GOP 2008 Candidates Stake Claims as Fiscal Hawks

By Jeff Golimowski | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

Washington ( - Two Republican presidential candidates are trumpeting their conservative fiscal credentials at a time when President Bush is demanding a new focus on budget discipline and threatening to veto bills authorizing more money than he requested (See Related Story).

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has made lower government spending part of his "12 Commitments to America," and he highlighted that commitment in a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday.

"We must address the culture of spending and return to our core principles of fiscal discipline and fiscal responsibility," Giuliani said. "I commit to making the federal government more efficient and accountable to the American people and cut irresponsible spending."

Giuliani's campaign said the former mayor would attempt to run the country "like a business," and he would work to end congressional earmarks. It's on the earmark issue that independent analysts said many candidates can score their greatest points.

"The president can say he's criticized the earmark increase but where was his criticism last year when there were a ton of them, or the year before that?" asked Adam Hughes, director of Federal Fiscal Policy at OMB Watch, an Office of Management and Budget watchdog organization. "He's come to the game a little late on earmarks."

Also in the running for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. He's laying claim to the fiscal hawk mantle, and his staffers are criticizing the president, and the other candidates, for not going far enough.

"Giuliani and [former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt] Romney like to say they can just cut some discretionary programs and everything is going to be okay," said Paul's Communications Director Jesse Benton. "That's just not true."

Benton said a Paul administration would re-examine the federal entitlement program, which he said leaves the U.S. liable for $50 or 60 trillion in the coming decades.

While Bush and Congress argue over a few billion dollars in discretionary spending, Benton said the American people aren't being told about the real problem.

"A lot of these discretionary spending battles are window dressing ... they're good to rally people and get constituents fired up," he said. "But voters need to hear how our entitlements and our mandatory spending ... are causing us to borrow three billion dollars a day from China and Saudi Arabia."

Benton said Paul believes the country needs to re-examine the role of government in people's daily lives, even if holding that discussion is politically unpopular.

Cybercast News Service also contacted Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) campaign for comment on this story, but the messages went unreturned.

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