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Primary Reasoning

Metroland’s round-up of the presidential candidates—where they stand on the issues, who gives them their money, and why anyone should vote for them

By Chet Hardin and David King

 

Democrats

Barack Obama

Senator from Illinois

Experience

Obama was an Illinois state senator from 1997 to 2004. He is currently in his first term as a United States Senator. Before taking any office, Obama worked as a community organizer and used his Harvard law degree in discrimination and voting-rights cases.

On the Issues

Obama has strongly advocated strengthening the financial safety net for America’s working class by increasing government programs to assist them. He has proposed a tax plan that would eliminate taxes for the elderly. Obama has put forward a 16-month withdrawal plan for Iraq; according to his plan, each month a brigade would return home.

Beholden to

Obama has received large donations from the Exelon Corporation, the country’s largest nuclear-plant operator. He has also received large donations from the banking and investment sector, including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley. The largest block of donors to Obama’s campaign consists of lawyers and law firms.

The Polls Say

Obama is currently trailing Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) in national polls; however, his recent win in Iowa could lead to a surge in upcoming primaries as well as in national polling.

Electability

Some have predicted that Obama will have a hard time being universally appealing because of his race. Opponents of Obama on both the left and the right have tried to falsely associate him with Muslim interests, but judging by the Iowa Democratic caucus, which Obama dominated handily, he can overcome any hang-ups voters might have about him. However, even in the most liberal states, racism remains a large hurdle for Obama to overcome. Obama has been hailed by conservative pundit George Will as the only adult in the race, from either party.

What His Presidency Would Look Like

Obama promises a “transformation” with his first day in office. While Obama’s social programs are a little more far-reaching and progressive than that of Sen. Clinton or former Sen. Edwards, his stance on foreign policy seems fairly in line with that of his Democratic opponents; Obama advocates diplomacy, but does not rule out military action against countries like Iran and Pakistan.

 

Hillary Clinton

Senator from New York and former first lady

Experience

Clinton has served a little over one term as senator from New York. Prior to her run for the U.S. Senate seat, Clinton served as first lady of Arkansas for more than a decade and spent two terms as first lady in the White House. Clinton was, notoriously, tasked with coming up with a national health-care plan, but that failed to make it through Congress.

On the Issues

During the early part of her time in the Senate, Clinton supported the foreign policy of the Bush administration and voted to authorize the Iraq war. Since public opinion has swayed against the war, Clinton has been critical of the Bush administration’s tactics in Iraq.

Beholden to

Clinton’s largest corporate donors include financial giants DLA Piper, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Other large donors include Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., as well as a number of influential media giants.

The Polls Say

Clinton is still in the lead nationally, and her upset victory in New Hampshire puts her back at the head of the pack.

Electability

Clinton is undeniably one of the most divisive figures in modern politics. With her husband’s legacy always at her back (as well at most times her husband), Clinton has struggled to find her own identity. Clinton comes off at times as starchy and strict, other times as unable to fill the vacuum of the rooms she speaks in. Clinton has struggled to slag Obama rather than form her own message. Before a crowd in New Hampshire recently, she accused Obama of “raising false hopes in our country about what can be delivered.”

What Her Presidency Would Look Like

It would be easy to surmise that a Hillary Clinton presidency would look like much like her husband’s but without all that exciting affair/scandal stuff. More likely it would be similar to Bill’s presidency in that Clinton would sway with public opinion in a very centrist direction. Her time in the Senate and refusal to be pegged on many issues is a good indicator.

 

John Edwards

Former senator from North Carolina

Experience

Edwards was a trial lawyer before serving a six-year term representing North Carolina in the U.S. Senate. Edwards was nominated as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 2004, and ran an unsuccessful campaign with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Edwards has effectively been campaigning for his party’s nomination in 2008 since his loss in 2004.

On the Issues

Originally rather hawkish regarding the Iraq war, Edwards cosponsored a bill with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) in 2002 that would have authorized war with Iraq. That bill never came to a vote, but Edwards did vote for the resolution that eventually authorized the war. Edwards has since defended his vote, saying he made the decision on the information he had at the time. Edwards has run his campaign on a rather populist platform, advocating universal health care, eliminating poverty and fighting global warming.

Beholden to

Although Edwards’ largest donor base comes from law firms and lawyers, his second largest group of donors is Democratic PACs and retired people. Republicans have criticized Edwards for being indebted to trial lawyers.

The Polls Say

Edwards has maintained a fairly steady third-place showing in most national polls, but as Obama has gained ground on Clinton, his numbers have tended to slip.

Electability

Edwards has been steadily campaigning since his failed run in 2004, and, as the standard Southern white male, Edwards was thought to stand a chance to upset Clinton and Obama because he fits the demographic mold of the last two Democratic presidents. However, Edwards has alienated himself from centrist Democrats by steadily growing more aggressive, vowing to fight corporate interests and even gaining the endorsement of Ralph Nader.

What His Presidency Would Look Like

Promising a New Deal-like package of reforms and programs, if he delivers, an Edwards’ presidency might be the most progressive of all the candidates. Edwards has pledged to fund universal kindergarten and raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, and has said he would create matching savings accounts for low-income citizens. Edwards has also admitted he would likely raise taxes.

 

Bill Richardson

Governor of New Mexico, former congressman and ambassador to the United Nations

Experience

Having served for 14 years in Congress, as secretary of energy under President Bill Clinton, and as ambassador to the United Nations, in addition to his nearly six years as governor of New Mexico, Richardson is the most experienced politician running for the Democratic nomination.

On the Issues

Richardson advocates pulling all troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. Like a number of his fellow candidates, Richardson advocates using more diplomacy in tandem with the military to fight terrorism. Richardson has been lauded for successfully expanding access to health care for children and balancing the state budget as governor.

Beholden to

Richardson’s largest donations have come from employees of the State of New Mexico and the University of New Mexico along with Democratic PACs.

The Polls Say

In October, Comedy Central faux pundit Stephen Colbert, who briefly tossed his hat into the presidential arena in South Carolina, was polling ahead of Richardson. Richardson, however, has picked up steam since then and has steadily placed fourth behind Edwards.

Electability

Although Richardson has more political experience than the three candidates who are ahead in the polls, he has had difficulty selling it.

What His Presidency Would Look Like

Richardson could be a wise, fair-handed president who excels at foreign policy, and would be fiscally responsible. So he most likely will not be elected.

 

Dennis Kucinich

Ohio congressman and former mayor of Cleveland

Experience

Kucinich served three years as mayor of Cleveland and 10 years in Congress. Kucinich ran an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2004.

On the Issues

Kucinich is staunchly opposed to the war in Iraq and has consistently voted against funding the war. Kucinich would like to withdraw from NAFTA and advocates universal health care.

Beholden to

The largest block of donors to the Kucinich campaign are individuals. He has also received a great amount of funding from labor PACs.

The Polls Say

Nothing Kucinich would like to hear.

Electability

Although Kucinich has a proven progressive record, he also has a few quirks . . . like his claims to have seen a UFO.

What His Presidency Would Look Like

Flying pigs take to the sky as we all celebrate on the Good Ship Lollypop.

 

 

Republicans

Rudy Giuliani

Former mayor of New York City

Experience

He began his public career in the office of the United States attorney and worked his way up the justice system to be appointed associate attorney general by President Ronald Reagan. He also served as the United States attorney for the Southern District. He served two terms as mayor of New York City.

On the Issues

He breaks with the traditional Republican stance on abortion and gun control, citing strict gun legislation in New York City as one of the major factors in reducing crime while he was mayor. An apparent neoconservative in foreign-policy matters, he takes every opportunity to ape the Bush administration’s rhetoric about the global war against terrorism and the need to maintain, and enhance, the current aggressions; he has named a former Bush speech writer, David Frum, and Norman Podhertz, both of whom advocate the bombing of Iran, as his foreign policy advisers.

Beholden to

Securities and investment firms top Giuliani’s donor list, having contributed $4.5 million, with lawyers and law firms coming in second with $3.2 million, and the retired trailing with $3.1 million.

Electability

9/11. He is America’s mayor. Those images of him standing atop the rubble of the Twin Towers were seared into everyone’s TV screens for months and years. And the chances are, if you are talking to him, or listening to him speak, the subject will come up. 9/11. Almost like a nervous tick. 9/11. But the mythmaking has worked. He has a strong base of support in some of the most important states—California, New York, New Jersey, and Florida—but lags behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the Midwestern and Southern states. His stance on particular social issues, and his own tumultuous private life, don’t play well in the Bible Belt. He has yet to win a primary race. 9/11.

The Polls Say

Early favorite, leading in every national and local poll during the months that lead up to the primaries and is still the clear leader in many local polls. However, he has a fight ahead in South Carolina and Michigan, and in national polls he comes in third behind Huckabee and Romney. In head-to-head polls against Democrats, he narrowly loses out to Clinton and Edwards, but gets stomped by Obama.

What His Presidency Would Look Like

Neocon wet dream: To quote one of his campaign’s New Hampshire leaders, “I don’t subscribe to the principle that there are good Muslims and bad Muslims. They’re all Muslims.” Pre-9/11, Giuliani was noted for “cleaning up” New York City by pushing the poor out of the city and by ushering in the Disneyfication of Times Square. He also launched a personal crusade against the Brooklyn Art Museum for hosting a painting covered in elephant dung, so expect a lot of self-righteous posturing and attacks on free speech from this administration. 9/11.

 

Dr. Ron Paul

Representative from Texas

Experience

A successful ob/gyn doctor, Paul has served nearly 18 years in three periods in the House of Representatives. He made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency on the Libertarian line in 1988.

On the Issues

Paul wants to deconstruct the federal government and the reassert states’ power. What the hell does that mean? If elected, he would abolish income tax, strip the FBI and CIA of much of their power or nullify them completely, eliminate the Federal Reserve, rescind the Patriot Act, and withdraw the United States from the United Nations, NAFTA, and the World Trade Organization. He opposes the War on Drugs, believes that marriage and primary education ought not be government regulated, that the death penalty should be abolished, and that we should withdraw from Iraq immediately.

Beholden to

With nearly $20 million raised, the retired top his list of donors, with Internet companies coming in second. Google tops the list of his corporate donors with $22,000, but the majority of his money has come from private individuals.

Electability

Paul’s beliefs resonate with a vast, disparate grouping of populations—state-rights’ advocates, antiwar activists, free-market capitalists, the paranoid, and Midwestern militias. So there’s that. And he has made history with his one-day fundraising surges: $4.2 million one day and nearly $6 million on another. And although he stands little chance in his presidential bid, he did come in fifth in the Iowa caucuses, beating out Giuliani.

What the Polls Say

He is coming in dead last in every local and national poll.

What His Presidency Would Look Like

Well, since we’re talking crazy: Ideologues have overthrown the power structure of the day. Fifty autonomous, highly-militarized states fight to fill the void left by the dissolved federal government. Order can only be restored by strong-arm tactics and militaristic authoritarianism. Think 1923 Russia, except this time around, the revolutionaries will be shouting feeble slogans based not on the writings of a Prussian economist, but an Austrian one.

 

Mitt Romney

Former governor of Massachusetts

Experience

A hugely successful businessman, Romney made millions as the CEO of Bains & Company and cofounder of Bains Capital, an investment firm. He made an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 1994. He was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2003, and chose not to seek reelection.

On the Issues

On most issues, Romney differs only slightly from his opponents. It is on health care that he walks a tightrope. In 2006, as governor, he championed and signed into law a health-care plan that Republican critics blasted for increasing government oversight by imposing penalties on anyone who fails to sign up for insurance. It also provides low-cost insurance to healthy people, similar to Clinton’s 1993 health-care plan, a favorite target of conservatives at the time. However, Romney the candidate has attempted to distance himself from this plan, calling for a free-market-based system that does not include a mandate.

Beholden To

The retired and investment bankers have come out in droves for Romney, but Romney tops his own list; considering that he has loaned his own campaign $17.4 million—28 percent of the total he has raised—it is safe to say that he is most beholden to himself.

What The Polls Say

Other than in Michigan, where he pulls off a victory, and South Carolina, where he squeaks out a second-place showing after Huckabee, Romney rarely breaks away from a third-place showing in local polls. National polls place him fourth after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Giuliani, and Huckabee. Head-to-head polls show him losing to each Democratic frontrunner.

Electability

Long shot: Romney came into the primaries with the largest war chest, having banked more than $62 million, but he polls poorly, came in second in both New Hampshire and Iowa, and has picked up the derisive label “flip-flopper.” Much has been made of his Mormonism, but it has yet to show whether or not that has hurt him.

What His Presidency Would Look Like

The era of big government masquerading as Republican reform would continue unchecked.

 

Mike Huckabee

Former governor of Arkansas

Experience

Huckabee, a Baptist preacher, was elected lieutenant governor of Arkansas in 1993 in a special election, and was reelected to a second term in 1994. In 1996, he won the gubernatorial election, and has served two terms. Before that, he made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.

On the Issues

He takes a disturbing, hawkish stance on foreign policy. In an interview with the Concord Monitor, he said, “We need to understand that this is, in fact, World War III.” To this end, he views the war in Iraq as a necessity to stave off the threat of an Islamic caliphate emerging in the Middle East and bringing death to every American. He calls for sanctions against Iran and military action. Domestically, he is softer on immigration then his opponents, endorsing a plan to allow immigrants into the country, but does support building a fence along the border. On abortion, gay marriage, the death penalty and gun control, he falls in line with the Republican masses.

Beholden to

He has raised nearly $8 million, with the retired and real-estate interests doling out the most sizable donations.

The Polls Say

His early victory in Iowa helped him little in the polls. Most national and local polls have him trailing Giuliani and Sen. McCain. He is, however, polling high in South Carolina. Head-to-head polls have him losing soundly against the Democratic frontrunners.

What His Presidency Would Look Like

He tells reporters that the global war on terror “must be understood in the theological context,” and that he wants to “take the country back for Christ.” He calls Guantanamo Bay a distraction, supports extreme interrogation tactics and the Military Commissions Act, and the expansion of government surveillance. It would be like if Bush went back on the blow.

 

John McCain

Senator from Arizona

Experience

A four-term Senator, McCain also spent two terms in the House of Representatives. He was a naval aviator during the Vietnam War and survived five years in a prisoner-of-war camp.

On the Issues

You will now hear his supporters referring to the 2007 troop surge in Iraq as the “McCain surge,” an attempt to highlight his relatively moderate (relative to Giuliani, et al.) stance on foreign policy. Though he still supports the war in Iraq, he has called it mismanaged. He voted twice against the Bush tax cuts, saying that he would only vote for them if they were coupled with decreased spending, but eventually voted to extend them. Viewed as one of the more liberal Republican Senators, he opposes extreme interrogation techniques, supports gun control and a path to legalization for illegal immigrants.

Beholden to

The retired dig McCain, topping his donor’s list with $3.1 million, followed by the investment bankers, lawyers and, with $1.6 million, real-estate firms.

Electability

His candidacy flagged this summer; the Washington “maverick” laid off staffers and struggled to make fundraising goals. But with his win in New Hampshire, the state he carried in the 2000 primaries, McCain got a much-needed boost.

The Polls Say

Most local polls have McCain trailing a distant fourth. National polls, however, show him breathing down frontrunner Huckabee’s neck. The head-to-head polls are very interesting: He crushes Clinton, ties against Obama and loses to Edwards.

What His Presidency Would Look Like

A kinder, gentler Bush administration.

 

Fred Thompson

Former senator from Tennessee

Experience

Played counsel on the Senate Watergate Committee, performed two stints on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and appeared in a reoccurring role on Law and Order.

On the Issues

Reads from the Republican script.

Beholden to

NBC.

Electability

Only in the movies.

The Polls Say

Call your agent.

What His Presidency Would Look Like

Die Hard 2: Die Harder.


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