Whitman Backs Alternative to Major Party Presidential Candidates

With the presidential election approaching and Republicans getting closer to picking a nominee, some are more interested in having a bipartisan ticket. The group Americans Elect has started a website to pick candidates for president and vice president from different parties. Former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman supports Americans Elect and believes both Republicans and Democrats have gotten too extreme for the majority of Americans. She sat down with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider to discuss the presidential campaign process.

Whitman said Americans Elect is a third alternative rather than a third party because there is no party platform. Any registered voter can become a delegate on the group’s website to help nominate a presidential candidate. When the candidate is chosen in June during an online convention, he or she must pick a member of a different party as the vice presidential candidate to create a bipartisan ticket.

“One of the things we’re trying to do here is send a shot across the bow of the two parties that they are each veering too far to the extremes and the majority of the American people are in the center,” Whitman explained. “They want real issues discussed in ways that talk about what our solutions are going to be. Not just what we’re against, but what we’re for.”

She said that the growing extremism in the Republican and Democratic parties are partly to blame for low voter turnout. While Whitman said she still is “very much a Republican,” she said she sees herself in the Dwight Eisenhower tradition.

Whitman expressed disappointment that Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has failed to differentiate himself from the other candidates, citing as an example an incident that occurred at a Republican debate in which a gay military officer was booed by the crowd.

“That made me embarrassed to be an American and to be a Republican. And frankly, I think Mitt Romney, if he stood up and and said ‘look, I don’t care what you think about his personal decisions as to how he lives his life, he’s an American soldier putting his life on the line for us and we ought to respect that,’ I think that would have made him different.”

Americans Elect currently has Ron Paul as the frontrunner for the presidential nominee, which Whitman disagrees with. She explained that members of the group have not committed to supporting the Americans Elect candidate over their own political party affiliations. Each member will make that determination once the nominee is chosen in June.

When asked if Gov. Chris Christie would make a good national candidate, Whitman said she believed he made the right decision not to run at this point, but that he would likely be effective on the national stage in the future. She explained that Christie’s ability to work with Democrats in the legislature is an asset, but he may have to do some convincing at the national level.

“The interesting thing is that a lot of people outside of New Jersey see him as being the ideal, very conservative candidate. They wouldn’t like the idea that he actually talks to Democrats, much less does deals with them,” Whitman said. “But I think they’re going to see that his effectiveness is going to make them step back and say OK maybe this isn’t the end of the world if you actually talk to a member of the other party.”