a party where national security and fiscal policy counts and these issues are his highlights. By cutting taxes 23 times, limiting government, fighting for school choice, reforming welfare, cutting crime, and restoring order during his time as major of New York City, he proved his conservative credibilities. They should convince every conservative Republican voter of his competences in traditional Republican essentials, including the support of the Iraq war.

The next step for Giuliani is to show that his private life is authentic, reliable, and in accordance with what the Republican constituency expects it to be. Hillary Clinton and Obama Barack lead the way. Bill Clinton's current popularity with Americans could be promotional for both his wife Hillary and Barack Obama on their way to the Presidential nomination. And Barack Obama gladly talks about his marriage that now has lasted for 15 years. In this context, Giuliani’s third wife Judith seems to be his best advance (wo)man. While demonstrating their happy marriage, they work against all the rumors, which have been spread ahead of Giuliani’s candidacy for the presidential nomination, accusing Giuliani of being an adulterer. On the other hand, the policy elite who is supporting his presidential campaign also surrounds Rudy Giuliani. "If he’s the nominee, it’s very good for the Republicans" said Michael DuHaime, his campaign manager and a celebrity strategist who until recently was the Republican National Committee's political director. "There are not a lot of alternatives."

Mitt Romney

The only person who could really unite the conservative camp is the third Republican candidate: Mitt Romney. He could be the one with a positive charisma on the swing voters and at the same time conforming to the socio-political view of the Republican majority. First, he successfully organized the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002. A few months later, he was elected Governor of Massachusetts. Thereafter, Romney showed his conservative credentials by trying to prevent same-sex marriage and abortion rights, and to revive the death penalty. But he also showed liberal features when supporting a health care system together with the Democrats, which provide every citizen of Massachusetts's access to a health insurance. In the meantime, the New York Times published a letter where Romney claimed social equality for homosexual citizens as a key social concern. And, albeit opposed to abortion rights, he fights for woman's rights for self-determination. That could earn him the label of being opportunistic. Yet, this is not Romney's biggest problem. If he became the presidential nominee, he would be the first Mormon running for the presidency. The Mormon Church is indeed a church that believes in Jesus Christ. Most Catholics and Protestants nevertheless regard the Mormon Church as heretical. More than a third of the registered Republican voters in the U.S. in a poll conducted in summer 2006 said that they would not vote for a Mormon as President of the United States. At present, Romney can register minimal support of the Republican constituency. Only 8% of Republicans and Republican partisans would give him their votes for the Presidential nomination. Another reason could be Mitt Romney’s support of President Bush’s latest strategy to increase troops in Iraq, which is controversial even within his own party. But Romney’s prospects in the presidential race may become better or worse, depending on the future course of important domestic policy issues such as the national security question. He is the classical Republican candidate and this might prove advantageous considering the more controversial candidates like McCain and Giuliani. Today, the Republicans would appreciate more stability in national security issues. A person like Mitt Romney could be the one who offers the political harmony they seek for. And his affiliation to the church of Mormon finally may be the decisive point regarding the excessive fund-raising in the presidential race. The church of Mormon registers a lot of affluent members like the Marriott hotel dynasty who are potential spenders for Mitt Romney. Finally, the money could decide the presidential race.

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