Republican candidates gathered in New Hampshire this week to stake their claim as the person to beat President Obama in next year’s election.


Why New Hampshire? It’s a key state in what’s known as the “primaries”, a process that’s equally fascinating and tedious.

In a bandwagon that candidates hope will swing across the nation, voters in each state must nominate those coveting the Republican Party’s nomination.

It’s an election, often brutal and vicious, before the Presidential election. To complicate matters a little more, each state has its own preferred process. One state may open the elections to all voters while another may only allow voters registered with a specific party to vote on its nominees.

Primaries start in early 2012 but the shuffling has already begun. New Hampshire historically holds its primary early so it’s a state where a candidate wants to gain early momentum.

So it is that Republicans have wheeled into Manchester, New Hampshire, this week for a debate between seven of leading Presidential want-to-bes who will try to impress Republican voters with their conservative credentials.

So please meet:

Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who failed to win nomination in 2008. A Mormon, he is considered a smooth front-runner but faces challenges explaining his health care policy as governor to national right-wingers. It’s what “Obamacare” was based on.

Newt Gingrich, a former Speaker of the House, whose personal life has infamously been a mess with divorce and affairs. Not helping: his staff quit en masse last week.

Tim Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota, an understated solid Christian and conservative who could emerge as the leading candidate.

Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Congresswoman and Tea Party pin-up, who is a fiery ideological twin to Sarah Palin. If Obama is for it, Bachmann is 100 per cent against it.

Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, has promoted teaching creationism in schools, made controversial comments about homosexuality and linked Catholic Church sex abuse in Boston to liberal culture. You might think that would rule him out. You’d be wrong.

Ron Paul, congressman from Texas, is a libertarian and another Tea Party favourite. To be successful, he’ll have to defeat Bachmann and win over her fan base.

Herman Cain, a former CEO of a pizza company made headlines recently by announcing that President Obama “was raised in Kenya” and has previously said he was unsure if Obama was born in the United States.

There’s still time for other candidates to step up but you’ll notice the absence from this debate of Sarah Palin and, perhaps, Jon Hunstman, a former ambassador to China under President Obama. Neither has yet declared candidacy and probably only Huntsman will.

Both are unlikely to win nomination anyway. Palin will prefer her well-paid role being loud on the sidelines rather than commit to a platform that may not survive real world scrutiny. Huntsman, a moderate who may have potential to challenge the President, is unlikely to impress the Republican base with his work in China for Obama.

It’s that petty and that polarised.

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