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US Presidential Elections: Obama’s rivals

It’s re-election year at the White House. At the end of 2012 the President and Vice-President of the United States will be elected. The competitors are lining up.

Maialen Gonzalez

The next presidential elections will take place as expected on 6th November 2012. Thirty three senators and the whole House of Representatives, 11 governors and various lawmakers will be elected.

It is an important year for the United States. A year of elections. A year of possible changes. Democrats or Republicans.

The new president, alongside his respective vice-president, will be elected on 6th November and sworn in on 17th December of the same year.

The candidates for the White House have now set out to work. The primary elections will be a decisive factor towards the eventual result.  Unlike the ‘caucuses’, which are meetings of the parties’ local groups of supporters, in the primaries voters have a direct choice between the candidates to the candidature of each party.

The presidential primary system was established in order to break the hold of party-partisan organisations at election time.

That way, at least two months before the National Party Conventions, every single State holds primary elections to choose their party delegates.

The delegates are designated in proportion to the number of votes won by each candidate and each state has a fixed number of delegates according to its respective population.

The current president, Barack Obama, is standing for re-election. The primaries, which took place on 10th January, left no-one in any doubt: supporters of the Democrats want Obama in the White House for another four years.

As predicted, the current president won the unconditional support of the Democrats to represent them in the next elections.

It will be the Republican candidate who will have to fight for the presidency against the current leader. The party will choose delegates to attend the 2012 National Republican Convention. Among the 2,286 delegates, a candidate must win over 1,144 in order become the nominee for the presidency.

The Republican primaries, which began at the beginning of the year, are the scene where the electoral process will be played out and where the future presidential candidate will emerge.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, who graduated with honours in Law and Business Administration from Harvard University, is a strong Republican candidate.

A successful businessman, multimillionaire and father of five, he supports centrist policies and during his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts (2003-2007) approved a health bill very similar to Barack Obama’s.

Born 64 years ago and raised in a Mormon family in Michigan, Romney was in France for two and a half years as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

He has been successful as a businessman. Proof of this was his tenure as vice-president at Bain & Company (1978), a consultancy firm which he rescued from bankruptcy, and as co-founder of Bain Capita (1984) from which stemmed great companies such as Staples, Sports Authority and Domino’s Pizza. In 2002 he organised the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, but three years before he had taken control of the event’s organising committee.

Despite the bribing scandals and the deficit of nearly 400 million dollars that hovered over the event, Romney’s actions contributed towards the Games being considered the best organised in US history.

A year later he won the candidate race to become Governor of Massachusetts. He then stood for the Republican primaries in 2008, won in 255 candidates in 11 States, but could not defeat John McCain.

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum

Another Republican rival of Obama is the ultraconservative Rick Santorum, the 53 year old ex-Senator of Pennsylvania, who’s ultra-religious and an admirer of George W. Bush.

One advantage is that as a descendant of Italian and Irish immigrants, he grew up in the working-class city of Butler (Pennsylvania), a decisive state where he would come up against Obama in November.

A graduate in Law at the State University of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh University and the Dickinson School of Law, Santorum began his political career in 1981 participating in local committees and campaigns. He was nicknamed “Rooster” during his student days and stood out for his perseverance and haughtiness as well as for his conservative leanings. Calling himself “Jesus’ candidate”, he is opposed to abortion and homosexual unions and traditional family values are key to his political discourse.

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

This is another of the big names fighting to be the Republican candidate.

Born in June 1943 in Pennsylvania, Newt Gingrich has worked as a critic for Fox News. He graduated in Modern History at Emory University and has a doctorate from Tulane University.

An ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, during the height of the ‘Lewinsky Scandal’ he led petitions calling for Clinton to be indicted when it was found he was having an extra-marital affair.

This led him to step down as Speaker of the House of Representatives that year and, in 1999, to leave Congress. Gingrich had been leading the polls but has been losing momentum following a spate of personal attacks from the current favourite Romney.

Ron Paul: against the war

Ron Paul

Finally, there is the inspiration behind the Tea Party movement, a man staunchly opposed to a foreign policy based on war, which he calls “morally grotesque”.

Ron Paul, who opposes abortion and favours legalising soft drugs, was born in Texas, is 76 years old and was a flight surgeon in the Armed Forces during the 60s. He defines himself as a constitutionalist and in 1988 ran for President as a Libertarian Party candidate. With more than three decades of political experience, he has been criticised for lack of coherence in his principles. However, he has one important factor on his side: the support of the young and of the swing-voters.

Ohio: a key state

Although he lacked the confidence needed to take the definitive leap, Romney won in six out of a possible ten states on “Super Tuesday” 6th March, when Republican primaries were held in ten states from coast to coast: Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia, and Affiliate Assemblies (Caucus) in Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota.

Ohio, a state with 66 delegates, is crucial in the race for the presidency, as no Republican candidate has got to the White House without having won in the State of Ohio. Romney emerged victorious, with Santorum on his coattails.

The Hispanic vote, stronger than ever

According to the well-known magazine Time, the Hispanic vote will prove decisive in these elections. And the truth is that no other bloc group in the US has grown as much in the last decade as Hispanics. They represent more than half of the growth of the population and one in four new-born children in the US. For the latest candidate race, more than 21.7 million Hispanics will be able to participate in elections, the highest number in history and an increase of more than two million since 2008.

(Translated by: José Stovell)

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