Ideological Locations of 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates (Updated 5 January 2012)

In the wake of the Iowa Caucus, below we update the ideological locations of the candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. For those candidates who are currently serving or have served in Congress (former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), former Rep. and Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)), we use their Common Space DW-NOMINATE first dimension scores, which permit direct comparisons of the ideological (liberal-conservative) ideal points of members of Congress across chambers and across time. For the other candidates (Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman), we show the ideological distribution of members of Congress who have endorsed them, showing the average of their first-dimension DW-NOMINATE scores as a proxy measure of their own ideological position.

Jon Huntsman remains the most moderate candidate in the GOP field, and Ron Paul the most conservative. The average first-dimension DW-NOMINATE score of Mitt Romney’s and Rick Perry’s congressional endorsements has not changed much over time, still placing Perry to the right of Rommney, though the magnitude of this difference is not great. Note that Romney’s support (at least in Congress) spans most of the ideological territory of the Republican Party, though Romney (mean = 0.434) is also to the left of the DW-NOMINATE mean of all House Republicans (0.499) and the Senate Republican mean (0.453) in the 112th Congress. Perry is to the right of both groups, the mean of endorsements is 0.561.

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich’s congressional record places them between Romney and Huntsman. Though Santorum built a conservative record on social/cultural issues during his time as a Senator from Pennsylvania, he was also more moderate on economic issues– particularly trade, where he leaned protectionist relative to other dongressional Republicans (indeed, the manufacturing sector was a major theme in his Iowa caucus speech).

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