Republicans are now three contests into their presidential primary season, but not much closer to settling on a nominee. Those three contests whittled the field down from seven candidates to four, weeding out Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry, but they also delivered three different winners: Rick Santorum in Iowa, Mitt Romney in New Hampshire and Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, with Ron Paul still fighting for his first victory.
Next up is the Florida primary, which will help determine who has staying power. In the meantime, many voters -- deluged with attack ads and fatigued from nearly 20 televised debates -- are still struggling to determine which candidate best represents their views.
The International Business Times has compiled comprehensive profiles of each candidate's positions on 11 issues: entitlement programs, health care, job creation, taxes, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, abortion, education, gay marriage and immigration. Below are brief summaries of each candidate's background; click the link beside any candidate's name to see their full profile.
NEWT GINGRICH (full profile)
Gingrich was elected to the House of Representatives in 1979 and was the minority whip from 1989 to 1995 before becoming speaker of the House. He was one of the architects of the 1994 Republican Revolution, in which Republican candidates won over voters with the Contract with America and took control of the House for the first time in 40 years. His time as speaker was marked by a series of clashes with President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and by internal strife within the Republican Party. In one of his most well-known acts as speaker, he went toe-to-toe with Clinton on the federal budget, forcing two government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. Later, in 1998, he became the first-ever speaker of the House to be sanctioned on ethics charges. He resigned the following year and has spent the time since on consulting work and health care policy.
Some of Gingrich's critics say that he lacked leadership skills as speaker of the House; others say he is too much of a Washington insider or point to his two extramarital affairs. His supporters see his extensive governing experience as a plus and believe he is the candidate most familiar with and qualified to address the nation's economic problems. He is polling at 29 percent nationally and 37.7 percent in Florida.
RON PAUL (full profile)
Paul has been a U.S. representative from Texas continuously since 1997 and on-and-off since 1976. Before that, he was a doctor, serving as a flight surgeon in the United States Air Force from 1963 to 1968 and then as an obstetrician-gynecologist until 1976. As an OB-GYN, he delivered more than 4,000 babies. As a politician, he has made a name for himself as a libertarian, supporting fiscal conservatism, a non-interventionist foreign policy and an eclectic set of social policies. He is also the author of numerous books and articles on libertarianism. He has run for president twice before: he was the Libertarian Party's nominee in 1988 and ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in 2008.
He has a very devoted following, especially among young voters. His supporters praise his ideological consistency and sincerity and contrast him to corrupt and cynical politicians, while his critics claim that his economic policies are extreme and his foreign policy views isolationist. His support has increased substantially in recent weeks, and he stands at 12.3 percent nationally and 10.3 percent in Florida.
MITT ROMNEY (full profile)
Romney was the governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. That came after an unsuccessful run for Edward Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat in 1994 and a widely praised stint as CEO of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, in which he brought the Games back from the brink of financial collapse. Before 1994, he was a successful businessman, working at the Bain & Company management consulting firm before co-founding Bain Capital, a private equity investment firm. He is an observant Mormon, having graduated from Brigham Young University and spent two years as a missionary in France.
He was considered the de facto front-runner for the 2012 Republican nomination after losing to John McCain in 2008, but he has struggled to gain the trust of the party's conservative wing, which sees him as a flip-flopper. His poll numbers are 27.7 percent nationally and 30.3 percent in Florida.
RICK SANTORUM (full profile)
Santorum was a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2007, when Democrat Bob Casey Jr. beat him, 59 percent to 41 percent, the largest-ever margin for a Republican incumbent senator in the state. He began his political career as a a U.S. representative from 1991 to 1995. Before that, he was a lawyer whose clients included the World Wrestling Foundation, and he returned to law after losing his Senate seat. He is known for being a staunch conservative on social, fiscal and foreign-policy issues alike, and for pushing conservative legislation throughout his time in Congress.
His supporters admire his steadfast conservative views and the bluntness with which he expresses them; his detractors, on the other hand, see some of his positions -- for instance, his opposition to birth control -- as extreme even for conservatives. He is polling at 14.7 percent nationally and 11.7 percent in Florida.