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First Presidential Debate
GOP candidates debate in California - Friday, May 04 2007

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By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

 

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - Ten Republican presidential candidates wanting to succeed President Bush embraced a more popular president, conservative icon Ronald Reagan, at every turn in their first debate of the 2008 race.

"Ronald Reagan was a president of strength," Mitt Romney intoned. "Ronald Reagan used to say, we spend money like a drunken sailor," said John McCain (news, bio, voting record). And Rudy Giuliani praised "that Ronald Reagan optimism."

The world, however, is far different today than it was some 25 years ago when the nation's 40th president relaxed at his retreat in the rolling hills of southern California.

Iraq and terrorism now are top issues, support for Bush is at a low point and Republican hopefuls find themselves trying to prove to the party's base that they're conservative enough to be the GOP nominee — on social matters as well as the economic and security issues Reagan championed.

The three leading candidates — Giuliani, McCain and Romney — and their seven lesser-known rivals attempted to do just that Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. They debated for 90 minutes in the shadow of the late president's Air Force One suspended from above and before Reagan's widow, Nancy, who sat in the front row of the audience.

They stressed the importance of persisting in Iraq and defeating terrorists, called for lower taxes and a muscular defense, and supported spending restraint.

One by one, they invoked Reagan 19 times. In contrast, Bush's name was barely uttered; the president's job approval rating languishes in the 30s.

"They went out of the their way on multiple occasions, no matter the question, to associate themselves with Reagan," said Mitchell McKinney, a political communication professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. "They tried their best to not be explicitly bashing or attacking Bush. Most of them tried, in some way, to take a pass on that."

Republican operatives agreed that the debate did nothing to shake up the crowded GOP field.

They said Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, McCain, a four-term Arizona senator, and Romney, the ex-Massachusetts governor, remained the strongest contenders, with the most money and the best approval ratings in the polls more than eight months before the first 2008 national convention delegates are selected.

"Clearly the top three looked quite presidential," said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.

Scott Reed, who ran Bob Dole's 1996 campaign, added: "McCain showed a little energy. Romney showed he's very polished. And Giuliani started to clear up some of his issues with the base of the party."

Each largely stuck to their talking points — and often reverted to their stump speeches — as they sought to present themselves as the most conservative candidate in the pack, and a worthy heir to the political legacy of Reagan.

The former actor and California governor took office in 1981 when the world was absorbed by the Cold War, and good versus evil was defined by countries that aligned with the United States and those that stood with the Soviet Union — "the evil empire" in Reagan's lexicon. The arms race and the ever-present threat of nuclear war overshadowed social issues like abortion. Stem cell research didn't exist. There was no public debate about gay marriage or the so-called right to die.

Fast forward to the 2008 presidential race.

The candidates expressed resolve in winning the war in Iraq and defeating terrorists across the world. They also had to answer for their positions on a range of social issues, including abortion, stem-cell research and evolution.

"Nobody wants to talk about social issues for more than 11 seconds," said Rich Galen, a GOP strategist. "But they had to talk about what they were asked about."

McCain is the only top-tier contender who has a career-long record of opposing abortion, a position that resonates with a wide swath of GOP political activists who support the overturning of the 1973

Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.

With a record of supporting abortion rights, Giuliani was the only candidate who said "it would be OK" if the Supreme Court upholds the landmark ruling. "It would be OK to repeal it. It would be OK also if a strict constructionist viewed it as precedent," he said.

His rivals agreed that it would be a great day if the court overturns the landmark ruling.

Romney, for his part, acknowledged he had reversed course on the subject and said his position had once effectively been "pro-choice."

"I changed my mind," Romney said, adding that Reagan did the same.

But Giuliani, who said he personally hates abortion, hedged when asked about his current position.

"I think the court has to make that decision and then the country can deal with it," he said. "We're a federalist system of government and states can make their own decisions."

Most of the contenders said they opposed legislation making federal funds available for a wider range of embryonic stem cell research. The technique necessarily involves the destruction of a human embryo, and is opposed by many anti-abortion conservatives as a result.

There are exceptions, though, including Reagan's widow, Nancy. Also, public opinion polls show overwhelming support for the research, which doctors say holds promise for treatment or even cures of numerous diseases.

McCain was the only one to unambiguously say he supports expanded federal research into embryonic stem cells.

Giuliani's response was open to interpretation. He said he supports it "as long as we're not creating life in order to destroy it," then added he would back funding for research along the lines of legislation pending in Congress. However, the bill he cited does not increase federal support for research on embryonic stem cells. Rather, it deals with adult stem cells.

The field split on another issue, with Sen. Sam Brownback (news, bio, voting record) of Kansas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo raising their hands when asked who did not believe in evolution.

Other participants included former Govs. Jim Gilmore of Virginia and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin; and Reps. Duncan Hunter (news, bio, voting record) of California and Ron Paul (news, bio, voting record) of Texas.

Missing were three Republicans still weighing whether to run — Fred Thompson, the actor and former Tennessee senator; Newt Gingrich, the ex-House speaker from Georgia, and Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record) of Nebraska.

Charleston GOP Favors Romney
April 14, 2007
The Post & Courier

BY ROBERT BEHRE

Charlston County Republicans heard from four presidential hopefuls Friday and cast more straw ballots for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney than anyone else, but choosing their new county party chairman proved a more difficult task.

In fact, three-and-a-half hours into the convention, not a single winner had been announced.

Convention president Bobby Harrell, also the S.C. Speaker of the House, said the convention had 241 delegates, but there were 251 votes cast in the first ballot. Candidates Kay Long and Lin Bennett received 123 and 127 votes, respectively. One ballot was blank or cast for someone else.

Harrell later announced that 246 delegates were identified, but that still was not enough to avert a second vote. Some grumbled about Harrell's ruling for a revote because several delegates already had gone home. Bennett, who seemed to attract more support from the party's social conservatives, won by a larger, 102-86 margin on second vote.

The confusion over the chairman's race marked an anti-climactic end to a convention that drew three of the most powerful South Carolina office-holders, including Harrell, Senate Pro Tem Glenn McConnell and Gov. Mark Sanford, as well as six-minute-long speeches from

four presidential candidates, including Romney, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and Chicago GOP activist John Cox.

Romney received 86 straw votes, besting U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who had 55 votes.

Brownback, who received 21 votes, put two volumes of the current tax code on the dais and said, "This should be taken behind a barn and killed with a dull ax," while Cox said he supports "the fair tax," based on consumption, not income.

Hunter noted his service on the House Armed Services Committee and said Iraq and the Middle East aren't American's only security problems. "China is cheating on trade," he said. "They're using America's billions to arm." He received 11 straw votes.

Romney, whose supporters broke into occasional chants of "Let's go, Mitt!" said he would work to reduce America's dependence on oil. "It doesn't make sense to send $1 billion to countries that hate us."

Other GOP candidates who didn't show up had representatives speak on their behalf. Arthur Ravenel Jr., a former state representative and senator and a current Charleston County School Board member, triggered one of the biggest laughs when he praised New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani by calling him "Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan and Stonewall Jackson all rolled into one." Giuliani placed third with 33 straw votes.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's wife Janet said her husband achieved a lot as a Republican governor in a largely Democratic state. "Mike Huckabee passed more legislation than Bill Clinton did," she said. Huckabee got nine straw votes.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina spoke on behalf of McCain, calling him passionate, strong, stubborn, rational, visionary and real, while former state Rep. John Graham Altman spoke for Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, who got two straw votes. "I'm not saying we're best friends. I've met him," Altman said, then joked, "He (Tancredo) will name me attorney general."

Earlier, Sanford told delegates while the presidential race is shining a huge spotlight on the state, they should continue to pay attention to state and local issues.

Lowcountry to see heavy presidential politicking Friday, April 13, 2007
The Post & Courier
 

Today will mark the heaviest day of Republican presidential hopefuls politicking in the Charleston area, largely because at least two plan to attend the county GOP convention tonight.

And least two other candidates will send someone to represent them.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will hold a 3 p.m. press conference at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant after morning stops in West Columbia and Lexington. He and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas also plan to attend the Charleston County Republican Convention at 7 p.m. at the North Charleston Sheraton. Delegates there are expected to hold a straw poll to indicate whom they favor for president.

Brownback will begin his public events in Charleston at 9:45 a.m. today with a tour of the Medical University of South Carolina's Hollings Cancer Center and will discuss a plan to end cancer deaths in 10 years. He also will hold an hourlong town-hall meeting at the College of Charleston's Education Center building on St. Philip Street at 1:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina will attend the Charleston County convention on behalf of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, while former Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee will visit on behalf of her husband, Mike Huckabee.

Burr and Janet Huckabee also plan to attend Berkeley County's GOP convention at 10 a.m. Saturday at Stratford High School.

South Carolina College Republicans Organization Holds Annual Convention

March 26th, 2007

Charleston, S.C. – College Republicans from around the state of South Carolina gathered on Saturday March 24, 2007 at Charleston Southern University to hold their annual convention.  Chapters from all over the state sent representatives to the convention to elect new officers and discuss business for the upcoming year.  Chapters represented included Charleston Southern University, Furman University, College of Charleston, Clemson University, Presbyterian College, Wofford College, Bob Jones University, Winthrop University, Coastal Carolina University, Converse College, and Lander University.

The new officers for the upcoming year are as follows:

Chairwoman – Kathryn Mangum, Presbyterian College

Executive Director – Taylor Hall, Furman University

Vice-Chairwoman – Maribeth Kellenbenz, Charleston Southern University

Treasurer – Josh Langdon, College of Charleston

Secretary – Rebecca Gaal, Bob Jones University

Campaign Coordinator – Stephanie Fontenot, Wofford College

Development Director – Matt Baker, Bob Jones University

Political Director – Patrick Garrison, Presbyterian College

Kathryn Mangum, the newly elected Chairwoman, said that one of the biggest priorities is to expand the influence of the organization.  “We are very excited about the upcoming year and our first priority is to re-establish a College Republicans’ chapter at the University of South Carolina,” said Mangum.  “We have already been in touch with students at USC, and several other universities, and we plan on helping those students start successful chapters all over the state in the near future.”

The chapter representatives also selected three delegates for the national convention in July.  The three delegates are Kathryn Mangum, Taylor Hall, and Stephanie Fontenot.

For more information please contact Taylor Hall; taylor.hall@furman.edu or 865.803.6666

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