We’ve all heard about Hillary Clinton’s flaws in running for president: She’s a tool of Wall Street; she’s too pro-Obama; she’s too hawkish on foreign policy and defense; she’s too greedy for the huge speaking fees that she and her husband have been raking in.
Republican Party research groups and hired guns have spent countless days combining the former Secretary of State’s record dating back to her days as a lawyer in Little Rock, Arkansas and the wife of then-governor Bill Clinton in search of fresh dirt. They are particularly interested in finding ways to link her to President Obama and his highly unpopular foreign policy and economic record.
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas told a group of wealthy donors recently that Clinton would become caught up in the “Barack Triangle” and become inexorably linked to his administration and management style, according to The New York Times.
But what about the flaws of the nearly two dozen Republican politicians who may seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2016? Some with considerable political baggage of their own – including Perry and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush – appear to be getting ready to throw their hats in the ring early next year.
Fear not. Democratic opposition researchers have been busily plugging away to unearth damaging or embarrassing evidence for their party to use against the Republican field as the campaign begins to heat up. And we’re just now beginning to see signs of it.
American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic research and communications organization largely staffed by Clinton supporters, just published an online “2016 Scouting Report” compiling unflattering research and background about 20 of the more likely Republican presidential aspirants.
The findings are based on extensive research of newspaper, television, internet and other media reports, speeches, and public records – and so there aren’t a lot of terribly surprising findings. Perry has a long way to go to make amends for his “oops” remark and clumsy performance in the 2012 campaign; Rubio and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky have problems justifying “flip-flops” in their positions; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has a bad temper, and so on.
Yet as a compendium of foibles, missteps and potential scandals, the research document is pretty useful – both to Democrats looking for chinks in the armor of potential Republican challengers and for Republican candidates looking for ways to knock off some of their GOP competitors.
Here are some of the group’s findings on four of the more prominent Republican presidential aspirants:
Since leaving the Florida governor’s mansion in 2007, “Bush’s comments on hot-button issues, his championing of immigration reform, and his support for Common Core have raised the ire of the conservative base.” In 2009, Bush “committed a major Republican Party faux pas” when he spoke critically of how frequently Republicans invoke the spirit of Ronald Reagan, arguing that the party needs to give up its “nostalgia” for the Reagan years.
Bush confirmed the Tea Party’s suspicions of his support for “amnesty” for illegal immigrants this year when he called illegal immigration an “act of love” and “not a felony.” Bush is probably one of the most vocal supporter of the Common Core State Standards for education, which the Tea Party views as another big strike against him.
During his time outside of public office, “Bush has seemingly lent his name to an indiscriminate number of ventures seeking legitimacy for their operations” as he made his fortune. “In one notable deal involving Bush and his business partner Armando Codina, the two purchased an office building in Miami using funds Codina borrowed from a local savings and loan institution, which became insolvent in 1988,” according to a report by The New York Times.
Chris Christie – New Jersey governor, former U.S. attorney and lobbyist.
“Bridgegate” is fading as a major impediment to Christie’s bid for president ever since the U.S. Justice Department issued a preliminary report indicating that he “neither knew in advance nor directed the closure of traffic lanes on the span” according to NBC News. Yet Christie’s “notorious temper” and persistent whiffs of corruption that followed him throughout his career could come back to haunt him.
“As the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Christie was known for allowing companies accused of white-collar crimes to enter into deferred prosecution agreements,” according to American Bridge. “Part of these agreements included hiring third-party lawyers as federal contractors to monitor the companies’ reforms and actions. Christie awarded several multi-million-dollar no-bid monitoring contracts to people with whom he had a conflict of interest” or relationship, including former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
In 2002, Christie drove the wrong way down a street and hit a motorcyclist. The officer who arrived on the scene declined to write Christie a ticket after Christie revealed his title and that he was on his way to a county prosecutor’s swearing-in ceremony. The victim, who was injured in the accident, sued Christie and the case was settled out of court in 2004.
As governor, Christie has gained national attention for arguing with and attacking those who ask him tough or unwelcome questions. Just last October, at an event marking the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Christie blew up when he was confronted by a local resident who asked him to explain why home rebuilding efforts had stalled. Christie immediately began shouting at the man and told him to “sit down and shut up,” earning widespread condemnation by the media.
Rand Paul – A first-term senator from Kentucky, ophthalmologist and son of former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).
The libertarian and Tea Party darling has attacked the Republican party for being, in his view, too similar to the Democratic Party, while he has “embraced a non-interventionist foreign policy that is out of line with much of the GOP base,” especially on Syria and Iraq.
During his formative years in college and later in politics, he took controversial stands on women’s rights and civil rights issues. While a student at Baylor, Paul wrote an opinion piece in the school newspaper supporting “the right to discriminate” as one of the “inalienable rights of man.”
More recently, Paul spoke out against the part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned private business owners from discriminating against clients based on race, saying, “I think it’s a bad decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant – but at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.” He later backed away from that view.
Much like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rand Paul offered his own federal budget proposals in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Unlike Ryan, however, Paul’s proposals were more explicit and called for eliminating the Departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development; repealing the Affordable Care Act; eliminating the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; and block-granting both Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Marco Rubio – Freshman senator from Florida, former Florida state House speaker and one time consultant.
Rubio captivated the conservative world during his 2010 campaign for Senate, quickly becoming a favorite of the Tea Party and hailed by many as the next generation of Republican leadership. “However, he is frequently criticized by members of his own party for his habit of changing policy positions when it is politically convenient, and he caused significant damage to himself within the party with his flip-flop on immigration reform.”
Rubio’s time as speaker of the state house resulted in several financial scandals and accusations that he mismanaged taxpayer money.” In addition to the criticism he received for his lavish spending on staff salaries, office renovations, and building a members only dining room, Rubio has been embroiled in a number of other ethical scandals in the past.”
Rubio came under significant criticism for the way in which he characterized his parents’ and grandparents’ emigration from Cuba – making it sound as if they fled Cuba after Fidel Castro’s takeover when in fact they left three years before then.
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