In his most recent election to Lower Saxony state premier, the opposition criticized Christian Wulff for staying too much in the political center. But that very quality may be his ticket to the German presidency.
Wulff has been state premier since 2003
Lower Saxony state premier Christian Wulff was officially unveiled as the government's candidate for the German presidency on Thursday evening in Berlin.
Wulff's moderate style and ability to appeal across and within party lines make him well-suited to be German president, a post that is mostly ceremonial and traditionally avoids polarizing politics. He belongs to the center of his Christian Democratic party (CDU), but unabashedly defends its liberal economic policies.
Despite rumors circulating that he has for years found his state-level position to be unsatisfying, he has always denied an ambition to become Chancellor Angela Merkel's personal favorite.
If he is indeed elected to the presidency on June 30, he would be only the second Catholic to assume the post since 1949. He would also likely be the president with the youngest family: a teenage daughter and a two-year-old son.
Wulff has kept close to Chancellor Angela Merkel
Long political history
Wulff, 50, began his political career early on in life: At 18 years old he joined the CDU federal executive committee and became national head of the party's national high school program.
While he sat on committees relating to economics and social security, he avoided pigeon-holing himself in both organizations. Despite his reputation of being more of a one-man fighter than a team player, he has also transcended party lines on some issues.
His first performance on a grand scale was in January 1993, when his party nominated him to be state premier in Lower Saxony. He ended up losing to Gerhard Schroeder of the Social Democrats, who would six years later become German chancellor.
But he assumed a new position the following year as head of the state's CDU faction. In 1998 he ran for the same office, and lost once again. It wasn't until 2003 that he finally won, beating out Sigmar Gabriel, now national leader of the Social Democrats.
Wulff's family would be one of Germany's youngest first families
Walking the line
Wulff's ascension to front-runner in the German presidency race has two main reasons. The first is the 2003 national election, when voters dissatisfied with Social Democratic leadership ousted the party from the chancellorship.
The second reason was his time leading the opposition, which sharpened his political skills and gained him trust among voters in Lower Saxony - enough to win three consecutive terms as state premier.
In his most recent election campaign, opposition parties criticized him for trying to gain popularity by staying too much in the middle and not taking a strong stance on controversial issues. Still, that same moderate style may be his greatest asset in becoming president.
Author: Andrew Bowen
Editor: Rob Turner