If there is one thing that can be said about this year’s presidential election, it is that it’s too close to call. While staunch Democrats and Republicans have dug in behind their respective candidates, the independent swing voters might well be the ones to decide the election. These voters—about one-third of the electorate—are less ideological than the Dems and the Repubs; in addition, they are more concerned with issues. And they have plenty of them to chew on, including jobs, the economy, education and health care.
As the election draws near, these issues will define the candidates. Mitt Romney is running on a slew of campaign promises; President Barack Obama is running on his pre-existing record.
Here’s your Election Day rundown of five big issues and where the candidates stand on each:
1. National Security
Obama: Brought soldiers home from Iraq; oversaw the killing of al-Qaeda’s senior leadership, including Osama bin Laden; signed Strategic Partnership Agreement to end combat mission in Afghanistan by 2014; received commitments from private sector businesses to hire unemployed veterans.
Romney: Would re-verse Obama’s defense spending cuts and increase shipbuilding rate of the U.S. Navy from nine vessels per year to approximately 15; would assess the U.S. military assistance in Afghanistan to determine the level required to secure military gains and to train Afghan forces.
2. Jobs and Economic Growth
Obama: Passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that supported some 300,000 education jobs, in excess of 4,600 law enforcement jobs and clean-energy investments that supported 224,500 jobs through 2010; instituted Wall Street reform and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to defend consumers from unfair financial practices; saved the American auto industry with emergency rescue loans.
Romney: Would seek to reduce taxes, spending, regulation and government programs and govern on the principles of free enterprise, hard work and innovation; his plan would seek to increase trade, energy production and labor flexibility, partly by relinquishing more decision-making power to the states.
Obama: Has doubled the country’s investment in scholarships and financial aid; created and extended the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is worth as much as $10,000 during four years of college; acted to offer states relief from No Child Left Behind mandates, while at the same time implementing the Race to the Top program, which rewards states for making reforms.
Romney: Would allow low-income and special-needs students to select their schools; would provide incentives for states that make more schooling choices available for parents and reform No Child Left Behind by emphasizing transparency and responsibility; would reward teachers by allowing states to use block grants to establish evaluation systems that focus on effectiveness.
4. Health Care
Obama: Passed the Affordable Care Act to keep insurance companies from abusive practices, including denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions and cancelling insurance when someone gets sick, and once fully implemented, approximately 95 percent of Americans under age 65 will have insurance; young adults can now stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.
Romney: Would issue an executive order on his first day in office that starts the process of giving all 50 states Healthcare Affordability Act waivers; would repeal the Act as quickly as possible and pursue policies giving each state the power to craft individual health care reform plans.
5. Debt Reduction, Taxes and Government Spending
Obama: Signed 18 tax cuts for small businesses and extended the payroll tax cut; proposed the Buffett Rule, a principle of tax fairness that seeks to ensure that millionaires and billionaires pay their share of taxes; asked Congress to reform the tax code and close tax loopholes for the wealthy.
Romney: Would send Congress a bill on his first day in office cutting nonsecurity discretionary spending by 5 percent [across the board] and cap it at below-2008 levels; would privatize Amtrak and reduce subsidies for the Legal Services Corporation, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; would eliminate Title X family planning funding to groups such as Planned Parenthood and cut $100 million in foreign aid.