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Republican Club hosts Presidential Straw Poll

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa


January 26, 2012: While many political pundits predict Ohio will play a major role in selecting the eventual GOP presidential nominee, a local Republican club conducted a mock debate and straw poll, so club members could learn where the candidates stand on major issues and their backgrounds.


Toledo City Councilman George Sarantou served as the moderator of the mock debate/straw poll sponsored by the Greater Toledo Republican Club (GTRC). Each “candidate” gave a five-minute presentation of their qualifications for the presidency, as well as their various positions on the issues. The audience then asked the “candidates” questions for 20 minutes. Sarantou called it “democracy in action” and likened it to the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.


“This is very similar: small gatherings of people who love their country, care about the future of their country, have sacrificed for this country, and want to make the right decision when they vote for the presidency,” Sarantou said.


GTRC members each researched the positions and biographies of the candidates for their portrayals of the four GOP presidential hopefuls. John Birmingham, Sr. portrayed 12-term Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Jim Nowak played the role of candidate Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor. Mike Griswold assumed the role of candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Les Rupert portrayed former two-term Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.


Birmingham admitted he wished he “could be Dr. Frankenstein” and take the best attributes of the four candidates and create one more to his liking. Birmingham also called Dr. Paul, a former obstetrician, the “godfather of the modern Tea Party movement” and a “champion of the Constitution.” Paul has run twice for the presidency in the past, including once as a Libertarian candidate in 1988.


“I hope you realize you have a sincere candidate who may not as flashy as some of the others   and certainly not as fiery as some of the others,” Birmingham said in closing. “But he will be a man in the office of President of the United States and see that the Constitution is carried out.”


Griswold reminded those in attendance that Gingrich was the architect of the GOP’s “Contract with America” in the 1990s. Griswold noted that Gingrich is a former college professor in his home state of Georgia, obtaining a doctorate from Tulane before entering politics. He served in Congress for 20 years. The author of 23 books, Griswold noted Gingrich was last in the presidential polls at one point, but had surged to a virtual dead heat with Romney.


“He used his leadership to save Medicaid from bankruptcy,” Griswold said. “If all this is impressive, I’ve only scratched the surface (of his accomplishments).”


Rupert wore a sweater vest in tribute to what has become Santorum’s trademark on the campaign trail. He explained Santorum wears them “so he can roll up his sleeves and do the hard lifting that is necessary.”


Santorum was first elected to Congress at the age of 32. While a two-term U.S. Senator, the father of seven served on the Armed Services Committee. Rupert described him as a pro-life, family candidate who intends to cut defense spending, pass a balanced-budget amendment, and repeal the universal health care bill passed under the current Obama administration.


“He’s not a rock star and he’s not flashy, but he does have a tour. It’s not a music tour, but it’s called the Faith, Family, and Freedom Tour,” said Rupert. “That says a lot about our country and what he stands for. He has some bold plans for our country.”




Rupert was the only “candidate” to address immigration in his opening remarks.


“Build fences. Have the people there and use the technology is the first step,” he said. “Second step is to streamline legal immigration.”


Nowak called it a “quest” for all of the GOP candidates running for president. He admitted he did not understand Romney from portrayals of his candidacy in newspaper articles he read. Romney, who was born in Detroit, is the son of a former Michigan governor. Nowak called him a “family man” who has five sons and 16 grandchildren. He also helped his wife fight cancer.

Nowak pointed out Romney spent most of his life in the private sector, not in politics.  


“It’s about time we had somebody who is a businessperson in government as opposed to a career politician who doesn’t know what it is to have to make a payroll and a paycheck and actually pay employees,” said Nowak, who held up a booklet with 59 proposals Romney has forwarded. “This is a business plan.”


During a question-and-answer period, the issue of immigration came up again. Many of the four candidates spoke of “protecting the borders.”


Paul was described as “very sensitive to the issue of illegal immigration.” Birmingham spoke of the difference between “immigration” and “illegal immigration.”


“The issue of illegal immigration—where people come in and circumvent our laws and wind up taking jobs from American citizens—is wrong and it’s something that needs to be corrected,” said Birmingham on Paul’s behalf. “It needs to be corrected, first and foremost, with more security on the borders.”


Birmingham spoke of soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan “who have experience in this area” and Paul would “apply their talents and training on the border” to “stop all illegal immigration.”


Griswold stated Gingrich’s agreement with much of Paul’s viewpoint on illegal immigration. But Griswold pointed out the difficulty Gingrich has with uprooting people and families who already are established in communities across the United States.


“He’s a strong believer in keeping people out,” said Griswold of Gingrich. “But he does feel going beyond that would disrupt the nation in a great manner.”


Nowak explained that Romney has a two-part take on immigration, one that goes beyond protecting the borders.


“They come here on visas and sometimes we tell them they have to leave,” said Nowak. “We spend money in educating people and keep them in this country and they can fulfill jobs and talents that we need—engineering, biochemistry, medicine and so on. Those people should be able to stay and grow this country in the same manner we and our forefathers did as immigrants.”


Rupert further explained Santorum’s position on immigration as “very extensive.” He said Santorum advocates ending state benefits for illegal immigrants, such as in-state tuition. But he also pointed out that Santorum advocates streamlining immigration so that people can become legal “as quickly as possible.”


Rupert stated that Santorum wants to address many of the other issues associated with the immigration debate, including attracting educated immigrants to become entrepreneurs and establishing what he called “a workable guest worker program for agricultural workers.”


“It’s not just about building fences and putting more guards on the Mexican border,” he said.


About two dozen GTRC members attended the event at the Wernert’s Corners Civic Association Building, 5068 Douglas Rd. In the end, the straw poll reflected many of the recent candidate surveys. Romney and Gingrich tied with nine votes apiece, while Santorum finished with four votes, and Paul ended up with two supporters.


Ohio and Michigan are expected to help determine the GOP presidential nominee in the coming weeks. There are 66 delegates up for grabs in Ohio’s primary March 6, 2012. Michigan’s primary will be held the week before, with 30 delegates at stake.



Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/31/12 13:08:36 -0800.





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