GOP White House Hopefuls Bone Up on Policy Issues

Monday, 07 Apr 2014 08:06 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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GOP presidential hopefuls crafting their platforms are meeting with scholars, experts, and former officials whose expertise ranges from foreign policy to the economy, The Washington Post reported.

"Presidential candidates have a lot to not just learn, but to decide," Michael Leavitt, a former Utah governor and George W. Bush Cabinet member, told the Post. "They have to develop a cohesive and consistent point of view on various issues that they probably never had to think about before."

Many of the candidates are reaching out to their conservative brethren from the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush years. Positions on certain issues — slashing federal spending, loosening regulations, and maintaining a strong military— are a constant. Forming new positions in other areas is fluid, according to the Post.

Florida Gov. Marco Rubio has hired policy experts on staff and regularly consults with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative public policy think tank. Rubio’s agenda includes original ideas on curbing rising tuition costs, as well advocating for America to be less isolationist and more proactive on issues such as encouraging democracy around the world and spending money to enhance America’s image, Politico reported last month.

"I really believe Republicans have to start to be more than the opposition and think about how best to talk about our alternatives," Rubio told the Post.

Candidates want to appeal to issues important to all Americans, not just hardline conservatives, according to the Post. Income inequality and foreign policy are two of the major ones.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has met with scholars at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, including former White House economic adviser John B. Taylor and former Romney policy director Lanhee Chen, the Post reported. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz plans to meet with Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush’s secretary of defense. Rumsfeld’s former aide, Victoria Coates, has been hired to be Cruz’s national security adviser.

Former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice have been schooling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as has Council on Foreign Relations President Richard N. Haass.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the latter tapped as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, have also been doing their share of networking and studying the issues, according to the Post. Last week, Jindal, who is positioning himself as a policy wonk, released his alternative to Obamacare. He has also formed a nonprofit. America Next, to tout his ideas.

After embarrassing gaffes on foreign policy in 2012, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has stepped up his game, getting briefings from think tank experts. Perry has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as business and government leaders in London at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the Post reported.

Nearly all potential candidates seek foreign policy guidance from Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"They all call, all the time, even if some of them are just checking the box," McCain said. "First, I tell them to touch base with Henry Kissinger — of course."

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