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FACTBOX-Key issues for possible Republican candidates in 2012

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 19 Jul 2011 18:47 GMT
Author: Reuters
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July 19 (Reuters) - U.S. Republican presidential candidates, including front-runner Mitt Romney, have pledged to close the federal deficit by cutting and capping spending and pressing for a balanced-budget amendment.

Here is a list of Republican White House hopefuls, including declared and undeclared candidates, along with their main policy issues.

MITT ROMNEY

The former Massachusetts governor has climbed to the top of the Republican heap and has blasted Obama's performance on unemployment.

But on the financial question of the hour -- whether to raise the debt ceiling -- Romney has been less than outspoken. He has avoided wading into the debate in Washington other than to call on Obama to accept Republican calls for spending cuts without taxes.

Despite positioning himself as the jobs candidate, Romney's business-oriented world view could be a double-edged sword. As chief executive of the private equity firm Bain Capital, he oversaw hundreds of job cuts.

President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul, despised by many Republican voters, also presents a challenge for Romney. As governor, he signed a similar reform that expanded health coverage in Massachusetts.

As a one-time moderate who has embraced conservatism, he is vulnerable to the same "flip-flopper" label that dogged his unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign.

He broke with Republican orthodoxy on the climate change issue by saying that global warming is real, that the human species is contributing to it and that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced.

MICHELE BACHMANN

The fiery congresswoman from Minnesota, who is riding a surge of popularity among Republican voters, has signed the cut, cap and balance pledge.

However, Bachmann says the pledge is only a step in the right direction, saying she also wanted it to defund the healthcare reform law. "I want it to go a little further, because I also think it needs to defund Obamacare," she said.

Bachmann bears a strong political likeness to Sarah Palin, the other conservative woman in Republican presidential circles. Both are outspoken fiscal hawks, Tea Party leaders and prone to gaffes that have raised doubts about their ability to win a general election contest against Obama.

But Bachmann has a stronger policy background. The 55-year-old former tax lawyer founded the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives.

Bachmann has a way of combining policy spheres. She describes the debt problem as also the biggest U.S. national security threat and equates fiscal and social conservatism.

She has also been critical of Obama's call for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to use the Jewish state's pre-1967 borders as a starting point, saying in an ad that the president has "betrayed Israel."

RICK PERRY

The Texas governor has not declared his candidacy but speculation has been rife that he could shake up the Republican field by jumping in as an alternative candidate for conservative voters who are wary of Romney.

Perry has cast-iron conservative positions on social issues including opposition to abortion and gay marriage. He boasts a track record as governor for creating jobs and keeping taxes low. And he is a proven election winner as the longest serving governor in Texas history, with strong support from the Tea Party movement.

But the cowboy boot-sporting 61-year-old could also face a roadblock in the form of previous Governor George W. Bush.

Analysts say Americans may not rush to hold open the Oval Office door to another conservative governor from Texas so soon after Bush, whose policies have become unpopular with many.

Perry might also have to answer questions about remarks he made in 2009 in which he seemed to suggest that Texas could secede from the United States.

TIM PAWLENTY

Pawlenty, who has also signed the debt pledge, is credited with tackling a ${esc.dollar}4.3 billion deficit without raising taxes while Minnesota governor, although Democrats complain he just patched over budget holes.

Pawlenty has worked to increase his presidential profile by pledging to tell voters hard truths about Medicare and Social Security cuts while taking up the potentially risky position of opposing ethanol subsidies in the corn state of Iowa.

Pawlenty has vowed to grow the U.S. economy by an ambitious 5 percent annually through generous tax cuts, aggressive spending reductions and deregulation. But after economists raised doubts about the growth target, he called it only an "aspirational" goal.

Pawlenty has apologized for the "mistake" of once supporting a regional cap-and-trade scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A lack of foreign policy experience could hinder him. But he accused Obama of a timid response to the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East.

SARAH PALIN

Palin remains one of the Republican Party's leading celebrities but has held back from plunging into presidential politics, saying a decision on her future will come in August or September.

Analysts say she can afford a late start in the campaign because of her powerful name recognition.

The former Alaska governor, who converted her status as the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee into media celebrity, withdrew from the political spotlight after missteps following the January assassination attempt on Democratic Representatives Gabrielle Giffords.

Palin reemerged in the public spotlight in April. By last week, she had resumed her trademark gun-toting rhetoric, urging conservatives in Congress not to back down from the debt ceiling debate. "Now is not the time to retreat, it's the time to reload," she said in an interview.

Her political future is clouded by questions about her qualifications for national office and poll numbers show high unfavorable ratings.

JON HUNTSMAN

The former Utah governor favors the legalization of same-sex unions, a position bound to alienate social conservatives in states like Iowa.

The White House has played up his role as ambassador to China in the Obama administration by saying Huntsman supported Obama's domestic agenda, including healthcare reform.

Huntsman says his diplomatic role was about serving his country, not serving Obama.

He is not among the Republican candidates who signed the cut, cap and balance pledge. He says the United States should pressure China to allow its yuan currency to revalue.

Huntsman says he would not have intervened in Libya.

NEWT GINGRICH

The former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has failed so far to overcome a series of implosions that have hurt his campaign, despite a concerted effort to showcase conservative economic policies that call for a balanced budget as well as cuts in spending and corporate tax rates.

The Gingrich campaign suffered a mass exodus of senior staff who questioned the Georgia Republican's commitment to campaigning.

The missteps are costly for Gingrich, who was already facing challenges on social and moral issues. He is married to his third wife, with whom he had an affair while he was married to his second wife.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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