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Republicans promote 'compassionate conservative' visions for 2016

Paul Ryan outlining his "compassionate conservative" credentials for 2016
Paul Ryan outlining his "compassionate conservative" credentials for 2016
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Compassionate conservatism is back, the Washington Post is reporting today, among several of the candidate laying the groundwork to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016. After Mitt Romney was blasted for his infamous “47 percent” comment in reference to those receiving assistance from public welfare programs, GOP candidates for 2016 are rushing to be seen as “compassionate conservatives.”

The Washington Post reports, “The rebranding effort is taking center stage this week with pleas for more compassion from four potential GOP presidential candidates: Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rand Paul (Ky.), House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) and former Florida governor Jeb Bush. The Republicans are working to rechristen the GOP as kinder, more connected to the daily economic anxieties of poor Americans — and better able to win national elections.”

With unemployment still extremely high (and believed by many on the Republican side to be much higher than officially reported numbers) and high inequality of income in large part because of unemployment, Republicans candidates are working to define themselves as leaders who can address these issues. Economic opportunity is the highest priority of most of the candidate preparing a possible presidential run in 2016.

The Wall Street Journal reported today on the efforts of some of the candidates to outline their anti-poverty policies. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would create an “Opportunity Grant” program that would combine 11 existing federal programs into a grant issues to state governments to provide very public assistance programs. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is reported to advocate transferring all federal welfare programs to the control of state goverments. The Journal reported of Rubio's agenda, that “He would eliminate the earned-income tax credit and replacing it with a wage supplemant, paid for by the government, which would go into every paycheck.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the Journal reported, is promoting a bill he's introduced in the Senate with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) that would have 16 and 17 year old defendants tried and adjudicated as juveniles, rather than adults, and enable them to have a chance to not have criminal records. The Journal also reported on the proposal as including, “Nonviolent offenders over the age of 18 would be able to attempt to have their records sealed, and the government would expand access to benefits for low-level drug offenders.”

This is not the first time Republican candidates have sought to be viewed as “compassionate conservatives” as George W. Bush popularized that term in his 2000 run for president. The Washington Post reported, “If some of this debate sounds familiar, it should: The modern Republican Party has gone through regular periods of soul-searching to reach beyond its pro-business, socially conservative base. George H.W. Bush promised “a kinder and gentler nation” before winning the White House in 1988; his son, George W. Bush, ran successfully as a “compassionate conservative” a dozen years later.”