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FACTBOX-Key issues for possible US Republican candidates in 2012

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 8 Jun 2011 19:54 GMT
Author: Reuters
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June 8 (Reuters) - Republican White House candidates and those still considering a run for president in 2012 each come with their own set of defining issues.

Here is a list of potential Republican candidates and their main policy issues as they consider whether to seek their party's nomination to challenge President Barack Obama.

MITT ROMNEY

The former Massachusetts governor would run a campaign on job creation and economic growth, drawing from his track record in business consulting and investment.

His business-oriented world view could be a double-edged sword. As chief executive of the private equity firm Bain Capital, Romney oversaw hundreds of job cuts and the shuttering of manufacturing plants.

Obama's healthcare overhaul, despised by many Republican voters, also presents Romney with a challenge. As governor, he signed a similar reform that expanded health coverage in Massachusetts through a system of subsidies and mandates.

Criticism over what some deride as "Romneycare" prompted the him to take the issue head-on in early May he vowed to make overturning Obama's reforms his first act as president.

Unlike Obama's reforms, Romney aides say the Massachusetts plan had bipartisan support, avoided tax hikes and limited its insurance mandate to a single state.

As a one-time moderate who has embraced conservatism, he would be 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.

"Bye bye, nomination," responded nationally syndicated talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who blasted Romney for believing in a global warming "hoax".

TIM PAWLENTY

Pawlenty 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.

As a presidential candidate, Pawlenty has worked to increase his national profile by pledging to tell voters the hard fiscal truths about Medicare and Social Security while at the same time taking up the potentially risky position of opposing ethanol subsidies in the corn state of Iowa.

Pawlenty has also cast himself as an economic optimist with proposals to grow the U.S. economy by an ambitious 5 percent annually through a mix of generous tax cuts to individuals and corporations, aggressive spending reductions and deregulation. But after economists raised doubts about the growth target, he appeared to backtrack, calling it an "aspirational" goal.

T-Paw, as he is known to supporters, has also aligned himself with House Republicans on reforming Medicare by pledging that as president he would sign Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's Medicare reform plan.

He is expected to unveil his own Medicare plan, which he says will offer Medicare recipients a broader menu of options including the choice of remaining in the current program.

Pawlenty has also had to account for past positions that are no longer popular in conservative circles. He 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.

NEWT GINGRICH

The former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives faces 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.

He professes strong religious beliefs but has perplexed anti-abortion activists by saying abortion should not be legal without calling it a crime.

On gay marriage, he favors a constitutional amendment "to protect the traditional family" but believes homosexual couples should have some legal rights.

Asked if he believed homosexuality to be a sin, Gingrich told one Christian conservative interviewer: "I think you have to. But I also believe that all of us are sinners."

Since declaring his candidacy in May, Gingrich has tried to turn attention to the economy and jobs by setting out a package of conservative policies including deep corporate tax cuts that he contends would raise employment.

But he just as quickly flew into new controversy after criticizing congressional Republicans' plans to overhaul the Medicare program as "right-wing social engineering." Gingrich apologized for his remarks amid a storm of criticism from fellow conservatives.

SARAH PALIN

Palin has not said whether she will run, but has a strong profile on staple conservative issues from balancing the budget and energy deregulation to gun-owner rights and abortion.

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 against Democratic Representatives Gabrielle Giffords.

Palin was widely criticized for using the anti-Semitic term "blood libel" in response to accusations that she should be blamed for the shooting after placing on her Facebook page the image of rifle cross-hairs over Giffords' congressional district as a 2010 campaign gimmick. Giffords is Jewish.

Palin kept a low profile for a time, but emerged again in mid-April to criticize establishment Republicans for compromising with Obama on a ${esc.dollar}38 billion spending cut. "That is not courage. That is capitulation," she said.

Her political future is clouded by questions about her qualifications for national office and poll numbers show high unfavorable ratings. A Quinnipiac University poll in May showed nearly 60 percent of Americans would never vote for her for president.

MICHELE BACHMANN

The fiery congresswoman from Minnesota bears a striking political resemblance to Palin. The only two women in the race, 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.

The first woman to represent Minnesota in Congress, the 55-year-old tax lawyer founded the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives after emerging as a movement leader in the 2010 congressional election campaign.

She has argued on cable television and before large crowds in her native Iowa for taking a hard line against raising the ${esc.dollar}14.3 trillion U.S. debt ceiling without steep cuts in federal spending to reduce the ${esc.dollar}1.4 trillion budget deficit.

Bachmann has a way of combining policy spheres. She says the debt problem is also the biggest U.S. national security threat and equates fiscal and social conservatism by contending that the economy benefits when society supports families based on the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman.

She has also been sharply 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."

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.

After leaving the ambassador's job, Huntsman addressed his diplomatic role in a commencement speech that encouraged University of South Carolina graduates to serve their country if asked to do so.

"I was, by a president of a different political party," Huntsman said. "But in the end, while we might not all be one party, we are all part of one nation, a nation that needs your generational gift of energy and confidence."

Huntsman has tried to distance himself from Obama's policies, telling ABC News during a campaign-style visit to New Hampshire that he would not have intervened in Libya. (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by David Lawder)

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