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Looking for a Competent, Polite, Experienced and Street Smart Candidate

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There's still no clear frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary campaign. For the most part, the debates have been a sideshow. And the party's strategists worry about a looming, election year battle in Congress over entitlement reform.


At this point in the presidential marathon, no one sees a clear outcome to the 2016 primaries, except that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party's likely nominee -- unless yet another catastrophe blows up in her scandal-prone campaign.

But so far in the GOP's stable of candidates, there is no Big Foot who is the dominant leader. Instead, the party's chief preferences are suffering from multiple weaknesses.

Real estate mogul and television celebrity Donald Trump is at the top in the latest Fox News polls with 26 percent. Not far behind him is former Johns Hopkins brain surgeon Ben Carson, with 23 percent.

There are huge doubts throughout the party that either of them are qualified to hold the office of the presidency, having never held any political office before.

Trump has based much his campaign off insulting the rest of the field, calling them "losers," "incompetent," and worse.

Carson's economic agenda includes a flat tax plan that he compares to tithing in church, lowering the income tax to 10 or 15 percent, an idea his critics say will add trillions of dollars to the government's suffocating debt.

Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is in third place at 11 percent, has gotten into big trouble running up large debts on his credit cards, which he says he has paid.

Rubio is tied with freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas who is in his third year in office, campaigning for the presidency as soon as he was elected in 2012.


Everyone else in the GOP field is in the low single digits or registers no numbers at all.

As frontrunner, Trump is coming under severe political criticism for many of his positions -- particularly from the conservative Club for Growth that focuses on economic issues.

"Donald Trump is a great entertainer and developer, but his ideas of what to do as president won't grow the economy," says the group's president, David McIntosh.

"He is not a serious Republican candidate, and many of his positions make him better suited to take on Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary," says McIntosh. Here are some of the positions the Club says Trump has taken in the past on major issues:

Trump on health care: "We must have universal healthcare," he said in his book. "I'm a conservative on most issues but a liberal on this one."

In an interview earlier this year, Trump continued to applaud single payer health care systems used in other countries," the Club said.

Trump on Taxes: "I would impose a one-time, 14.25 percent tax on individuals and trusts with a net worth over $10 million," he said. But raising taxes on the wealthy reduces business investment, resulting in weaker economic growth and declining tax revenue needed to pay down the government's mushrooming debts.

Trump on Trade: He has called for "a 20 percent tax for importing goods," and a "Twenty-five percent tax on China, unless they behave."


This of course would trigger a trade war with America's trading partners, from Canada to Europe to the Far East, -- hurting U.S. businesses and consumers. Not unlike the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that led to the Great Depression.

Trump on Eminent Domain: "When asked about the 2005 [U.S. Supreme Court] case Kelo vs. City of New London, that allowed economic development to be a legitimate reason for government to exercise eminent domain," Trump told Fox News: "I happen to agree with it 100 percent."

"Trump has held anti-growth positions on each of those issues... and still defends a massive government role in health care," McIntosh says. "Trump would not be a pro-growth president."

Meantime, Republicans are reported to be feuding over whether to seek sweeping entitlement reforms next year, including Medicare and Social Security -- long considered the deadly Third Rail in American politics.

Earlier this week, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he intends to undertake a "bold alternative agenda" that will include entitlements.

That was pure music to the Democrats' ears who were already beating their political drums on a familiar refrain -- the Republicans will take away your Social Security and Medicare benefits.

That was the Democrats' favored attack line in 2012 against the GOP's presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan who favored reforming both programs.

But why bring up an explosive issue in the midst of a critical election year, with both the presidency and the Congress up for grabs?


GOP strategists are warning party leaders that there are other major reform issues to run on, including getting the economy, job creation and investment running at full throttle again, reforming the tax code, and lowering tax rates across-the-board.

"This is the biggest fault line in the party: whether Republicans should be talking about reducing benefits," conservative economist Stephen Moore told the Washington Post.

"Republicans have fallen on their sword for 30 years trying to reform Social Security and Medicare, but the dream lives on -- and it makes everyone nervous," Moore said.

There's no doubt both programs need fixing to remain solvent for years to come, but it is rank political stupidity to do it in a presidential election year.

Even Trump understands this. On Tuesday, he attacked Ben Carson, saying he "wants to get rid of Medicare… You get rid of the fraud, waste and abuse -- it works."

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