Home Business Economy & Politics Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney on nine key issues

Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney on nine key issues


As election day approaches, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney continue to reach for issues each other can use as a stick to beat his opponent.

Find out where rivals Barack Obama and Mitt Romney stand on each of the key issues ahead of the debate and where the biggest differences could emerge.

1. Economy

Barack Obama

Signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known as the stimulus, a $768 billion package of tax cuts and investment in education, infrastructure, energy research, health, and other programmes. Backed a bailout of the US auto industry; signed trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Mitt Romney

Plan centres on tax cuts, repeal of Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare reform law and repeal of 2010 Wall Street and banking regulations, and in general the reduction of other regulations he says stifle economic growth. Opposed the auto industry bailout; proposes to reduce federal spending significantly but gives few details about which programmes he would cut.

2. Taxes

Barack Obama

Has cut effective taxes for most Americans; would repeal Bush-era tax cuts for households making more than $250,000 a year; proposes the “Buffet rule” named for billionaire Warren Buffet, which would increase the effective tax rate paid by millionaires.

Mitt Romney

Would make permanent all Bush-era tax cuts, further cut individual income tax rates, eliminate taxes on investment income, repeal the estate tax, and reduce the corporate income tax rate. According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, taxpayers at high income levels would see the greatest benefit. Would make up the revenue by closing unspecified tax loopholes.

3. Iran

Barack Obama

Says he is determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; opposes a near-term military strike by US or Israel on Iran’s nuclear facilities; emphasizes need for a diplomatic solution but warns “that window is closing” and has said “all options are at the table”; signed new sanctions against Iran’s central bank, oil revenues and financial system.

Mitt Romney

Says it is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon; says military action “remains on the table” and analysts say he presents a clearer military threat to Iran; would send Navy ships to patrol the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf; calls for more sanctions; would publicly back Iranian opposition groups.

4. National security and war

Barack Obama

Has killed much of al-Qaeda’s leadership, including Osama Bin Laden; pulled US troops out of Iraq; agreed to a $487 million reduction in defence spending over 10 years with congressional Republicans.

Mitt Romney

Would spend heavily on military hardware and invest in missile defence, adding an estimated $100 billion to the Pentagon’s budget, while reducing the civilian defence bureaucracy.

5. Afghanistan

Barack Obama

Initially increased the number of troops in Afghanistan; has begun a draw-down of US troops with the combat mission to end by 2014.

Mitt Romney

Has said his “goal” would be “a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014” but pledges to review withdrawal plans and base them “on conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders”

6. Healthcare

Barack Obama

Vast 2010 healthcare reform law aims for universal health insurance coverage by requiring individuals who are not otherwise covered to purchase insurance, while restricting insurers’ ability to deny coverage based on pre-existing ailments. The law offers states grants to increase enrolment of poor people in the Medicaid public insurance programme.

Mitt Romney

Would seek repeal of Barack Obama’s health law, though it is modeled on a law he signed in Massachusetts; would return most health policy to the states; would limit doctor malpractice lawsuits; would encourage individuals without insurance to buy it on the private market, including by purchasing it in other states with lighter coverage requirements and lower costs

7. Illegal immigration

Barack Obama

Used executive power to grant legal status to certain young illegal immigrants, bypassing Republicans in Congress. Has dramatically increased deportations of illegal immigrants.

Mitt Romney

Criticizes Barack Obama’s “stopgap” measure on young illegal immigrants but does not say whether he would overturn it. Says the US should encourage migrants to “self-deport” by making life hard for them.

8. Abortion

Barack Obama

Supports abortion rights; appointed two Supreme Court justices who appear to favor abortion rights.

Mitt Romney

Says “My presidency will be a pro-life presidency”, though he supported abortion rights when he was running for governor Massachusetts in 2002. Supports overturning the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion and allowing states to decide whether abortion should be legal; would strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood women’s health clinics.

9. Energy

Barack Obama

Supports investment in clean energy such as wind turbines and advanced car batteries; tightened car fuel efficiency and emissions standards; blocked development of the Keystone oil pipeline to move oil sands crude from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, saying the US had not had sufficient time to judge its environmental impact.

Mitt Romney

Would ease regulations hindering coal-burning power plants, oil exploration and nuclear power plant construction; would encourage drilling for oil in the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves; proposes to ease regulations. Pledges to build the Keystone pipeline.

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