WASHINGTON – Here's where the 2012 Republican presidential candidates stand on a selection of issues.
They are Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Abortion: Backed efforts to declare the unborn "persons" under the Constitution, the most direct challenge to the Supreme Court's affirmation of abortion rights. Signed pledge to advance only anti-abortion appointees for relevant administration jobs, cut off federal dollars for clinics that perform or finance abortions, and support a ban on abortions after the fetus reaches a certain stage in development. Introduced bill to require pregnant women to see and hear the fetal heartbeat before having an abortion. Promoted other anti-abortion bills, including some that contained exceptions for rape, incest or the life of a mother. Sought to put abortion restrictions into Minnesota's constitution while in state Legislature.
Debt: Opposed the agreement worked out by Congress and the White House to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a default. Said U.S. could have paid only the interest on debt while working out a plan to cut spending more deeply.
Economy: Voted for $192 billion in stimulus spending in July 2009; voted against two earlier stimulus packages totaling nearly $900 billion and against housing aid and auto-industry aid. Opposed extension of jobless benefits. "Government overregulation is the single biggest jobs killer." Repeal the financial-industry regulations enacted in response to the subprime housing crisis.
Education: Wants to abolish Education Department, which she calls unconstitutional. Says federal government doesn't have a role in education; jurisdiction is with state and local governments. Tried to pull Minnesota out of No Child Left Behind law.
Energy: Reduce regulatory impediments to drilling. Opposes cap and trade. Voted to open the outer continental shelf to oil drilling. Voted against tax breaks for renewable energy and conservation.
Environment: Open federal lands to economic activity by "repealing radical environmental laws that kill access to natural resources." Voted to bar Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases.
Gay Marriage: Supports constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Says federal law trumps state law on the issue but she "would not be going into the states to overturn their state law."
Health Care: Promises to seek repeal of President Barack Obama's health care law. Favors limits on medical lawsuits as a way to control health care costs. Voted against expanding Children's Health Insurance Program and against regulating tobacco as a drug.
Immigration: Favors fence all along the 1,900-mile U.S.-Mexico border, not just the 650 miles built at a cost of $2.6 billion. Opposes government benefits for illegal immigrants and their children.
Social Security: Keep Social Security for older workers and "wean everybody else off." Says it is "very likely" that the age for retirement benefits will have to go up for new workers.
Taxes: Eliminate estate tax. Tax holiday followed by low tax rate, 5 percent, for U.S. companies operating overseas that repatriate their profits.
Terrorism: Expand Guantanamo, no Miranda or constitutional rights for foreign terrorist suspects.
Wars: "Defense spending did not cause our budget crisis and we must maintain our military strength." Opposed U.S. intervention in Libya, saying the effort might be helping terrorists there. Called Afghanistan a war "we must and can win" provided generals have sufficient troops and money.
Abortion: Says president should only nominate anti-abortion judges, "the Constitution contains no right to take the life of unborn children," and he would support amending the Constitution to ban the procedure. Took contradictory positions, saying there should be "abortion under no circumstances" yet it is "not the government's role" to decide the question but rather a decision for women and families to make.
Debt: Opposed deal to raise debt ceiling and avoid default. Favors unspecified spending cuts to balance federal budget.
Economy: Proposal for 9 percent tax on income, business and sales is centerpiece of economic platform. Reduce regulations. "Ultimately, the free market, aided in part by the watchful eyes of investors and consumers, will regulate itself." Supported Wall Street bailout, says it was executed poorly.
Education: "Unbundle education from the federal government down to the local level," expand charter schools and school choice.
Energy: "Responsibly" relax regulations on energy industries. Policy should be "drill here, drill now." End restrictions on exploiting Western shale oil deposits. Opposes ethanol subsidies.
Environment: EPA has gone "wild with abuse." The science establishing the existence of global warming is "poppycock." Says climate change poses no real threat.
Gay Marriage: Says traditional marriage should be protected in federal law and no longer believes the question can be left to each state.
Health Care: Repeal Obama's health care law. Expand tax-advantaged medical savings accounts. Control medical malpractice lawsuits in hopes of lowering costs in health care system. Set up state or federal insurance pools for people shut out of insurance because of pre-existing illness.
Immigration: Secure the border with "whatever means necessary" and "empower the states" to deal with the issue. "We can have high fences and wide open doors, all at the same time."
Social Security: Give younger workers the option of diverting Social Security taxes to private retirement accounts. Keep Social Security intact for older workers. Ultimately "wean people off the current system," pare down federal entitlements and leave the needy to be helped by states, cities, charities and businesses.
Taxes: Replace the federal tax code — with its multiple levels of income, investment, Social Security and investment taxes — with 9 percent tax income, business and sales taxes. Exempt people at or below the poverty level from income tax; reduce or eliminate business tax in certain poor neighborhoods. Keep income tax deduction for charitable giving.
Terrorism: Said he would not be comfortable nominating Muslims to the Cabinet or the courts out of concern they will try to force their faith on public policy and the law.
Wars: No defense cuts except wasteful spending. Opposed intervention in Libya. "I want to be out of Afghanistan and all war-torn countries as much as the next person. But I am not going to propose a half-baked plan based on half the information I would need to make the right decision, just to pretend I know everything."
Abortion: Signed anti-abortion pledge. "Principles to protect life" platform calls for conservative judges and no subsidies for abortion but not for constitutional abortion ban.
Debt: As House speaker in mid-1990s, engineered passage of a seven-year balanced-budget plan. It was vetoed President Bill Clinton but helped form a bipartisan balanced budget two years later. Supports constitutional balanced budget amendment. Said that without a balanced budget, the U.S. had no choice but to raise its debt limit in the deal that avoided a default.
Economy: Repeal the 2010 financial industry and consumer protection regulations that followed the Wall Street meltdown, and repeal the 2002 regulations enacted in response to the Enron and other corporate and accounting scandals. Restrict the Fed's power to set interest rates artificially low. Make work training a condition of unemployment insurance and have states run it.
Education: "Dramatically shrink the federal Department of Education, get rid of virtually all of its regulations." But supported Obama administration's $4 billion Race to the Top grant competition for states, which encourages compliance with national education standards, because it also promotes charter schools.
Energy: Let oil and natural gas industries drill offshore reserves now blocked from development, end restrictions on Western oil shale development. In Alaska alone, "We could liberate an area the size of Texas for minerals and other development."
Environment: Convert EPA into an "environmental solutions agency" devoted to scientific research and "more energy, more jobs and a better environment simultaneously." Supported tougher environmental regulation early in congressional career.
Gay Marriage: If the Defense of Marriage Act fails, "you have no choice except a constitutional amendment" to ban gay marriage. Under the act, the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage and no state is forced to recognize a same-sex marriage validated by another state.
Health Care: Repeal Obama's health care law if Republicans win congressional majorities. Prohibit insurers from cancelling or charging discriminatory rate increases to those who become sick while insured, an element of Obama's law. Offer the choice of a "generous" tax credit to help people buy health insurance or the ability to deduct part of the cost from taxes, another feature similar to the existing law. Limit medical lawsuits to restrain health care costs and let people in one state buy policies in another. "Block-grant Medicaid and send it back to the states." Previously supported proposals that people be required to carry health insurance.
Immigration: Make English the official language. Divert more Homeland Security assets to fighting illegal immigration at Mexican border.
Social Security: Give younger workers the option of diverting Social Security taxes to private retirement accounts.
Taxes: Cut corporate tax to 12.5 percent from maximum 35 percent, eliminate capital gains and estate taxes, let companies write off all new equipment in one year. For personal taxes, let people choose whether to file under the current system or pay a 15 percent tax, preserving the mortgage interest and charitable deductions.
Terrorism: Supports continued use of Guantanamo Bay detention for suspected terrorists. Supported creation of Homeland Security apparatus, because "we need some capacity to respond to massive events." ''Only a grand strategy for marginalizing, isolating, and defeating radical Islamists across the world will lead to victory."
Wars: Initially criticized Obama for not intervening in Libya, then did an about-face after the president had sent in U.S. war planes to support the rebels fighting the government. "I would not have used American and European forces." No cuts in defense spending except waste. Supported Iraq war and opposed early timetables for withdrawal. Praised Obama's decision to bolster troops in Afghanistan two years ago; noncommittal this year on when and how they should withdraw.
Abortion: Signed abortion restrictions into law as governor, favors constitutional abortion ban.
Debt: Only candidate to endorse the deal that averted a default on U.S. debt payments, "a positive step toward cutting our nation's crippling debt."
Economy: End corporate subsidies, cut regulations, lower taxes, spur jobs through energy development, seek repeal of Obama's health care law.
Education: "No Child Left Behind hasn't worked for this country. It ought to be done away with." Favors more school choice,
Energy: Used tax credits to promote clean energy in Utah but says he has learned that "subsidies don't work and that we can no longer afford them." Favors phasing out all energy subsidies and cutting regulatory obstacles to drilling and production. Says nation's fuel distribution network should be subject to Federal Trade Commission and Senate Judiciary Committee review because it gives oil an unfair advantage over natural gas. "We need to break oil's monopoly as a transportation fuel, and create a truly level playing field for competing fuels."
Gay Marriage: Supports same-sex civil unions, with many of the rights of marriage, and says states should decide their own policies.
Environment: End the EPA's "regulatory reign of terror." Acknowledges the scientific evidence that humans contribute to global warming. As governor, supported regional cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and urged Congress to cap them. "I will break down barriers to the continued, safe use of fracking," an environmentally risky technique for extracting natural gas.
Health Care: "Let the states experiment." Says government should "absolutely not" require anyone to have health insurance, although he once said a mandate would be necessary for any comprehensive change to succeed. Open to restricting Medicare benefits for the wealthy. Seek repeal of Obama health care law.
Immigration: Unrealistic to deport all illegal immigrants. Says a fence is probably a necessary step to securing the border even though "the thought of a fence to some extent repulses me, because it is not consistent with the image that we projected to the rest of the world." In Utah, threatened to veto a bill to repeal cheaper in-state college tuition rates for children of illegal immigrants.
Social Security: Open to raising the retirement age to qualify for full benefits and to restricting benefits for the wealthy.
Taxes: Favors lower income tax rates coupled with the elimination of deductions and loopholes. Cut corporate tax to 25 percent from a maximum 35 percent, and phase out all subsidies.
Terrorism: Said Homeland Security Department has been heavy-handed, conveying a "fortress security mentality that is not American."
Wars: Proposes scaling back U.S. involvement in international conflicts and, in contrast with most rivals, says Pentagon budget should be cut. Opposes U.S. military assistance of new Libyan government. Opposed U.S. military intervention in Libya absent congressional approval. In June, said the pace of withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan was too slow, and questioned whether the battle against the Taliban and other anti-government insurgents served U.S. interests any longer. Says to end nation building abroad "when this nation needs to be built."
Abortion: Says federal government should have no authority either to legalize or ban abortion. Yet signed pledge to advance only anti-abortion appointees for relevant administration jobs, cut off federal dollars for clinics that perform or finance abortions, and support a ban on abortions after the fetus reaches a certain stage in development
Debt: Would eviscerate federal government, slashing nearly half its spending, shut five Cabinet-level agencies, end spending on existing conflicts and on foreign aid.
Economy: Return to the gold standard, eliminate the Federal Reserve, let gold and silver be used as legal tender, eliminate most federal regulations.
Education: Abolish the Education Department and end the federal role in education.
Energy: Remove restrictions on drilling, coal and nuclear power, eliminate gasoline tax, provide tax credits for alternative fuel technology.
Environment: In 2008, said "human activity probably does play a role" in global warming and part of the solution should be to stop subsidizing the oil industry and let prices rise until the free market turns to alternate energy sources. Now calls the science on manmade global warming a "hoax." Says emission standards should be set by states or regions, not Washington.
Gay Marriage: Says decisions on legalizing or prohibiting should be left to states. Supports federal law allowing one state to refuse to recognize the same-sex marriages of another state.
Health Care: Opposes compulsory insurance and all government subsidies for health coverage. Favors letting people deduct full cost of their health coverage and care from taxes. Says doctors should then feel an obligation to treat the needy for free.
Immigration: Do "whatever it takes" to secure the border, end the right to citizenship of U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants, no social services for illegal immigrants, aggressive deportation of those who overstay a visa or otherwise break U.S. law.
Social Security: Says younger workers should be able to opt out of Social Security taxes and retirement benefits.
Taxes: Eliminate the federal income tax and the IRS. Meantime would vote for a national sales tax, supports certain excise taxes and certain tariffs. Favors massive spending cuts to defund close to half the government and eliminate the need to replace the income tax at all.
Terrorism: Opposes the surveillance and search powers of the Patriot Act. Says terrorists would not be motivated to attack America if the U.S. ended its military presence abroad.
Wars: Bring all or nearly all troops home, from Afghanistan and other foreign posts, "as quick as the ships could get there." Opposed U.S. intervention in Libya. "We've been fighting wars since World War II, technically in an unconstitutional fashion." Cut Pentagon budget.
Abortion: Now supports constitutional abortion ban after saying states should decide their own laws on such issues. Backed Texas law that attempts to discourage abortions by making doctors describe the fetus' size limbs and organs to the woman, and make available an image of the fetus and the sound of its heartbeat to her, before she can have the procedure.
Debt: Was non-committal on the deal that avoided default and raised debt ceiling. Proposes to cap federal spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product, down from about 25 percent today, but no specifics on major spending cuts other than from raising retirement age for Social Security and Medicare benefits for future retirees. Favors constitutional balanced-budget amendment. "No more bailouts." Freeze size and salaries of federal civilian work force until budget is balanced.
Economy: Spur economy by repealing rafts of regulations, Obama's health care law and the law (Dodd-Frank) toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector. Create jobs in energy sector by removing obstacles to drilling and production. Cut corporate taxes.
Education: Turned down federal education aid to Texas worth up to $700 million because he saw it as imposing national standards on Texas schools. Says No Child Left Behind law gave Washington too much power to interfere with local government.
Energy: Proposes authorizing more development on federal lands and slashing regulations to spur drilling in restricted areas and open off-limits waters and lands to production, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Southern Atlantic and Alaskan outer continental shelves. Opposes federal restrictions on natural gas production, including hydraulic or nitrogen fracturing and horizontal drilling.
Environment: Manmade global warming is a "scientific theory that has not been proven and from my perspective is more and more being put into question." Proposes repeal of EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases and elimination of all EPA programs to restrict carbon dioxide emissions. Opposes restrictions on coal industry under the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. Says environmental regulation and conservation are best achieved at state level and EPA should be converted to a "research and advisory" agency with no enforcement powers except when states ask for federal arbitration of regional disputes. As governor, cut money for clean air programs, cut the budget for Texas' environmental watchdog by a third and sued EPA to avoid enforcing clean air laws. Signed law that requires Texas to consider the effect of new regulations on the economy before passing them.
Gay Marriage: Now supports constitutional ban on gay marriage after saying states should choose their own courses.
Health Care: Repeal Obama health care law. Raise eligibility age for Medicare benefits, limit benefits for the wealthy and give people the choice of receiving federal aid to help purchase their own insurance instead of getting the direct benefits of the current system. Proposes turning Medicaid over to the states with no-strings federal support. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured people in the nation. Signed a law that would allow Texas — subject to federal approval — to band together with other states and take over the role of providing health care coverage for the elderly, the poor and the disabled.
Immigration: Opposes U.S.-Mexico border fence, which he calls "idiocy," instead wants more border agents. Supports continued U.S. citizenship for U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants can get in-state tuition at Texas universities if they meet other residency requirements. Neither employers nor state agencies required to run job applicants through a federal database to determine their legal status. Illegal immigrants have access to services for drug treatment, mental health and children with special health care needs.
Social Security: Proposes raising retirement age for full benefits and restricting increases in benefits for the wealthy. Previously branded Social Security a "disease" inflicted by Franklin Roosevelt, now says system should be saved for future generations while younger workers are given the option of building private accounts instead of paying taxes into the entitlement.
Taxes: Let taxpayers choose between current system and 20 percent flat tax on income. Under the flat-tax option, mortgage interest and charitable contributions would continue to be deductible. For each individual or dependent, $12,500 in income would be exempt. Flat-tax plan would eliminate taxes on Social Security benefits, inheritances, dividends and long-term capital gains. Also proposes to cut corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent.
Terrorism: Said it was "unprincipled" for Republicans to vote for creation of the Homeland Security Department. Supports continued use of Guantanamo Bay detention for suspected terrorists
Wars: Criticized Obama for announcing withdrawal of troops from Iraq by end of this year and from Afghanistan next year but has not said how many troops should remain or for how long.
Abortion: 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. But says Roe vs. 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. Would not sign pledge to advance only anti-abortion appointees for relevant administration jobs, cut off federal dollars for clinics that perform or finance abortions, and support a ban on abortions after the fetus reaches a certain stage in development. "So I would live within the law, within the Constitution as I understand it, without creating a constitutional crisis. But I do believe Roe v. Wade should be reversed to allow states to make that decision."
Debt: Defended 2008 bailout of financial institutions as a necessary step to avoid the system's collapse, criticized the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler and said any such aid should not single out specific companies. Cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product, down from today's recession-swollen 25 percent. Stayed silent on debt-ceiling deal during its negotiation, only announcing his opposition to the final agreement shortly before lawmakers cast their votes. Instead, endorsed GOP "cut, cap and balance" bill that had no chance of enactment. Favors constitutional balanced budget amendment. Proposes 10 percent cut in federal workforce, elimination of $1.6 billion in Amtrak subsidies and cuts of $600 million in support for the public arts and broadcasting.
Economy: Lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budget, more trade deals to spur growth. Replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. Proposes repeal of the law (Dodd-Frank) toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector. Proposes changing, but not repealing, the (Sarbanes-Oxley) law tightening accounting regulations in response to corporate scandals, to ease the accountability burden on smaller businesses. "We don't want to tell the world that Republicans are against all regulation. No, regulation is necessary to make a free market work. But it has to be updated and modern."
Education: Supported the federal accountability standards of No Child Left Behind law. In 2007, said he was wrong earlier in his 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.
Energy: Accelerate drilling permits in areas where exploration has already been approved for developers with good safety records. Says cap and trade would "rocket energy prices." Supports drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves, Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska; and supports exploitation of shale oil deposits. Reduce obstacles to coal, natural gas and nuclear energy development. Says green power has yet to become viable.
Environment: Spending a fortune to cut the emissions linked to global warming "is not the right course for us." Has acknowledged the scientific consensus that humans contribute to global warming: "I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that." But now says: "My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet." Proposes to remove carbon dioxide from list of pollutants controlled by Clean Air Act, and amend clean water and air laws to ensure the cost of complying with regulations is balanced against environmental benefit.
Gay Marriage: Favors constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, says policy should be set federally, not by states. "Marriage is not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state."
Health Care: Promises to work for the repeal of the federal health care law modeled largely after his universal health care achievement in Massachusetts because he says states, not Washington, should drive policy on the uninsured. 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. Would expand individual tax-advantaged medical savings accounts and let the savings be used for insurance premiums as well as personal medical costs. Would let insurance be sold across state lines to expand options, and restrict malpractice awards to restrain health care costs. Introduce "generous" but undetermined subsidies to help future retirees buy private insurance instead of going on traditional Medicare. No federal requirement for people to have health insurance. His Massachusetts plan requires people to have coverage, penalizes those who don't, and penalizes businesses of a certain size if they do not provide coverage to workers. His state has highest percentage of insured in nation. On Medicaid, proposes to convert program to a federal block grant administered by states.
Immigration: Favors U.S.-Mexico border fence, opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants. Proposes more visas for holders of advanced degrees in math, science and engineering who have U.S. job offers, and would award permanent residency to foreign students who graduate from U.S. schools with a degree in those fields.
Social Security: Says raising the age for benefits and reducing inflation adjustments for rich retirees are among options that should be considered.
Taxes: No one with adjusted gross income under $200,000 should be taxed on interest, dividends or capital gains. Cut corporate tax rate to 25 percent from a high of 35 percent. Opposes proposals to replace current tax system with national sales tax because he says it raises taxes on middle class while lowering them for rich and poor. Make Bush-era tax cuts, including for the wealthy, permanent. Eliminate estate tax.
Terrorism: No constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects.
Wars: Has not specified the troop numbers behind his pledge to ensure the "force level necessary to secure our gains and complete our mission successfully" in Afghanistan. Said Obama was wrong to begin reducing troop levels as soon as he did. Would increase strength of armed forces, including number of troops and warships.
Abortion: Favors constitutional abortion ban and opposes abortion even in cases of rape because "I would absolutely stand and say that one violence is enough." Previously supported right to abortion in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.
Debt: Opposed the financial-industry bailout and stimulus programs of the Bush and Obama administrations. Supports constitutional balanced budget amendment.
Economy: Spur jobs by eliminating corporate taxes for manufacturers, drill for more oil and gas, and slash regulations. "Repeal every regulation the Obama administration has put in place that's over $100 million. Repeal them all. You may have to replace a few, but let's repeal them all because they are all antagonistic to businesses, particularly in the manufacturing sector."
Education: Voted for No Child Left Behind law. Wants "significantly" smaller Education Department but not its elimination. Criticized early childhood education programs as an attempt by government to "indoctrinate your children."
Energy: Favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and scaling back "oppressive regulation" hindering drilling elsewhere.
Environment: The science establishing human activity as a likely contributor to global warming is "patently absurd" and "junk science."
Gay Marriage: Supports constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, not leaving decision to states. "We can't have 50 marriage laws." ''Abraham Lincoln said the states do not have the right to do wrong. I respect the 10th Amendment, but we are a nation that has values. We are a nation that was built on a moral enterprise, and states don't have the right to tramp over those because of the 10th Amendment."
Health Care: Would seek to starve Obama's health care law of money needed to implement it. Supported Bush administration's prescription drug program for the elderly.
Immigration: Supports border fence, opposes letting children of illegal immigrants qualify for cheaper in-state tuition and says federal government should not require states to offer any social services to illegal immigrants. Favors making English the official language.
Social Security: Supports option of private retirement accounts instead of Social Security taxes and benefits for younger workers.
Taxes: Proposes zero corporate tax. "If you manufacture in America, you aren't going to pay any taxes." Opposes any national sales tax.
Terrorism: Defends creation of Homeland Security Department as an attempt to fix a "complete mess" in the domestic security apparatus. Voted to reauthorize Patriot Act.
Wars: Said in September 2011 that 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops should remain in Iraq. Says U.S. troops should withdraw from Afghanistan "a little slower" than Obama is planning. "When we engage in Iraq and Afghanistan, we engage because we want to be successful. We want victory." In May, accused Obama of "dithering" in Libya and creating a "morass" because he let the international community take the lead in aiding Gadhafi's opponents. Opposes closure of U.S. bases abroad. "We have to have the ability to confront those threats from around the world, which means we need basing around the world."
Associated Press writers Brian Bakst and Chris Tomlinson contributed to this report.