Distinguishing policy differences among the vast field of GOP candidates seeking the White House is a daunting task, but according to Politico
, the 17 presidential hopefuls embrace a variety of new, old and repurposed positions.
Just 10 of the 17 have garnered a spot on Thursday’s prime-time debate stage, though the remaining seven have been invited to participate in an earlier forum, something The Atlantic
refers to as "a kid’s table."
The top 10, based on an average of five national polls counted by Fox News, are billionaire real estate magnate Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
On the surface, the candidates appear to hold similar views on most social issues, in addition to such issues as Obamacare, cutting taxes and bolstering the defense budget.
But "this conformity masks disagreement on a host of other issues, including immigration, trade, education, the minimum wage and that most sacred of Iowa’s cows, ethanol subsidies," according to Politico.
"Squint a little, and the GOP 17 start to emerge as individual people who differ not just in personality but also in their ideas about how to govern. Those differences could become magnified with a fickle GOP base that is ready for fresh blood — and looking for reasons to dismiss candidates from the unwieldy field of hopefuls."
Here are some of those discernible differences:
Already a hot topic before Trump’s disparaging remarks about illegal Mexican immigrants ignited a firestorm, immigration is what Politico characterizes as the candidates’ most "fluid" issue.
Their positions range from hardline opposition, to a path to citizenship (embraced by Walker, Christie and even Bush, who previously supported a path to citizenship but "now favors 'a path to legalized status but not citizenship"), to Graham’s desire for a path to citizenship, albeit "long" and "hard."
Huckabee wants that only for undocumented children. Trump has not laid out a specific plan and Rubio is "the champion escape artist," according to Politico, which writes that Florida’s junior senator has communicated "at least seven different positions over the course of his political career."
Rubio's most recent iteration is a path to citizenship.
Fast-track trade authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Some of the field opposes fast-track trade-promotion authority but not the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while others take "the more traditionally pro-trade GOP position" favoring both.
Trump is the only candidate to have voiced opposition to both.
The federal Common Core education standards, designed to nationally standardize classroom instruction and testing, has been Bush’s pet issue
, though he now takes the position that Washington "should exercise no influence over it," according to Politico.
Kasich has also supported Common Core, while many of the others vehemently oppose it.
Income inequality and ethanol — the latter a key concern for voters in the corn-producing state of Iowa — are also topics of dispute among the White House hopefuls and may be part of the debate.
At least one Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, doesn’t think there’s much to differentiate between the Republican field, according to The Associated Press
"Her campaign was preemptively making the case that there was little difference between Trump's 'outrageous' positions and the rest of the field," according to Politico.
"They all have an identical agenda," Clinton's chief strategist, Joel Benenson, said.
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