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FACTBOX-U.S. Republicans vying to take on Obama in 2012

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 22 Nov 2011 02:00 PM
Author: Reuters
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Nov 22 (Reuters) - Republican U.S. presidential contenders meet in Washington on Tuesday for another debate in the race for their party's nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012.

Here is a look at the candidates:

MITT ROMNEY

Romney, 64, who lost the nomination to John McCain in 2008, has remained at or near the front of the pack among the Republican presidential hopefuls for most of the campaign. He has remained steady on about a quarter of the Republican vote in polls but the party's conservative vote is split, giving Romney front-runner status.

Romney, who co-founded private equity firm Bain Capital, has touted his business experience as a way to attack Obama's handling of the struggling U.S. economy. Critics say he was a corporate raider who cut jobs.

Romney stepped in to rescue the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City after the games were tarred by allegations of bribery by top officials and were far behind revenue benchmarks. He brought in a new management team and cut costs.

While favored by pro-business Republicans, Romney is viewed skeptically by some conservatives because he was governor of liberal Massachusetts and is a Mormon, a religion some evangelicals do not consider Christian.

Republicans have attacked him because of a healthcare plan he helped develop in Massachusetts that became a model for Obama's healthcare law. Romney defends the state law and attacks the federal version, which he has promised to repeal.

NEWT GINGRICH

Former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Gingrich, 68, was the main architect of the 1994 Republican congressional election victory and author of its "Contract with America" manifesto. He ended his 20-year congressional career after Republican losses in 1998 elections.

Gingrich has emerged as a viable competitor to Romney, who some Republicans see as too moderate. Despite allegations of questionable business ties, Gingrich's strong debate performances and controversies surrounding some of his rivals have helped him climb into the top tier in opinion polls.

The former representative for Georgia has come under fire for receiving up to ${esc.dollar}1.8 million in consulting fees from mortgage giant Freddie Mac and running a think tank that earned some ${esc.dollar}37 million from major healthcare companies and industry groups.

Gingrich also recently told Occupy Wall Street protesters, "Go get a job...Right after you take a bath."

HERMAN CAIN

A radio talk show host and businessman, the 65-year-old Cain was the former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza and chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's board of directors.

Cain's campaign has been mired in controversy after allegations that he sexually harassed women in the 1990s during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association. Two of four women alleging inappropriate behavior by Cain have publicly accused him. He has denied the accusations.

Boosted by strong debate performances and drawing attention for his "9-9-9" tax overhaul plan, Cain jumped to the top tier of Republican candidates in opinion polls and won support of many in the conservative Tea Party movement. But a widely circulated video of Cain struggling to answer a question on U.S. Libya has raised concerns over the former pizza chain executive's knowledge of world affairs.

Cain has never held elected office. His signature 9-9-9 plan would scrap existing U.S. tax codes for flat 9 percent corporate, income and sales taxes.

RICK PERRY

The three-term Texas governor, 61, has lagged in recent polls after shooting to the top of the field when he jumped into the nomination race in August.

Perry has been troubled by fumbling debate performances for much of his campaign. In the last Republican debate, he forgot the name of one of three government agencies he has pledged to eliminate if elected president.

A social and fiscal conservative, Perry has come under heavy fire from Republican rivals for relatively moderate immigration positions and an order that young girls in Texas be inoculated for a sexually transmitted virus.

Although he has never lost an election and is the longest serving governor in Texas history, his performance in debates has raised questions about whether he would stand a chance of defeating Obama next year and whether he has seriously considered some of his policies.

Still, Perry has proven himself a formidable fund-raiser, reaching ${esc.dollar}17 million for the third quarter.

RON PAUL

An anti-war congressman from Texas who ran unsuccessfully for the party's 2008 nomination, libertarian Paul, 76, has for years pushed many of the positions that are now part of the Tea Party platform. His calls for steep cuts in the U.S. deficit and the size of government have moved to the mainstream.

A forceful debater, Paul has a dedicated following, raising ${esc.dollar}8 million in the third quarter of 2011. He receives a steady support of 8 to 10 percent in national opinion polls, but has not broken through to the larger electorate.

MICHELE BACHMANN

Bachmann, 55, reached the top tier of Republican candidates after a strong performance in the first major debate in June. She has since fallen to single digits in opinion surveys.

The Minnesota congresswoman won the Iowa straw poll in August and is now focusing her campaign in the state, although her support there has dropped to 10 percent or below.

Known for strong religious views and uncompromising positions on financial issues, Bachmann is seen as having little appeal to moderate Republicans or independents.

RICK SANTORUM

Santorum, 53, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, made a name for himself opposing abortion rights and gay marriage while backing welfare reform. He has fought to enhance his profile in early voting states but remains far behind.

JON HUNTSMAN

Huntsman, 51, resigned in April as Obama's ambassador to China to plan his presidential run.

Like Romney, Huntsman is a Mormon. The former governor of Utah and member of a wealthy chemicals family is a moderate, and he has not won over the conservative voters who play a big role in the nominating process. He is near the bottom of many national polls.

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