Woman of her word to reply to Clinton
Republicans have picked the tax-cutting governor of New Jersey for the limelight, writes John Carlin in Washington
Wednesday 25 January 1995
Which at first glance made it surprising that he should have chosen Christine Todd Whitman to deliver the Republican Party's official response to President Bill Clinton's State of the Union address last night. Mrs Whitman, besides, is the governor of thestate of New Jersey and never before in the history of the annual ceremony has someone outside Congress been granted the opportunity - live on national television - to perform the ritual rebuttal of the presidential speech.
But there is method in Mr Gingrich's madness.
A visitor from the Kalahari would find Mrs Whitman something of an anthropological curiosity. Golfer, mountain bike rider, basketball player and, indeed, fox-hunter, Mrs Whitman, a rangy 48-year-old, has emerged as the strong early favourite to run as the Republican candidate for vice-president in the 1996 election. A convincing attack on President Clinton's address, Washington pundits were saying yesterday, would catapult her into the national spotlight, adding the vital ingredient of name recognition to her other, not insignificant Republican virtues.
What makes her immediately attractive to the reigning Republican grandees is her track record as a cutter of taxes and an advocate of small government. She campaigned for governor in 1993, and defeated the incumbent Democratic governor, on the promise ofreducing state taxes by 30 per cent in three years. The indications are that she will have achieved her goal a year ahead of schedule. Last year she cut state taxes by 15 per cent. On Monday she proposed in her annual budget message a further 15 per cent cut this year - a proposal the Republican-controlled New Jersey legislature is expected to approve.
Mrs Whitman plans to pay for the cuts by reducing the size of the state civil service, where 3,350 job losses are expected.
The Republican chairman, Haley Barbour, gave an indication of the theme of Mrs Whitman's speech last night when he said the New Jersey governor had not only implemented the policies her party seeks to impose on the nation as a whole, she had also - in contrast to the President - stood by her word.
She will broadcast her response to Mr Clinton's speech not from Congress, the traditional setting for the State of the Union address, but from her official home, Drumthwacket, in Trenton, New Jersey. The Republicans, as she explained this week, "want to stress the devolution of power from Washington and they thought this would be the most dramatic way to do it, to get a governor".
The fact that she is a female governor is not irrelevant, Mr Clinton having secured significantly more votes among women than men in the 1992 election. Pro-choice on abortion, against cutting off welfare to unwed teenage mothers, she also provides the Republicans with a useful foil to Mr Gingrich's `Alf Garnett' approach to life and politics, a point Mr Gingrich himself has not failed to miss. Explaining the choice of Mrs Whitman as Mr Clinton's State of the Union respondent, Mr Gingrich said: "We wanted to send a signal about how broad-based we are."
Bob Dole, the Republican senator tipped to run against Mr Clinton in 1996, has given Mrs Whitman his vice-presidential blessing. Her moderation in the present Republican climate, is not a problem. "We're saying `come on in, the party's big'," said Mr Dole.
Mrs Whitman has a patrician manner and was brought up in a 200-year-old mansion. Above all, in the view of a former adviser to Ronald Reagan who now works with Mrs Whitman, she has the just the right image for Middle America. "She's tall, which helps. She's handsome. She is certainly not sexy, which is a good thing. And she's got a husband and a couple of kids. It would be hard not to talk about her as a vice-president."
- 3 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermesiter and vodka
Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson police shoot and kill second young black man
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
Iraq crisis: Islamic State's message to America - 'We will drown you all in blood'
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...
£65000 - £70000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...
£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy En...
£475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...