Stimulus Divides 2012 GOP Contenders

It is never too early to start talking about the next presidential election, and for many of those expected to contend for the GOP nomination, the proposed economic stimulus package provides an early test of whether they will be Bush-style big-government conservatives or whether they will champion limited government and economic freedom. So far, the record is decidedly mixed.

In the “give me my pork” camp are governors Sarah Palin, Charlie Crist, and Tim Pawlenty. Palin, darling of many “movement” conservatives came all the way to Washington to lobby for the bill. Crist worked the phones, unsuccessfully trying to convince Republican House members from Florida to support the bill. Pawlenty admits some concern over the bill’s impact on the federal deficit, but says, governors “are entitled to ask for our share of the money.”

On the other side, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney says that he opposes the bill. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal also opposes the stimulus bill, though he admits he may accept the money if it passes. Taking the strongest stand against the bill is South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, who not only opposes the bill but says he probably would not accept any funds for his state. “It’s incumbent on me as one of the nation’s governors to speak out against what I believe is ultimately incredibly harmful to the economy, to taxpayers and to the worth of the U.S. dollar,” Sanford said.

It’s a long way to 2012, of course, but it looks like Republican voters will have some clear choices.