Issues Roundup: A Series

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The 2004 presidential campaign has turned on two major issues — Iraq and the economy — and several secondary topics that demonstrate the similarities and differences between President Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Reporter Peter Brownfeld delved into eight issues that have been frequently discussed on the campaign trail, both during the debates and at various stops through the battleground states.

Click on the highlighted words below or on the links in the box to the right to learn more about the candidates' positions.

Part One: Candidates Divided on Stem Cell Research

President Bush has allowed research on existing stem cell strands already under federal control, but has barred federally funded research on new strands, a position supported by many abortion opponents. Kerry's campaign argues that to explore the full potential of stem cell research, scientists must enjoy more freedom, meaning the barriers must be lifted. The Massachusetts senator has vowed to lift restrictions to embryonic stem cell research if elected. Click here to read the story.

Part Two: Kerry, Bush Tout Dollars to Mend Health Care

Kerry's health care reforms would be large and costly with an aim to allow prescription drug imports (search) as well as insure 26.7 million new people. A health care economist at Emory University estimates Kerry's plan would cost $653 billion over nine years. Bush, on the other hand, would offer a smaller reform that would rely in part on private health care accounts, and he would not allow drug imports. The Bush campaign puts the cost of the president's proposal at $145 billion with 11 million to 17 million more people being insured. Click here to read the story.

Part Three: Gay Marriage: A Campaign Wedge Issue

President Bush wants a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage (search); John Kerry wants to leave the decision up to the states. Bush's position has helped solidify his position among Christian conservatives, and his political operatives say they hope it helps boost turnout among this voting bloc. But gay Republicans and others in the community vow Bush will lose a significant number of the gay votes he received in 2000. Click here to read the story.

Part Four: Education Takes a Back Seat in Election

Bush has touted the No Child Left Behind Act (search) as a major step in improving America's schools. But NCLB, which was signed into law in January 2002, has become a major focus of Kerry's attacks on Bush's education policy. Although he voted for the legislation, Kerry says the program has been under-funded. Click here to read the story.

Part Five: War on Terror on Top of Voter Issue Lists

The two candidates draw very different pictures of how the United States is faring in the War on Terror (search). Bush has been arguing that America is making progress, both in Iraq and the big picture, and says that while war will be long-term, the United States will ultimately be successful. Kerry says the Bush administration has made serious mistakes every step of the way, and a change of course is necessary. Click here to read the story.

Part Six: Candidates Spar Over Taxes

Although it is often hard to sift through the rhetoric to find the truth, some clear distinctions have emerged in the candidates' tax policy plans. A bare-bones summary is that Kerry would repeal tax cuts on the top two tax brackets that were put in place by Bush and he would try to transform the corporate tax structure. Bush wants to see his tax cuts made permanent and also wants to try to reform the tax code. Click here to read the story.

Part Seven: Candidates Offer Homeland Security Plans

While port security, baggage screening and intelligence reform may not make for good campaign sound bites, voters do care a great deal about homeland security. The problem for the candidates, however, is that the voters get lost in the details. Click here to read the story.

Part Eight: Economy Looms Large in Election

Listening to Kerry and Bush, voters could be excused if they thought the two candidates were talking about different countries the nation's economic outlook. Bush's picture of an economy well on the road to recovery contrasts with Kerry's depiction of an economy in desperate need of help. Analysts say the candidates' proposals on how to oil the economic engine, though light on details, suggest the two don't see things so drastically differently. Click here to read the story.