GOP Pets: A Political Animal Analysis

Newt Gingrich pals around with some lemurs.

A recent Politico article rounded up photos of GOP presidential candidates cozying up to some cute and cuddly four-legged constituents.

But what we really wanted to know is what kind of furry critters do these politicians snuggle up to in the confines of their own homes — and what do those choices reveal about them.

Lizards and Monkeys and a Man Named Newt

As the American public has learned, current front-runner Newt Gingrich likes to keep an open mind about things. This philosophy also seems to apply to his choice in critters — exotic ones, to be precise.

Compared with many of his fellow contenders for the nation's top job, Gingrich does not appear to own any pets — although he apparently had a penchant for collecting snakes and lizards as a kid. (There's no mention of his namesake reptile.) He also told ABC news that he had a few canine companions growing up: "When I was a child, I had a Cocker Spaniel, Doberman Pinscher and German Shepherd."

As savvy PR pros know, pets are a boon to anyone's self-image (well, unless you're strapping them to your car's roof, but we'll have more on that later), so the Gingrich campaign launched Pets With Newt, a site that highlights his top zoo picks and features photos of him hanging out with lemurs.

Of course, this doesn't mean that he's averse to having a dog lumber through the halls of the White House. According to the ABC news interview, he's a big dog kind of guy, although breeds like the Great Dane are too much dog to handle — unlike snakes.

Roof Rack Vs. Pro-Animal Track (Record)

Thanks to those same PR folks in the Gingrich camp, Mitt Romney has been dogged recently with some unwanted canine controversy surrounding an incident from way back in the 1980s, when he took a road trip with his dog tethered to the roof of his station wagon. A video titled "For the Dog" that Gingrich ran mentioning the doggie faux pas got, ahem, a lot of mileage.

Seamus, Mitt Romney's infamous Irish Setter.

The joyriding dog in question was an Irish Setter named Seamus. Words like "tireless" and "enthusiastic" are often used to describe the breed — along with "stubborn."

If Romney were to bring one of these crimson-haired beauties into the White House, the pup would be in good company: President Richard Nixon had an Irish Setter named King Timahoe.

While Romney works to improve his lackluster animal safety image, Rick Santorum seems to already be in the good graces of the animal-loving set. The candidate pushed for legislation that would shutter puppy mills, earning him this glowing plug from a PETA spokesperson: "He's a man with a heart."

That big heart partly belongs to his beloved dog Schatzie, a German Shepherd. The breed tends to be a go-getter in canine circles, excelling as a police and military dog, guide and assistance canine, search and rescue dog and a drug detector. President Herbert Hoover had one named King Tut — thankfully for the dog, the president's Cadillac had a soft top.

A Good Old Texas Boy — and His Wily Coyote Problem

There are a couple of once-hot-ticket front-runners who've since dropped out of the GOP presidential race, but the good news is that they'll now have more time to spend with their much-loved pets.

Getty Images

Michele Bachmann's well-accessorized Beagle is likely looking forward to some "me" time with mom.

During Bachmann's caucus concession speech, she shared just how beloved Boomer really is, when she detailed her husband's shopping outing in Des Moines: "Yesterday, when we were out on Main Street, he was out buying doggie sunglasses for our dog Boomer while we were out visiting all of the many businesses."

Back in Texas, Rick Perry now has the luxury of going for more jogs with his daughter's Labrador Retriever.

In 2010, he took down a menacing coyote who tried to attack the dog while they were out for a joint run near Austin. Perry was lucky enough to be packing a laser-sighted pistol in his running shorts. Why, you ask? Seems that, unlike Gingrich, he's afraid of snakes.

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