As the 2012 Republican candidate field forms, several have declined to run for various reasons. Generally, GOP presidential politics lack culture or creative fiscal ideas that appeal to the country's youth. However, 2010 brought the spotlight on a new, diverse group of Republican governors and senators poised to make inroads with minority and young voters. Collectively, they bring fiscal appeal to young voters and the diversity to build a new, inclusive Republican Party. Such a party will be required to remain competitive and win future presidential elections.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R – Fla.)
Rubio was unknown on the national scene before he was thrust into public spotlight during the 2010 midterm election. Prior to this election, Rubio was serving in the Florida State senate when he boldly challenged and defeated former Gov. Charlie Christ (I – Fla.) in the GOP primary.
During his campaign for the senate, he successfully highlighted the fiscal and economic planks of the Republican platform, focusing on the country’s fiscal issues and struggling economy. A Cuban-American from a family of immigrants, Rubio spoke against the controversial Arizona immigration law and is seen as a potential bridge between Republicans and Hispanic voters. Unlike most GOP candidates in 2010, he was extremely successful with Hispanic voters, winning 55% of the vote.
Some have speculated that he will be considered as a potential running mate for the 2012 GOP candidate. With an inspiring story, growing popularity within the GOP base, and a unique connection with Hispanic voters, he is poised to make waves.
Gov. Nikki Haley (R – SC)
Haley was unknown to a majority of Republicans outside South Carolina prior to the 2010 midterm election. From 2005 to 2010, she served in the South Carolina House of Representatives. After winning the general election, Haley became the state's first female governor. Additionally, she became the nation’s second Indian-American governor and the youngest current governor in the country.
She immediately began promoting and implementing policies that dramatically increased transparency and accountability in state government. For example, she was successful in creating a fraud and waste tip line, and the legislature passed a bill that will require an on-the-record, roll-call vote for virtually every piece of future legislation.
Following her victories on transparency, she began battling alongside the Boeing Company to bring thousands of jobs to South Carolina. In an attempt to block the move, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing in a union versus non-union workers battle. If Haley is successful in her fight, she could gain enormous credibility with young voters, an important voting bloc.
With a story of hard work and determination, Haley is a charismatic and exciting face. With more experience and exposure, she would make an excellent presidential candidate in the future.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R – Wis.)
Ryan was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998. As the current chairman of the House Budget Committee, he is considered to be a leading figure and intellect on conservative economic and fiscal policy. The Daily Telegraph ranked him the ninth most influential conservative in 2010 and he was selected to give the Republican response to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address.
A hero among fiscal conservatives, he has demonstrated an extensive capability to communicate policy based on facts and numbers. Ryan’s budget proposal would slash the national debt by $6 trillion over ten years by cutting spending and reforming Medicare. Recently, he has come under fire from Democrats for his proposed Medicare changes; however, Democrats in congress have yet to offer their own budget proposal.
Reality is setting in for millions of young people, as they realize entitlements are over. Young voters are looking for solutions that will maximize their future lifestyle. Ryan’s no nonsense fiscal proposals, although initially unpopular, could eventually gain traction with young voters concerned about the country’s fiscal situation.
With the potential to develop creative policy proposals, respect from fiscal conservatives, and charisma, Ryan would be a formidable presidential contender in the current (or future) electoral cycle.
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R – LA)
Jindal will be a major face in the Republican Party moving forward and should be considered prime presidential material. At the time of his election in 2008, Jindal became the youngest governor in the U.S. at age 36 and the first Indian-American governor.
Prior to being elected, Jindal served in the House. During his term as governor, he made the environment, the economy, and the state’s credit rating top priorities.
Jindal slightly deviates from traditional conservative thought on environmental issues; however, this could make him more competitive among young voters across the nation. For example, he has promoted renewable forms of energy, increased recycling programs, created tax credits for hybrid fuel vehicles, and established increased energy efficiency goals and standards for the state. He also put significant pressure on BP and the federal government during the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
With respect to the state’s bond and credit ratings, the Standard and Poor’s raised Louisiana’s bond rating and credit outlook from stable to positive during Jindal’s term; he was credited for the state’s strong management and “commitment to streamlining its government functions.”
Jindal would bring youth, diversity, and populist charisma to a GOP presidential ticket, either as the presidential or vice presidential candidate; however, he will likely look to 2016 after finishing his second term as governor.
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