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Should a candidate's alma mater matter?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Many factors go into choosing a preferred candidate. Things like their stance on important issues and voting record are no-brainers, but what about a person's educational history?

Considering that, since the turn of the 20th Century, only one person -- Harry S. Truman -- has become president without a college degree, education must be a factor.

With that in mind, here's a look at where the current presidential contenders earned their tassels.

All five of the mainstream candidates have some sort of doctorate.

President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney both received a doctorate of law from Harvard Law School, albeit 16 years apart.

They took different paths to get there. Romney started with an English degree from Brigham Young University and earned a master's of business administration from Harvard Business School, while Obama earned a bachelor's degree from Columbia University first.

Going from English to business seems more of a transition than going by his middle name over his given name of Willard, but one that clearly worked well for Romney. Have you seen his tax returns? Judging from that early academic history alone, one could assume Romney never intended to be a politician, let alone president.

Obama, on the other hand, dove right in with a poli-sci degree and earned his law degree eight years later.

While both Romney and Obama earned degrees from more than one state, former Sen. Rick Santorum stayed on his home turf, though he wore different school colors at different times.

As a Nittany Lion, he earned a bachelor's degree and his doctorate of law from Penn State University, sandwiched around time earning an MBA as a Pittsburgh Panther. On the campaign trail, Santorum has emphasized his roots in a "blue collar" state. His college choices reflect his fondness for that area.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is known for his political experience, but his first love was history, evidenced by his bachelor's degree from Emory University. He got more specific with both a master's and a doctorate in European history from Tulane University.

The only (medical) doctor of the group is Ron Paul. Not only did he receive his MD from Duke University School of Medicine, but he has also delivered more than 4,000 babies since. His bachelor's degree in biology from Gettysburg College set the stage for his later medical accomplishments.

In regards to their levels of academic achievement, these five men really aren't that different.

Each one is intelligent and has used that intelligence to make money and gain influence, both of which can help earn votes. However, those positives become negatives if voters think they're out of touch.

So, the real question is, "Who can best relate to voters?"

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Gabe Licht
Junior Moments