The Longform.org Guide to the 2012 GOP Field
From Bachmann to Huntsman, Paul to Perry, one great read about each Republican candidate for president.
Perry's in. Bachmann's everywhere. Herman Cain is ... still running. With the GOP primary race finally in full swing, it's time to get to know the candidates a little better. Here are our all-time favorite profiles of the contenders for the 2012 Republican nomination. Oh, and one on Chris Christie, too.
The Chosen One G.R. Anderson Jr. • Minneapolis City Pages • October 2006
The first in-depth piece on Michelle Bachmann:
Technically, Bachmann's political odyssey began in 1999, when she was part of a controversial slate of GOP-endorsed candidates for the traditionally nonpartisan Stillwater School Board. She and her compatriots lost that battle, collectively finishing at the bottom of the heap on Election Day. To date, it's the only election Bachmann has lost. She came back the very next year, mounting a stealthy and deadly-effective campaign to unseat incumbent GOP State Senator Gary Laidig, a Vietnam veteran and old-school Republican moderate who had represented the area in a state House or Senate seat since 1972.
But in a broader sense Bachmann had been honing her political chops and pursuing the role of uber-Christian public activist for years by that time. Back in 1993, she helped to start a Stillwater charter school that ran afoul of many parents and the local school board when it became apparent that the school—which received public money and therefore was bound to observe the legal separation of church and state—was injecting Christain elements into the curriculum. After Bachmann and company were driven out of that venture, she became a prolific speaker and writer on the evils of public education in the years leading up to her failed school board run.
By all accounts, she made herself into a formidable presence. "She's articulate, attractive, and speaks passionately," says Mary Cecconi, who spent eight years on the Stillwater School Board. "Actually, she is ferocious."
The Mission Ryan Lizza • The New Yorker • Oct 2007
A profile of Romney from his last presidential campaign, with a focus on how he evolved from professional consultant to professional candidate:
Romney's transition from the boardroom to the campaign trail has been clumsy in other respects, too. According to "Turnaround," at Bain Capital, the investment firm that Romney headed, the partners suspected that their boss fostered a cutthroat competitive environment in order to motivate them. When he greets voters, this competitiveness often surfaces as posturing; chitchat turns into one-upmanship. After a voter at the New Hampshire diner told Romney, "My daughter goes to Michigan State," he replied, "Oh, does she, really? My brother's on the board of Michigan State." When another patron said that she was from Illinois, Romney told her, "I won the straw poll at the Illinois Republican convention!" Romney's most seemingly innocuous comments can be head-scratchers. Later that afternoon, standing next to a local supporter who had escorted him to several Derry businesses, Romney told reporters, "Now I understand why I'm going to be gaining a couple of pounds with him, because we've eaten everywhere we've gone, almost." Romney, a fitness buff who is shown jogging in a recent campaign ad, had about half a frappe at the diner (he threw the rest away) and a cookie at a bakery—nothing at an Italian restaurant, a feed store, a scrapbook shop, or a hardware store. Whatever gene causes hyper-competitive perfectionists always to go one step beyond their adversaries, or anyone else, Romney has it.
Right Place, Right Time Paul Burka • Texas Monthly • February 2010
On the calculated political career of Rick Perry, and what it means for his presidential bid:
The paradox of Rick Perry is that, although he is the state's longest-serving governor and he has a following that reaches beyond the borders of Texas, he has never gotten a lot of respect at home. This is true even inside the Capitol and even among Republicans. Once, during a prolonged battle over school finance reform, the Republican-led House voted down Perry's plan 124 to 8, amid whoops and hollers and horseplay. Considering his long tenure in office—six years as state representative, eight as agriculture commissioner, two as lieutenant governor, and a record nine years (and counting) as governor—Perry has had little to say about the critical issues facing Texas, in particular, education and health care. When he has gotten involved, it is usually on ideological grounds, such as support for vouchers, merit pay for teachers, and privatization of state health services. (These experiments have been flops. A proposed voucher program died in a House floor fight; a merit pay program for teachers was abandoned after it failed to show improvement in student performance; and the privatization contract was a fiasco.)
But Perry has one overriding asset: good timing. It has propelled him, over the past 25 years, from unknown Democratic state legislator to credible Republican presidential contender. His ability to figure out where Texas politics was headed and to get out in front of the parade has been the essential skill that has enabled him to stay in sync with the state Republican party as it has evolved over the years.
Max Linsky is the co-founder of Longform.org.
Perry by Darren McCollester/Getty Images. Bachmann by Scott Olson/Getty Images.