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CHART: The Manager-Populist Spectrum CHART: The Manager-Populist Spectrum

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CHART: The Manager-Populist Spectrum

photo of Scott Bland
December 17, 2010

As the share of working-class whites in the Republican Party has grown, so too has the influence of populism within the GOP. In 2010, that influence helped fuel the rise of the tea party movement. In 2012, it could alter the traditional course of the presidential primaries. “Usually, almost always, the manager wing -- the mainstream conservative Republican wing -- nominates the candidate,” John Weaver, a longtime strategist for 2008 GOP nominee John McCain, tells Ronald Brownstein in this week’s National Journal. That would be favorable for conventional, manager-style candidates like Mitt Romney and Mitch Daniels. But in this cycle, the populist wing will likely have a strong champion, in Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee, and strong support: White, non-college voters broke nearly 2-to-1 for Republican candidates in the 2010 midterms.

The rest of the potential field straddles the two camps. How the managers and the populists -- and those caught in the middle -- split the vote in their wings of the GOP will go a long way to determining the Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee. Here is a look at how the potential candidates fit on a spectrum, based on their issue positions and their own words.

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Mitt Romney

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Religion: Mormon

Education: B.A., Brigham Young University, 1971; M.B.A., Harvard University, 1975; J.D., Harvard University, 1975

Public Office: Massachusetts governor, 2003-07

Issue Positions: Supports TARP; passed universal health insurance with an individual mandate in Massachusetts; cut corporate taxes to encourage job growth.

Quote: “Wasteful spending by government drains capital that could otherwise fuel growth. Excessive taxation and outmoded regulation are economic brakes.… But there is much more that compels us to pursue a productivity and growth agenda—it is essential to preserve the America we know.”

Mitch Daniels

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Religion: Presbyterian

Education: B.A., Princeton University, 1971; J.D., Georgetown University, 1979

Public Office: Indiana governor, 2005-present; director, Office of Management and Budget, 2001-2003

Issue Positions: Means-test Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age; is open to higher gas and sales taxes; expand school choice with voucher system.

Quote: “[The next president] would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re just going to have to agree to get along for a little while.”

Haley Barbour

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Religion: Presbyterian

Education: J.D., University of Mississippi, 1973

Public Office: Mississippi governor, 2005-present; Republican National Committee chairman, 1993-97

Issue Positions: Keep all taxes at current or lower rates; reduce foreign oil imports and expand domestic oil and gas production; reenact “Mexico City policy” banning overseas abortion funding.

Quote: “Limited government and strong, safe families have been fundamental elements of American society since our founding, but they are under an unprecedented attack.”

John Thune

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Religion: Baptist

Education: B.A., Biola University, 1983; M.B.A., University of South Dakota, 1984

Public Office: Senator, South Dakota, 2005-present; U.S. representative, 1997-2003

Issue Positions: Amend Constitution to ban same-sex marriage; supported TARP; redirect wasteful government spending toward tax cuts.

Quote: “Republicans held town-hall meetings while Democrats ran from them. Republicans heard the messages of anger and frustration. We understand that the American people want Washington to grow the economy rather than grow government.”

Tim Pawlenty

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Religion: Baptist

Education: B.A., University of Minnesota, 1983; J.D., University of Minnesota, 1986

Public Office: Minnesota governor, 2003-present; Minnesota state representative, 1993-2003

Issue Positions: Bring pay and benefits for public employees in line with the private sector; allow purchase of health insurance across state lines; opposed TARP.

Quote: “We proved that even in deep-blue Minnesota, taxpayers can take on Big Government and Big Labor and win. In coming years, that fight will have to be joined throughout the country in city halls, state capitals, and in Washington, D.C.”

Newt Gingrich

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Religion: Roman Catholic

Education: B.A., Emory University, 1965; M.A., Tulane University, 1968; Ph.D., Tulane University, 1971

Public Office: House speaker, 1995-98; U.S. representative, 1979-99

Issue Positions: Enact tort reform and crack down on medical fraud; “reluctantly” supported TARP; pay children to study math and science.

Quote: “What disappoints me is that there are a number of very important fundamental improvements in government that would save an amazing amount of money…. For some reason, when you get politicians in a room and they close the door, they go back to the same old staff reports with the same old bad ideas.”

Mike Huckabee

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Religion: Baptist

Education: B.A., Ouachita Baptist University, 1975

Public Office: Arkansas governor, 1996-2007; Arkansas lieutenantgovernor, 1993-96

Issue Positions: Replace federal income tax with a flat national sales tax; opposed TARP; enact policies supporting “traditional families.”

Quote: “I’m appealing to a group of Republicans who really feel disaffected by what is best termed as the Wall Street Republican. I’m not a Wall Street Republican—I’m a Main Street Republican.”

Sarah Palin

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Religion: Nondenominational Protestant

Education: B.S., University of Idaho, 1987

Public Office: Alaska governor, 2007-09; Wasilla mayor, 1996-2002

Issue Positions: Drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; voucherize Medicare and replace Social Security with personal retirement accounts; first supported, now opposes TARP.

Quote: “The American people have a principled wisdom that all the lawyers and academics and schooled-up ‘experts’ in D.C. fail to appreciate.”

Photos (top to bottom):

Romney: Getty/Chip Somodevilla
Daniels: Liz Lynch
Barbour: Liz Lynch
Thune: Liz Lynch
Pawlenty: Getty/Chip Somodevilla
Gingrich: Getty/Chip Somodevilla
Huckabee: AFP/Getty/Toshifumi Kitamura
Palin: Getty/William Thomas Cain

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