ABORTION AND BIRTH CONTROL
OBAMA: Supports abortion rights. Health care law requires contraceptives to be available for free for women enrolled in workplace health plans, including access to morning-after pill. Supported requiring girls 16 and under to get a prescription for the morning-after pill, available without a prescription for older women.
ROMNEY: Opposes abortion rights, previously supported them. Says state law should guide abortion rights, and Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court ruling. But says Roe v. Wade is law of the land until that happens, and should not be challenged by federal legislation seeking to overturn abortion rights affirmed by that court decision. Said he would end federal aid to Planned Parenthood.
Photo: Supporters of U.S. President Barack Obama's signature health care legislation celebrate after the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (June 28, 2012)
OBAMA: A fourth-straight year of trillion-dollar deficits is projected. Federal spending is estimated at 23.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, up from about 20 percent in the previous administration. Won approval to raise debt limit to avoid default. Calls for tackling the debt with a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases, including: letting Bush-era tax cuts expire for couples making more than $250,000; cutting $487 billion in military spending over a decade; setting a 30 percent tax rate on taxpayers making more than $1 million.
ROMNEY: Defended 2008 bailout of financial institutions as a necessary step to avoid the system's collapse. Would cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product by end of first term. Favors constitutional balanced budget amendment. Proposes broad but largely unspecified cuts in federal spending. Among the few details: 10 percent cut in federal workforce, elimination of $1.6 billion in Amtrak subsidies and cuts of $600 million in support for the arts and broadcasting.
Photo: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony before Congress is shown on a television screen on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (July 17, 2012)
OBAMA: Unemployment rate jumped to 8.3 percent from 7.8 percent in February 2009 and has remained above 8 percent ever since. Businesses have added jobs for 25 straight months, pushing down the unemployment rate from 9.8 percent in March 2010 to 8.2 percent two years later. Responded to recession with a roughly $800 billion stimulus plan that nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated cut the unemployment rate by 0.7 to 1.8 percentage points. Proposes tax breaks for U.S. manufacturers producing domestically or repatriating jobs from abroad, and tax penalties for U.S. companies outsourcing jobs.
ROMNEY: Lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budget, more trade deals to spur growth. Replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. Proposes repeal of the (Dodd-Frank) law toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector. Proposes repealing the (Sarbanes-Oxley) law tightening accounting regulations in response to corporate scandals, to ease the accountability burden on smaller businesses.
Photo: A military job fair in Columbia, South Carolina. (Jan. 19, 2012)
OBAMA: Has approved waivers freeing states from the most onerous requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law with their agreement to improve how they prepare and evaluate students. "Race to the Top" competition has rewarded winning states with billions of dollars for pursuing education policies Obama supports. Won approval for a college tax credit worth up to $10,000 over four years and more money for Pell grants for low-income college students. Wants Congress to agree to reduce federal aid to colleges that go too far in raising tuition.
ROMNEY: Supported the federal accountability standards of No Child Left Behind law. In 2007, said he was wrong earlier in career when he wanted the Education Department shut because he came to see the value of the federal government in "holding down the interests of the teachers' unions" and putting kids and parents first. Has said the student testing, charter-school incentives and teacher evaluation standards of Obama's "Race to the Top" competition "make sense" although the federal government should have less control over education.
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
OBAMA: Approved drilling plan in Arctic Ocean opposed by environmentalists. Achieved historic increases in fuel economy standards for automobiles that will save money at the pump while raising the cost of new vehicles. Achieved first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases and on toxic mercury pollution. Spent heavily on green energy and has embraced nuclear power as a clean source. Rejected Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas but supports fast-track approval of a segment of it. Proposes ending subsidies to oil industry.
ROMNEY: Says green power has yet to become viable and the causes of climate change are unknown. Supports opening the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves, Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska to drilling. Wants to reduce obstacles to coal, natural gas and nuclear energy development, and accelerate drilling permits in areas where exploration has already been approved for developers.
Photo: Methane gas burns off a stack near the Washington Electric Cooperative power plant in Coventry, Vt. (June 15, 2005)
OBAMA: Opposes a near-term military strike on Iran. Says the U.S. will never tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran but negotiation and pressure through sanctions are the right way to prevent that outcome. Seeks to build international consensus toward the goal of persuading Syria President Bashar Assad to leave. Pressed both sides to begin a new round of peace talks based on the land borders established after the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. Opposes citing China as a currency manipulator, bringing unfair-trade cases against China to the World Trade Organization.
ROMNEY: Appears to present a clearer U.S. military threat to Iran and has spoken in more permissive terms about Israel's right to act against Iran's nuclear facilities, without explicitly approving of such a step. Has spoken in favor of covert action by the U.S. and regional allies in Syria but "the right course is not military" intervention by the U.S. Pledges more military assistance to Israel and agreed with Israel's position that Jerusalem is the capital. Branded Russia the "No. 1 geopolitical foe" of the U.S.; threatened to label China a currency manipulator.
Photo: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, right, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Hamad Al-Sabah at the Gulf Cooperation Council Secretariat in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (March 31, 2012)
OBAMA: Supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a matter decided by states. Achieved repeal of the military ban on openly gay service members. Has not achieved repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act; administration has ceased defending the law in court but it remains on the books. Directed government to require all hospitals that get Medicare and Medicaid financing to grant visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners of patients.
ROMNEY: Opposes legal recognition of same-sex marriage and says it should be banned with an amendment to the Constitution, not left to states. Also opposes civil unions: "if they are identical to marriage other than by name," but says states should be left to decide what rights and benefits should be allowed under those unions. Says he would not seek to restore the ban on openly gay military members. Asserted in 2002 campaign for Massachusetts governor that "all citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of sexual preference."
Photo: Bob Sodervick demonstrates outside of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, Calif. on whether the voter-approved Proposition 8 measure violates the civil rights of gay men and lesbians. (Feb. 7, 2012)
OBAMA: Has not pushed for gun control measures as president. Signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. Favors "robust steps, within existing law" to address gun issues, White House says. Voices support for renewed ban on assault-type weapons but has not tried to get that done. Has not swung behind longshot Democratic bill to let only licensed dealers sell ammunition, require police to be notified after any sale of more than 1,000 rounds to an unlicensed person, and require buyers who aren't licensed dealers to show a photo ID.
ROMNEY: Opposes stricter gun control laws. Suggested after the Colorado shooting that he favors tougher enforcement of existing gun laws, although the theater attack was carried out with legally acquired weapons. As Massachusetts governor, vowed in 2002 to protect the state's "tough gun laws," and in 2004 signed a Massachusetts ban on assault weapons. Quadrupled state's gun-licensing fee but loosened rules on the licenses and extended their duration.
Photo: Hand guns are displayed at Firing-Line July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Firing-Line is located not far from where suspect gunman James Eagan Holmes, 24, is accused of killing 12 people at a screening of the new "Batman" film last Friday. (July 22, 2012)
OBAMA: Achieved landmark overhaul putting U.S. on path to universal coverage now that Supreme Court has upheld the law's mandate for almost everyone to obtain insurance. Under the law, insurers will be banned from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illness, tax credits for middle-income and low-income people will subsidize premiums, people without work-based insurance will have access to new markets and small business gets help for offering insurance.
ROMNEY: Promises to work for the repeal of the federal health care law modeled largely after his universal health care achievement in Massachusetts. Proposes to guarantee that people who are "continuously covered" for a certain period be protected against losing insurance if they get sick, leave their job and need another policy. Introduce "generous" but undetermined subsidies to help future retirees buy private insurance, or let them have the option of traditional Medicare, with a gradually increasing age to qualify for benefits.
Photo: Supporters of U.S. President Barack Obama's signature health care legislation celebrate after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (June 28, 2012)
OBAMA: Issued directive in June that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply, a step that could benefit 800,000 to 1.4 million. Took the step after failing to deliver on a promised immigration overhaul, with the defeat of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or enlisted in the armed forces.
ROMNEY: Favors U.S.-Mexico border fence, opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants. Opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college, but would do so for those who serve in the armed forces. Establish an immigration-status verification system for employers and punish them if they hire non-citizens who do not prove their legal status. Proposes more visas for holders of advanced degrees in math, science and engineering who have U.S. job offers; would award permanent residency to foreign students who graduate from U.S. schools with a degree in those fields.
Photo: David Aguilar, the Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, speaks during a news conference at the agency's headquarters in El Paso, Texas. (Jan. 17, 2012)
OBAMA: Has not proposed a comprehensive plan to address Social Security's long-term financial problems. During budget negotiations in 2011, proposed adopting a new measurement of inflation that would reduce annual increases in Social Security benefits. The proposal would reduce the long-term financing shortfall by about 25 percent, according to the Social Security actuaries.
ROMNEY: Protect the status quo for people 55 and over but, for the next generations of retirees, raise the retirement age for full benefits by one or two years and reduce inflation increases in benefits for wealthier recipients.
OBAMA: Wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and ensure they pay 30 percent of their income at minimum. Supports extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making under $200,000, or $250,000 for couples. But in 2010, agreed to a two-year extension of the lower rates for all. Wants to let the top tax rates go back up 3 to 4 percentage points to 39.6 percent and 36 percent, and raise rates on capital gains and dividends for the wealthy. Health care law provides for tax on highest-value health insurance plans. Together with Congress, built a first-term record of significant tax cuts for families and business, some temporary.
ROMNEY: Keep Bush-era tax cuts for all incomes and drop all tax rates further, by 20 percent, bringing the top rate, for example, down to 28 percent from 35 percent and the lowest rate to 8 percent instead of 10 percent. Curtail deductions, credits and exemptions for the wealthiest. End Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals, eliminate capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. Does not specify which tax breaks or programs he would curtail to help cover costs.
Photo: Tai Sung, a master tax advisor for H&R Block, center, consults with clients about their taxes at his office in Rockville, Md. (Jan. 6, 2012)
OBAMA:Approved the raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden, set policy that U.S. would no longer use harsh interrogation techniques, a practice that had essentially ended later in George W. Bush's presidency. Largely carried forward Bush's key anti-terrorism policies, including detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay despite promise to close the prison. Also has continued with military commissions instead of civilian courts for detainees and invocation of state secrets privilege in court. Expanded use of unmanned drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen.
ROMNEY: No constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects. In 2007, refused to rule out use of waterboarding to interrogate terrorist suspects. In 2011, his campaign said he does not consider waterboarding to be torture.
Photo: A member of the NYPD counter terrorism division, stands as part of a gauntlet on the Macombs Dam Bridge not far from Yankee Stadium as part of a "dirty bomb" drill.
OBAMA: Ended the Iraq war he had opposed and inherited, increased the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan then began drawing down the force with a plan to have all out by the end of 2014. Approved use of U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple Moammar Gadhafi's government. Major reductions coming in the size of the Army and Marine Corps as part of agreement with congressional Republicans to cut $487 billion in military spending over a decade.
ROMNEY:Endorses 2014 end to U.S. combat in Afghanistan, subject to conditions at the time. Would increase strength of armed forces, including number of troops and warships, adding almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget in 2016.
U.S. Army soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division board a C-17 aircraft at Baghdad International Airport as they begin their journey to the United States. (July 13, 2010)