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The five remaining GOP presidential candidates have drawn distinctions on key issues in the run-up to the South Carolina primary.


This story first appeared in the January 19, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Front-runner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: “Four years ago, we were really focused on Iraq and what was happening there and the surge. And that was an area that really was in John McCain’s wheelhouse. Now, the economy is the issue people are most concerned about. That’s in my wheelhouse.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum: “The rest of the economy is not being shipped off like the mills here in South Carolina were to other countries around the world because of foreign competition. The foreign competition that we are dealing with right now is much cheaper to do business, excluding labor costs, than we are, [which is] about 20 percent more and that 20 percent differential is government…regulation and it’s also government taxation.…So, [in my plan] we’ve leveled the playing field for the guys here in this country and we’ve created a competitive environment for the manufacturer.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry: “Well, obviously the first thing we need to do in this country is cut the tax rate down to where the people feel confident that they can risk their capital and have a return on their investment. That’s the reason I laid out a simple…flat tax of 20 percent, [which is optional] with their home mortgage deduction and charitable expenses and local taxes. Get rid of the capital gains tax. Get rid of the benefits tax. Get rid of the tax on Social Security benefits and then take 20 percent of that and mail your check in.”

Texas Rep. Ron Paul: “We should have the lowest [income] tax that we’ve ever had, and up until 1913 it was 0 percent. What’s so bad about that?”


Santorum: “What we’ve seen in the past under this administration is extending benefits up to 99 weeks. I don’t support that. I think if you have people who are out of work that long a period of time…it makes it harder to find work when you come back.…What we should do is have it be just like welfare. Give it to the states, put a time limit.“

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: “All unemployment compensation should be tied to a job training requirement.”


Romney: “The right course for us is not to think we have to go run over there to Europe to try to save their banking system or to try and pump money into the banks here in this country. This is the time for us to recognize that the system of laws we have and the free enterprise system works and we don’t need government stepping in with regulations and higher taxes and telling us what we can and cannot do as a society to try and keep America strong.”


Perry: “The issue in venture capitalism is about creating jobs. And this vulture capitalism is about, you know, making money regardless of whether people lose their jobs or not.”

Gingrich: “There was a pattern in some companies, a handful of them, of leaving them with enormous debt and then within a year or two or three, having them go broke. I think that is something he [Romney] ought to answer.”

Romney: “Four of the companies we invested in, they weren’t businesses I ran, but we invested in, ended up [as of] today having some 120,000 jobs. Some of the businesses we invested in weren’t successful and lost jobs. I think if [the American public] wants to have someone who understands how the economy works, having worked in the real economy, that I’m the guy that can best post up to Barack Obama.”


Perry: “God bless the Tea Party because if nothing else…they clearly showed Americans that they need to pick up the Constitution of the United States and read it.”

Romney: “I want people to know that I love legal immigration. Almost all of us in this room are descendants of immigrants or are immigrants ourselves.”


President Obama: “I don’t want America to be a nation that’s primarily known for financial speculation and racking up debt buying stuff from other nations. I want us to be known for making and selling products all over the world stamped with three proud words: ‘Made in America.’ I don’t want the next generation of manufacturing jobs taking root in countries like China or Germany. I want them taking root in places like Michigan and Ohio and Virginia and North Carolina. And that’s a race that America can win.

“After shedding jobs for more than a decade, American manufacturers have now added jobs for two years in a row. That’s good news. But when a lot of folks are still looking for work, now is the time for us to step on the gas. So that’s why I pushed Congress to extend the payroll tax cut this year, so that 160 million working Americans weren’t hit with a tax hike. Now is the time to extend that middle class…tax cut for all of this year.

“But we’re going to have to do more. And that’s why, in the next few weeks, we’re also going to put forward new tax proposals that reward companies that choose to bring jobs home and invest in America. And we’re going to eliminate tax breaks for companies that are moving jobs overseas. Because there is an opportunity to be had right here and right now. There are workers ready to work, right now. That’s why I set a goal of doubling our exports of goods and services by 2014 — and it’s a goal, by the way, that we’re on track to meet; in fact, we’re a little ahead of schedule in meeting that goal.”

And here are some suggestions on their style:

Rick Perry: The Texas governor continues his unsophisticated style of dressing in South Carolina. There’s no right occasion for a man to wear a Wal-Mart fleece jacket in public. If he’s looking for cozy, he should take the plunge and pull on a Snuggie. And what’s up with the high-waisted dress pants? He’s mixing elements from different fashion universes. A white dress shirt, ill-fitting dress pants and a Western belt shows a total lack of identity and direction. And the orthopedic cowboy boots are the nail in the coffin.

Newt Gingrich: We’re still waiting for him to visit the barber. But that aside, he seems to wear the exact same outfit every day. Let’s hope he has seven of the same suit, shirt and tie, otherwise it would make for an interesting ride for his aides in the campaign bus. The pants are too long, but at least he’s buttoning the jacket to hide his belly.

Mitt Romney: He’s losing fashion credibility fast in South Carolina. This blazer is not as sharp as others have been, and the jeans are the wrong silhouette. Always choose a straight leg and avoid the boot cut. A man his age should also avoid whiskering or any wash and opt for a darker denim. A braided brown belt would be better to enhance the softness of the outfit, but the cute loafers are the outfit’s saving grace. He may be happy he’s leading the Republican race, but watch out not to show too much veneer when he smiles.

Rick Santorum:
He has upped his fashion game by losing the now-renowned sweater vest and opting for a sharp, two-button notch lapel that fits him very well and enhances his assets. There are still some mistakes, such as the shirt collar being too big and overpowering the knot of the tie, which is a bit too long. His choice of a gelato-striped tie would overpower someone else, but he can carry it off. He looks comfortable and confident.

Ron Paul:
Everybody’s favorite grandpa continues to miss the point by not wearing structured garments. The oversize beige sweater hugs him in all the wrong places and it continues to enhance his frailty. The pants are way too long and too big and paired with the orthopedic shoes are a fatal combination. And is that a cell phone in his pocket or is he just happy to see the people of South Carolina? Empty your pockets.

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