Candidates set themselves apart
Republican presidential hopefuls Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., left, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, right, shake hands over the lap of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, center, at the end of the Republican presidential primary debate hosted by Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, June 5, 2007.
———AP Photo / Elise Amendola

MANCHESTER — While expectations were that the 10 Republican candidates who took part in Tuesday's presidential forum would ceaselessly intone the name of Ronald Reagan, unite in their intention to continue the war in Iraq and be uniform in their approach to immigration, it turned out that nothing could have been further from the truth.

The candidates — former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and California Rep. Duncan Hunter — had opinions that were quite diverse on many issues.

Giuliani solidified his position as a social moderate by standing firm on his pro-choice, pro-gun control record. McCain would not waver on the importance of a military victory in Iraq. And Romney attempted to deal with the fact that he has changed his position on many of the issues under discussion in America these days from the time he ran for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts in 1994 and for governor of that state.

Paul, who ran for president in 1998 as a Libertarian, continued to talk about too much government regulation and lawmaking, and represented the only GOP candidate who favored immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. Huckabee, an ordained reverend, was forced to answer questions on evolution and moral issues, but also was in the thick of discussions on issues ranging from Iran to health care. Tancredo showed his inflexibility on immigration and stood firm in his opposition to the Immigration Reform Bill that McCain co-sponsored, indicating he opposed all immigration — legal and illegal. Hunter said the Iraqi army must bear the burden of quelling sectarian violence so U.S. troops can be rotated out. Brownback said that Republicans should not and would not nominate a candidate who was not staunchly pro-life, but under questioning from CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer, said he would support the party's nominee, whoever that was. Thompson and Gilmore showed why they are third-tier candidates, saying relatively little that was new or original.

If anyone lost ground in this debate, it was probably Romney, who was called out a number of times by both his fellow candidates and members of the audience for the socially liberal positions he held while vying for the Massachusetts Senate seat and the governor's office, as opposed to the more conservative statements he is making in this presidential race.

What became evident is that the Republican candidates are not carbon copies of each other, but individuals, each with his own agenda, and approach to the problems facing Americans. They each succeeded in setting themselves apart from each other.

Though it lacks a woman or anyone of color, the Republican field appears to be a more diverse group than the Democrats. It means that not only will Republican voters have some real choices to make in the 2008 primaries, but that American voters will see two candidates in the general election with well-thought out — and well-publicized — positions and battle-tested philosophies.

It offers those who choose to take part in the election process an opportunity to pick a presidential nominee in 2008 who they believe will best address what voters see as the pivotal issues that face this country.