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Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick (Credit: AP)

Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum greets diners during a meet-and-greet campaign stop at Pizza Ranch in Altoona, Iowa. (Jan. 2, 2012)

Meet the GOP's 2012 presidential hopefuls

Meet the GOP's 2012 presidential hopefuls.

NEWT GINGRICH REPUBLICAN BACKGROUND: Born June 17, 1943,
(Credit: Getty Images, 2011)

NEWT GINGRICH
REPUBLICAN


BACKGROUND: Born June 17, 1943, in Harrisburg, Pa. A professor of education, he received a bachelor of arts from Emory University in 1965 and a doctorate in European history from Tulane University in 1971. He was U.S. representative from Georgia (1979-99) and was House speaker (1995-99). Married, with two children.

ISSUES: As House speaker in mid-1990s, he engineered passage of a seven-year balanced-budget plan. It was vetoed by President Bill Clinton but helped form a bipartisan balanced budget two years later. He supports constitutional balanced-budget amendment. He would repeal the 2010 financial industry and consumer protection regulations that followed the Wall Street meltdown and repeal the 2002 regulations enacted in response to the Enron and other corporate and accounting scandals. If the Defense of Marriage Act fails, he says, “you have no choice except a constitutional amendment” to ban gay marriage. He would repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law if Republicans win congressional majorities. On Social Security, he would give younger workers the option of diverting Social Security taxes to private retirement accounts. He would cut the corporate tax to 12.5 percent from maximum 35 percent, eliminate capital gains and estate taxes. For personal taxes, he would let people choose whether to file under the current system or pay a 15 percent tax. He initially criticized Obama for not intervening in Libya, then did an about-face after the president had sent in U.S. war planes to support the rebels fighting the government. He supported the Iraq War and opposed early timetables for withdrawal.

RON PAUL REPUBLICAN BACKGROUND: Born Aug. 20, 1935,
(Credit: AP, 2011)

RON PAUL
REPUBLICAN


BACKGROUND: Born Aug. 20, 1935, in Pittsburgh. A physician, he received a bachelor of arts degree from Gettysburg College in 1957 and his medical degree from Duke University in 1961. He served in the Air Force (1963-65) and in the Air National Guard (1965-68). He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas’ 14th District in 1976 and served until 1985. He was re-elected to that position in 1996 and has served there since. Married, with five children.

ISSUES: He would eviscerate the federal government, slashing nearly half its spending and shutting five cabinet-level agencies. On the economy, he would return to the gold standard, eliminate the Federal Reserve, let gold and silver be used as legal tender and eliminate most federal regulations. He would remove restrictions on drilling, coal and nuclear power, eliminate the gasoline tax and provide tax credits for alternative fuel technology. He believes decisions on legalizing or prohibiting same-sex marriages should be left to states. He opposes compulsory health insurance and all government subsidies for health coverage. He would do “whatever it takes” to secure the border and would end the right to citizenship of U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. He believes younger workers should be able to opt out of Social Security taxes and retirement benefits. He would eliminate the federal income tax and would vote for a national sales tax. He would bring all or nearly all troops home from Afghanistan and other foreign posts. He opposed U.S. intervention in Libya.

WILLARD MITT ROMNEY REPUBLICAN BACKGROUND: Born March 12,
(Credit: AP, 2011)

WILLARD MITT ROMNEY
REPUBLICAN


BACKGROUND: Born March 12, 1947, in Detroit. An investment banker, he received a bachelor of arts degree from Brigham Young University in 1971, an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1975 and a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1975. He served as governor of Massachusetts (2003-07). He chaired the Republican Governors Association (2005-06). He was president and chief executive of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Married, with five children.

ISSUES: He defended the 2008 bailout of financial institutions as a necessary step to avoid the system’s collapse, criticized the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler and said any such aid should not single out specific companies. He would cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product, down from today’s recession-swollen 25 percent. He wants lower taxes, less regulation, a balanced budget and more trade deals to spur growth. He favors a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He promises to work for the repeal of the federal health care law modeled largely after his universal health care achievement in Massachusetts because he says states, not Washington, should drive policy on the uninsured. On Social Security, he says raising the age for benefits and reducing inflation adjustments for rich retirees are options that should be considered. He believes no one with adjusted gross income under $200,000 should be taxed on interest, dividends or capital gains, and he would cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from a high of 35 percent. He says President Barack Obama was wrong to begin reducing troop levels as soon as he did in Afghanistan.

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RICK SANTORUM REPUBLICAN BACKGROUND: Born May 10, 1958,
(Credit: AP, 2011)

RICK SANTORUM
REPUBLICAN


BACKGROUND: Born May 10, 1958, in Winchester, Va. A lawyer, he received a bachelor of arts degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1980, an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh in 1981 and a law degree from Dickinson Law School in 1986. He served as U.S. representative from Pennsylvania’s 18th District (1991-95). He was a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania (1995-2007). Married, with seven children.

ISSUES: He opposed the financial-industry bailout and stimulus programs of the Bush and Obama administrations, and he supports a constitutional balanced-budget amendment. He would spur jobs by eliminating corporate taxes for manufacturers, drill for more oil and gas, and slash regulations. He supports a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He would seek to starve President Barack Obama’s health care law of money needed to implement it. He supports the option of private retirement accounts instead of Social Security taxes and benefits for younger workers. He proposes zero corporate tax. He supports continued use of Guantánamo Bay detention for suspected terrorists and says waterboarding has proved effective. He said in September 2011 that 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops should remain in Iraq. He wants U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan “a little slower” than Obama is planning. In May, he accused Obama of “dithering” in Libya and creating a “morass” because he let the international community take the lead in aiding Gadhafi’s opponents. He opposes closure of U.S. bases abroad.

DROPPED OUT OF THE RACE (Jan. 18, 2012)
(Credit: AP, 2011)

DROPPED OUT OF THE RACE (Jan. 18, 2012)

RICK PERRY
REPUBLICAN


BACKGROUND: Born March 4, 1950, in Paint Creek, Texas. A farmer and rancher, he received a bachelor of science degree from Texas A&M University in 1972. He was a captain in the Air Force (1972-77). He has served as governor of Texas (2000-present). He was lieutenant governor of Texas (1999-2000), Texas Agriculture commissioner (1991-99) and U.S. representative from Texas’ 64th District (1984-90). Married with two children.

ISSUES: He proposes capping federal spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product, down from about 25 percent today. He would raise the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare benefits for future retirees. He favors a constitutional balanced-budget amendment. He would spur the economy by repealing a raft of regulations, Obama’s health care law and the law toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector. He supports a constitutional ban on gay marriage. He would let taxpayers choose between the current system and a 20 percent flat tax on income. Under the flat-tax option, mortgage interest and charitable contributions would continue to be deductible. The plan would eliminate taxes on Social Security benefits, inheritances, dividends and long-term capital gains. He also proposes to cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent. He criticized President Barack Obama for announcing withdrawal of troops from Iraq by end of this year and from Afghanistan next year but has not said how many troops should remain or for how long.

DROPPED OUT OF THE RACE (Jan. 16, 2012)
(Credit: AP, 2011)

DROPPED OUT OF THE RACE (Jan. 16, 2012)

JON HUNTSMAN
REPUBLICAN


BACKGROUND: Born March 26, 1960, in Palo Alto, Calif. He received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987. He has been the U.S. ambassador to China since 2009. He was governor of Utah (2004-09), deputy U.S. trade ambassador (2001-03), ambassador to Singapore (1992-93), deputy assistant secretary of commerce for East Asia and the Pacific (1990-91), deputy assistant secretary of commerce, Trade Development Bureau, (1989-90). He is married, with seven children.

ISSUES: He was the only GOP candidate to endorse the deal that averted a default on U.S. debt payments. He supports ending corporate subsidies, cutting regulations, lowering taxes and spurring jobs through energy development. He supports same-sex civil unions, with many of the rights of marriage, and says states should decide their own policies. He wants to “let the states experiment” on health care and contends the federal government should “absolutely not” require anyone to have health insurance. He believes it is unrealistic to deport all illegal immigrants. He is open to raising the Social Security retirement age to qualify for full benefits and to restricting benefits for the wealthy. He favors lower income tax rates coupled with the elimination of deductions and loopholes. He would cut the corporate tax to 25 percent from a maximum 35 percent, and phase out all subsidies. He opposed U.S. military intervention in Libya absent congressional approval and believes no more than 15,000 U.S. troops should be left in Afghanistan.

DROPPED OUT OF THE RACE (Jan. 4, 2012)
(Credit: AP, 2012)

DROPPED OUT OF THE RACE (Jan. 4, 2012)

MICHELE BACHMANN
REPUBLICAN


BACKGROUND: Born April 6, 1956, in Waterloo, Iowa. An attorney, she received a bachelor’s degree from Winona State University in 1978, her law degree from Oral Roberts University in 1986 and her master of laws degree from the College of William and Mary in 1988. She has been U.S. representative from Minnesota’s 6th District since 2007. She served in the Minnesota State Senate from 2001 to 2007. Married with five children.

ISSUES: She voted for $192 billion in stimulus spending in July 2009; voted against two earlier stimulus packages totaling nearly $900 billion and against housing aid and auto-industry aid. She is opposed to the extension of jobless benefits and would repeal the financial-industry regulations enacted in response to the subprime-housing loan crisis. She supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. She promises to seek a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law. She voted against expanding Children’s Health Insurance Program and against regulating tobacco as a drug. She would keep Social Security for older workers and “wean everybody else off.” She says it is “very likely” that the age for retirement benefits will have to go up for new workers. She would eliminate the estate tax and give a tax holiday followed by low tax rate, 5 percent, for U.S. companies operating overseas that repatriate their profits. She opposed U.S. intervention in Libya, saying the effort might be helping terrorists there. She called Afghanistan a war “we must and can win” provided generals have sufficient troops and money.

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