WASHINGTON – A look at where Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stand on a selection of issues, in brief:
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.
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. Said he would end federal aid to Planned Parenthood.
Obama: Fourth-straight year of trillion-dollar deficits is projected. Won approval to raise debt limit to avoid default. Calls for tackling the debt with a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases. Central to Obama's plan is to let Bush-era tax cuts expire for couples making more than $250,000
Romney: Defended 2008 bailout of financial institutions as a necessary step to avoid the system's collapse, opposed the auto bailout. Would cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product by end of first term, down from 23.5 percent now, with largely unspecified spending cuts. Favors constitutional balanced budget amendment.
Obama: Term marked by high unemployment, a deep recession that began in previous administration and gradual recovery. Responded to recession with a roughly $800 billion stimulus plan. Continued implementation of Wall Street and auto industry bailouts begun under George W. Bush. 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 law toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector, and the law tightening accounting regulations in response to corporate scandals.
Obama: Has approved waivers freeing states from the most onerous requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. "Race to the Top" competition has rewarded winning states with billions of dollars for pursuing education policies Obama supports.
Romney: Supported the federal accountability standards of No Child Left Behind law. 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 of education.
ENERGY and ENVIRONMENT:
Obama: Ordered temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico but has pushed for more oil and gas drilling overall. Achieved historic increases in fuel economy standards that will save money at the pump while raising the cost of new vehicles. Achieved first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. Spent heavily on green energy and has embraced nuclear power as a clean source. Failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass limits he promised on carbon emissions.
Romney: Supports opening the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves to drilling, as well as Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska. 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 with good safety records. Says green power has yet to become viable and the causes of climate change are unknown.
Obama: Once opposed federal recognition of same-sex marriage, later said his views were "evolving" and has not taken a position since. Opposes constitutional amendment to ban it. Supports civil unions and letting states decide about marriage. Achieved repeal of the military ban on openly gay service members.
Romney: Favors constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, says policy should be set federally, not by states. But said he would not seek to restore a ban on openly gay service members.
Obama: Achieved landmark overhaul putting U.S. on path to universal coverage if the Supreme Court upholds the heath care law and its 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 will subsidize premiums, people without work-based insurance will have access to new markets, small business gets help for offering insurance and Medicaid will expand.
Romney: Promises to work for repeal of the 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 savings be used for insurance premiums as well as personal medical costs.
Obama: Failed 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. Government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants under Obama, nearly 400,000 in each of the last three years.
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.
Obama: Has not proposed a comprehensive plan to address Social Security's long-term financial problems. In 2011, proposed a new measure 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 generation 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. Health care law provides for tax on highest-value health insurance plans. Together with Congress, built a first-term record of significant tax cuts, some temporary.
Romney: Drop all tax rates 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. Eliminate capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent.
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. 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.
Obama: Ended the Iraq war, increased 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 U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple government. Major cuts 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. Opposes near-term military strike on Iran but holds that option open if it proves the only way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
Romney: Would increase strength of armed forces, adding almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget in 2016. 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. Criticizes Obama's approach on Iran as too conciliatory but has not explicitly threatened a near-term U.S. military strike.
Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Stephen Ohlemacher, Alan Fram, Dina Cappiello, Anne Gearan, Ken Thomas, Jim Kuhnhenn and Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this report.