Cohen: A five-minute guide to the GOP Presidential candidates

Marshall Cohen

The media loves a good horse race, especially when it comes to elections. And there can’t be a race without candidates – which are running aplenty in the hunt for the Republican Presidential nomination. Here is a breakdown of the field:

Ron Paul

Advantages: He is the godfather of the Tea Party movement, and Tea Party voters will definitely play a meaningful role in Republican primaries and caucuses next year. Also, he has strong grassroots support and a strong fundraising base. In 2008 his campaign raised $4.2 million in a single day as part of its online “money bomb” strategy.

Disadvantages: While Ron Paul is very popular among the Tea Party, polling shows that more moderate Republicans are uncomfortable with some of his more extreme beliefs. He wants to get rid of the income tax and abolish the Internal Revenue Service. He also wants to abolish the Federal Reserve Bank and the Department of Education, policies that won’t sit well with moderate Republicans and independents.

Newt Gingrich

Advantages: Newt knows politics and is an extremely intelligent man. He helped end 40 years of Democratic rule in the House of Representatives in 1994 during the “Republican Revolution.” He was Speaker of the House for four years and has experience working with the ultimate conservative idol, President Ronald Reagan.

Disadvantages: The Gingrich campaign got off to a very poor start last week and was dragged through the mud by the media – even by FOX News. He lost conservative credibility last week when he said Rep. Paul Ryan’s alternative budget represented “radical change,” and analysts are unsure if he can bounce back. Additionally, he is currently married to his third wife and has had multiple extramarital affairs in the past. Gingrich has plenty of baggage.

Tim Pawlenty

Advantages: Tim Pawlenty served as governor of Minnesota – an important swing state – for eight years until his second term ended in January. In his first year as governor in 2003, “T-Paw” balanced a budget that had $4.3 billion in debt. Furthermore, he fulfilled a campaign promise not to raise taxes during his first term.

Disadvantages: At face value, Pawlenty is boring. He isn’t very popular and is not doing well in the polls. Also, his previous support for cap-and-trade alienated many voters in the conservative bloc. Moreover, his flip-flop on the issue hurt his credibility. In 2007, Pawlenty supported massive reductions in greenhouse gases in Minnesota and cut a radio ad with then-governor of Arizona, Democrat Janet Napolitano. Today he says that his support of cap-and-trade legislation was a “mistake” and that he is “sorry.”

Mitt Romney

Advantages: Mitt has vast business experience. He served as CEO of a private equity investment firm and is a multi-millionaire who can spend his own money on a campaign. Furthermore, he is a very strong fundraiser and public speaker.

Disadvantages: As governor of Massachusetts, Romney championed a health care system that included an individual mandate in his state. His opponents call this “Romneycare” and claim that it is extremely similar to President Obama’s national health care reform plan. Polling shows Republican primary voters are strongly opposed to “Obamacare,” and this could be a major liability for Romney. Finally, he ran for president four years ago and was beaten out by Sen. John McCain.

Rick Santorum

Advantages: Honestly, Rick Santorum does not have very many bona fide strengths, besides being a champion of social conservatism. He is pro-life, believes marriage is between a man and a woman and thinks intelligent design should be taught in public schools. He has tried to woo conservative voters with these hardline stances.

Disadvantages: In a 2003 interview with the Associated Press, Santorum compared homosexuality to polygamy, incest, molestation and bestiality. Both Democrats and Republicans criticized his comments. Santorum also has low poll numbers and weak name recognition.

While the five men mentioned above are officially running for president, other potential candidates decided differently. In the past week, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and businessman Donald Trump all announced that they will not run. This is only the very beginning of an 18-month sprint to November 2012.

Marshall Cohen is a Medill freshman and DAILY blogger. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed at