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A general view of the North Lawn of the White House in Washington January 24, 2012. (JONATHAN ERNST/Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
A general view of the North Lawn of the White House in Washington January 24, 2012. (JONATHAN ERNST/Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Candidates in the 2012 race to the White House Add to ...

Mitt Romney (R)

Name: Willard Mitt Romney Age: 64 Education: B.A. English, Brigham Young University, 1971; MBA, Harvard University, 1975 Family Status: Married to Ann Romney since 1969; five children

Political History: First ran for office in 1994, losing to Ted Kennedy for Senate seat by a margin of 58-41 per cent. He had better luck in his second attempt at public office, running unopposed in the Republican primary for the gubernatorial race in Massachusetts and defeating Democrat Shannon O’Brien to become governor. After raising his profile as the feature speaker at the 2004 Republican National Convention, Romney ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2008, winning 11 primaries/caucuses, but he would eventually drop out of the race and endorse John McCain.

Background: Romney has a strong record in business as head of venture capital firm Bain Capital, and won huge plaudits for his high-profile turnaround of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. As governor of Massachusetts, his highest profile move was his overhaul of the state’s health care, which featured a system of mandatory insurance and is noted as a precursor to President Barack Obama’s controversial health care reform. His business experience has won him the support of the party establishment, who see him as a competent economic manager who has the best chance of defeating President Obama in November. But his perceived lack of vigour on conservative issues, and what his critics describe as his changing positions on hot button issues like abortion, gay rights, abstinence, and stem-cell research, have left very conservative Americans doubting his candidacy.

Quote: “Like other presidents before him, Barack Obama inherited a recession. But unlike them, he has made it worse, not better.” - USA Today (2009)

Newt Gingrich (R)

Name: Newton Leroy (Newt) Gingrich Age: 68 Education: B.A. History, Emory University, 1965; M.A. & Ph.D. Modern European History, Tulane University, 1971 Family Status: Married to Callista Gingrich since 2000; two children from his first wife.

Political History: First ran for office in 1974 in Georgia, losing to 20-year incumbent Democrat Jack Flynt. He was again defeated in 1976. However, in 1978, with Flynt retired, Gingrich won the district, and would be re-elected six times. In 1983 he founded the Conservative Opportunity Society, a group dedicated to the advancement of conservative ideas, which was eventually adopted by then-President Ronald Reagan. After Georgia’s districts were redrawn in 1992, Gingrich was elected in a new area by a 51%-49% margin. In 1994, Gingrich, in collaboration with several other Republicans, developed the “Contract with America,” noting ten policies they would bring to the House floor in the first 100 days if they were elected. The GOP would pick up 54 seats, in what is now called the “Republican Revolution” and Gingrich became Speaker of the House. During his tenure: he helped balance the federal budget, he attempted to remove President Clinton from office, he faced several ethics charges, and was held responsible for the federal government shutdown of 1995-1996. He eventually resigned his position, after the Republican party lost five seats in the 1998 midterm elections.

Background: As former Speaker of the House and an architect of the “Contract with America,” Gingrich is certainly a powerful candidate in the Republican field. However, his campaign got off to a rocky start in the summer when, just a week after entering the race, he criticized a Republican budget plan, hurting his popularity. One month later, the majority of his staff walked off his campaign, citing personal differences. The Gingrich campaign appeared to flame out, paving the way for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, until the fall, when he posted a string of strong debate performances by casting himself as a Washington outsider. His aggressive attitude towards the “elite media” when asked about his extra-marital affairs, his attacks on Mitt Romney ahead of the South Carolina primary, and strong debate performances resulted in a resounding win in the Jan. 31 South Carolina primary. The former congressman has promised that he will take his campaign all the way to the Republican national convention in Tampa Bay, Florida, in August.

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