Democrats: New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Republicans: Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.
ABORTION: Favor abortion rights?
—Huckabee: No. Favors constitutional amendment banning abortion rights.
—McCain: No. Says Roe v. Wade should be overturned.
—Romney: No. Would let states decide. Opposes constitutional amendment banning abortion. Previously supported abortion rights.
Thompson: No. Says Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Says states should decide abortion policy, indicating he would not support a constitutional abortion ban. Previously stated support for right to early term abortion.
—Clinton: $10 billion for universal preschool. More money for special education. Opposes performance-based merit pay for teachers, favors incentives for teachers who work in places and on subjects where shortages exist. Supported No Child Left Behind accountability law but says it has not been properly financed or run, and should be replaced. $10,000 higher education scholarships for all who engage in national service full-time for a year. Raise value of tuition tax credit to a maximum $3,500 from $1,650.
—Edwards: Universal preschool for four-year-olds. Change or replace No Child Left Behind. On post-secondary education: ‘‘Any young person in America who’s willing to work when they’re in college — we pay for their tuition and books at a state university or community college.’’
—Obama: Encourage but not require universal pre-kindergarten programs, expand teacher mentoring programs and reward teachers with higher pay not tied to standardized test scores, in $18 billion plan to be paid for in part by delaying elements of moon and Mars missions. Change No Child Left Behind ‘‘so that we’re not just teaching to a test and crowding out programs like art and music.’’ Tax credit to pay up to $4,000 of college expenses for students who perform 100 hours of community service a year.
—Richardson: Favors universal preschool and full-day kindergarten. Hire 100,000 science and math teachers. Scrap No Child Left Behind law. Favors starting salary of $40,000 for teachers. Two years government-paid tuition for one year of national service.
—Giuliani: Favors vouchers for school choice.
—McCain: Favors parental choice of schools, including vouchers for private schools when approved by local officials, and right of parents to choose home schooling.
—Huckabee: States are responsible for education and should be given more authority to run it, not Washington.
—Romney: Supports federal requirements for standardized tests, praises No Child Left Behind law, supports ‘‘school choice, better pay for better teachers, high standards, scholarships for the best kids, English immersion.’’
—Thompson: Favors incentives for school choice.
GAY MARRIAGE: Support same-sex marriage?
DEMOCRATS support recognition of same-sex civil unions short of marriage:
—Clinton: Would let states decide whether to recognize same-sex marriage. Opposes constitutional amendment against it.
—Edwards: No. Opposes constitutional amendment against it.
—Obama: Would let states decide. Opposes constitutional amendment against it.
—Richardson: No, but has supported recognition of same-sex civil unions.
—Giuliani: No, but says he sees no need to amend Constitution to ban it. Has supported domestic partnership benefits for gay couples
—Huckabee: No. Amend Constitution to ban it.
—McCain: Would let states regulate it. Opposes constitutional amendment to ban it.
—Romney: No. Amend Constitution to ban it. Also opposes same-sex civil unions.
—Thompson: No, but stops short of supporting a constitutional amendment that would outlaw it. Favors federal action to protect states that prohibit gay marriage from having to honor same-sex marriage allowed in another state.
—Clinton: Ten-year, $150 billion energy package, including $50 billion ‘‘strategic energy fund’’ to develop new sources of fuel. Fund to be paid for by eliminating tax subsidies for oil companies. Tougher fuel efficiency standards financed in part by $20 billion in ‘‘green vehicle bonds.’’ Voted for 2003 bill that would have capped 2010 emissions at 2000 levels. Would use some of the money from auctioning pollution credits to cushion higher consumer energy costs resulting from emission cuts.
—Edwards: $13 billion-a-year energy fund to double Energy Department’s budget for efficiency and renewable energy, accelerate clean energy technologies, encourage consumers to buy efficient products and help workers move out of jobs in polluting industries. Eliminate oil company subsidies and establish cap-and-trade system requiring companies to pay for emitting pollution. Supports tougher vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Says people must make sacrifices in energy use, including changing vehicles they drive. As senator, missed vote on 2003 bill.
—Obama: Ten-year, $150 billion program to produce ‘‘climate friendly’’ energy supplies that he’d pay for with a carbon auction requiring businesses to bid competitively for the right to pollute. Joined McCain in sponsoring legislation that would set mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions and increase costs to consumers. Supports tougher fuel efficiency standards. Goal of cutting greenhouse pollution 20 percent by 2020.
—Richardson: Favors going ‘‘well beyond’’ requirements of the Kyoto treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions, boosting fuel economy standards and undertaking massive spending on renewable energy to slash oil imports from 65 percent of fossil fuel use to 10 percent in 15 years.
—Giuliani: Not sure how much global warming is caused by human activity. ‘‘I believe human beings are contributing to it.’’ ‘‘I think the best way to deal with it is through energy independence.’’ Consider expanding nuclear power as well as alternative energy.
—Huckabee: Supports the move to 35 mpg fuel efficiency standard by 2020, from 25 mpg now. Says he supports a mandatory cap and trade system for carbon emissions, while saying he doesn’t know how much of the global warming problem is caused by human activity.
—McCain: Chief co-sponsor of a bill that sought mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions. Plan would require emissions to return to 2004 levels by 2012 and to 1990 levels by 2020.
—Romney: As Massachusetts governor, backed out of regional pact to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants because it did not cap the higher energy costs it might place on business and consumers. Says energy independence is the way to deal with global warming.
—Thompson: Has questioned whether global warming caused by manmade activity is real. Cited research suggesting solar system is warming.
—Clinton: Voted for ban on assault-type weapons and to require background checks at gun shows. Favored leaving gun-makers and dealers open to civil suits. Also, in 2000 supported proposals for a federal requirement for state-issued photo gun licenses, as well as a national registry for handgun sales.
—Edwards: Voted as North Carolina senator for ban on assault-type weapons and to require background checks at gun shows.
—Obama: Voted to leave gun-makers and dealers open to suit. Also, as Illinois state lawmaker, supported ban on all forms of semiautomatic weapons and tighter state restrictions generally on firearms.
—Richardson: Signed into law a bill allowing residents to carry concealed handguns.
—Giuliani: Now says states should decide appropriate gun controls. As New York mayor and Senate prospect in 2000, favored variety of federal controls, including ban on assault-style weapons and waiting period for purchases. Also favored a federal mandate to register handgun owners and require handgun buyers to ‘‘demonstrate good moral character and a reason to have the gun.’’
—Huckabee: Supports state laws allowing people to carry concealed weapons and a national ‘‘right to carry’’ law that would require states to recognize concealed weapons permits issued by other states.
—McCain: Voted against ban on assault-type weapons, but in favor of requiring background checks at gun shows. Voted to shield gun-makers and dealers from civil suits.
—Romney: As governor, supported state’s strict gun-control laws and signed into law one of the nation’s toughest laws against assault-type weapons. Also supported regulatory changes favored by gun owners and sellers, including setting up appeals process for people denied gun licenses. Previously supported federal ban on assault-type weapons and federal waiting period for purchases.
—Thompson: Hostile to many gun control proposals, including mandatory background checks at gun shows. Supported campaign finance changes that gun groups and other activists saw as an infringement of their speech rights.
—Clinton: Mandatory universal coverage in first term. Tax credits for working families to make insurance more affordable — ensuring premiums do not exceed a percentage of income. Business would be required to offer insurance to employees or pay into a pool for people without it. Expand Medicare and federal employees’ health insurance plan to cover those without adequate workplace insurance. Raise taxes on wealthier families to help pay estimated cost of $110 billion a year. Also, raise taxes on a portion of ‘‘very generous’’ plans covering people making more than $250,000.
—Edwards: Mandatory universal coverage in first term by expanding system of federal health insurance and family tax credits, and by imposing requirements on employers, insurance companies and individuals. Increase taxes on wealthier families to pay for program’s cost of up to $120 billion a year.
—Obama: Mandatory coverage for children. Aim for universal coverage by requiring employers to share costs of insuring workers and by offering coverage similar to that in plan for federal employees. Says package would cost up to $65 billion a year after unspecified savings from making system more efficient. Raise taxes on wealthier families to pay the cost.
—Richardson: Tax breaks for businesses and for people who pay for their own coverage. Lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 55 and expand programs for poor and children. Package could cost up to $110 billion a year. Claims savings from expanded spending on preventive care would help achieve mandatory universal coverage without tax increases.
—Giuliani: Income tax deduction of $7,500 per taxpayer to defray insurance costs. Tax credit for poorer workers to supplement Medicaid and employer contributions as part of ‘‘market-driven’’ expansion of affordable coverage. Expanded use of health savings accounts. No mandate for universal coverage.
—Huckabee: Favors market solutions, state innovation. ‘‘We don’t need universal health care mandated by federal edict or funding through ever-higher taxes.’’ Spend more on prevention and research.
—McCain: $2,500 refundable tax credit for individuals, $5,000 for families, to make health insurance more affordable. No mandate for universal coverage. In gaining the tax credit, workers could not deduct the portion of their workplace health insurance paid by their employers.
—Romney: Incentives for states to expand affordable coverage. As governor, he signed health care law aimed at ensuring universal coverage through a mix of subsidies, sliding scale premiums and penalties for those who do not get insurance.
—Thompson: ‘‘Market-driven’’ expansion of affordable coverage, but no mandate.
IMMIGRATION: Support legal status for illegal aliens?
—Clinton: Voted for 2006 bill that would have provided conditional path to citizenship, and supported border fence.
—Edwards: Supports path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who speak English and meet other conditions.
—Obama: Voted for the 2006 bill, including the fence.
—Richardson: Favors conditional path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, opposes border fence. As governor, signed law allowing illegal immigrants to get licenses, saying it enhanced public safety.
—Giuliani: Open to conferring legal status if proficiency in English and payment of back taxes and penalties are among conditions, and if applicants in the legal system are not disadavantaged. Urges use of tamper-proof ID cards for immigrants. Says most of U.S.-Mexico border should be policed with high-tech monitoring, supplemented by a fence in some parts.
—Huckabee: Has favored allowing illegal aliens who are in the country to apply for legal status if they pay penalties, get guest worker permits, register with authorities and aren’t allowed to jump in line ahead of other applicants. As governor, opposed banning state services for illegal immigrants.
—McCain: Sponsored 2006 bill that would have allowed illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S., work and apply to become legal residents after learning English, paying fines and back taxes and clearing a background check. Now says he would secure the border first. Supports border fence.
—Romney: Says he opposes McCain’s immigration bill, although he called it reasonable in 2005. Supports building a border fence with Mexico and stationing National Guard troops there. Calls for tamperproof ID card so only legal immigrants can work. Opposes policy allowing legal immigrants to host extended families in U.S.
—Thompson: Opposed the conditional path to citizenship for illegal immigrants laid out in legislation that President Bush supported. Previously supported selective expansion of legal immigration. Opposes policy allowing legal immigrants to host extended families in U.S.
—Clinton: Opposed troop increase, but has also opposed using congressional spending power to end war. Has not committed to withdrawal timetable and says some troops will have to remain to continue fighting terrorism in Iraq and the region.
—Edwards: Immediate withdrawal of as many as 50,000 troops and full withdrawal within 10 months. Would leave no combat troops in Iraq, but small numbers nearby to engage terrorists.
—Obama: ‘‘Our combat troops out within 16 months.’’
—Richardson: ‘‘All troops out within a year. No residual forces.’’
WAR AUTHORIZATION: Democrats who were in the Senate when the war was authorized — Clinton and Edwards — voted in favor of the authorization and now say they would not have voted that way in retrospect. Obama, who was not in the Senate then, opposed war at the start.
—Giuliani: Supported troop increase and prosecution of the war.
—Huckabee: Now faults Bush for not sending enough troops to Iraq at the start. Supported the 2007 troop increase and would not withdraw forces any faster than recommended by commanders.
—McCain: Opposes scheduling a troop withdrawal, saying latest strategy is succeeding. Supported decision to go to war, but was early critic of the manner in which administration prosecuted it.
—Romney: Supported troop increase and prosecution of the war.
—Thompson: Supports Bush’s course in Iraq and said in June he still believed it was right to invade.
DEMOCRATS oppose using a portion of payroll taxes to finance private retirement accounts. In addition:
—Clinton: Noncommittal on raising the $97,500 income cap on Social Security. Proposes a federal match of up to $1,000 per person to help people set up 401(k) plans in program costing $25 billion a year, to be paid for by freezing the estate tax at 2009 levels.
—Edwards: Subject the portion of income over about $200,000 to Social Security taxes, while keeping the portion of income between $97,500 and $200,000 free of it.
—Obama: Proposes raising cap with an unspecified ‘‘small adjustment’’ that would subject a portion of higher incomes to Social Security taxes.
—Richardson: Opposes raising the income cap for Social Security taxes.
REPUBLICANS favor using a portion of payroll taxes to finance private retirement accounts. In addition:
—Giuliani: ‘‘I would rule out a tax increase’’ to save Social Security.
—McCain: Would consider ‘‘almost anything’’ as part of a compromise to save Social Security, yet rules out higher payroll taxes for now.
—Huckabee: Higher benefits for people who delay retirement past 70. Give retirees option of declining their benefits, and instead have Social Security issue a lump sum payment at their death, with the money going to their children or grandchildren.
—Romney: Higher taxes are ‘‘wrong way to go.’’
—Thompson: Only major candidate proposing lower-than-promised benefits for future retirees. Also warns richest people ‘‘we’re not going to take care of all your Medicare in the future.’’
STEM CELL RESEARCH: Relax restrictions on federal financing of embryonic stem cell research?
—Romney: As governor, tried to stop legislation that encouraged expanded embryonic stem cell research of the kind opposed by President Bush. Veto was overturned.
—Thompson: Says putting money into research using adult instead of embryonic stem cells is ‘‘the effective, ethical’’ path.
DEMOCRATS would let some of Bush’s tax cuts expire in 2010 as scheduled, in effect raising taxes on wealthier people to help pay for programs. Additionally:
—Clinton: Tax proposals focused on universal health care plan, including tax credits to make insurance more affordable. Also, would tax a portion of health insurance benefits provided to workers making more than $250,000. Maintain estate tax on the richest tier. Increased tax breaks for college. $1 billion paid family leave program to be financed by eliminating some tax shelters.
—Edwards: For middle and low-income people, set up tax-free savings accounts and have government match the first $500 in savings, expand earned-income and child and dependent care tax credits, and exempt the first $250 of investment income from capital gains taxes. Tax cuts to cost $25 billion a year. Raise rate on capital gains tax to 28 percent from 15 percent for those making over $250,000.
—Obama: About $80 billion in tax breaks mainly for low-income workers and the elderly, including tax credit worth up to $500 a person to offset payroll taxes and elimination of tax-filing requirement for older workers making under $50,000. A mortgage-interest credit could be used by lower-income homeowners who do not take the mortgage interest deduction because they do not itemize their taxes. Raise corporate taxes and the top rate on capital gains and dividends to pay for the cuts.
—Richardson: Has supported cuts in income and capital gains taxes as governor.
REPUBLICANS would generally extend Bush’s tax cuts, which could cost $2.3 trillion to keep in place until 2017. Additionally:
—Giuliani: Cut corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent, eliminate estate tax. Hold the line on marginal tax rates or reduce them, and establish a permanent child tax credit. Index the alternative minimum tax to inflation. Income tax deduction of $7,500 per taxpayer to defray health insurance costs. Seek spending caps of 5 percent or more on civilian agencies; slash bureaucracy by rehiring only half the number of employees who retire.
—McCain: Opposed some of Bush’s tax cuts because they were not wedded to spending cuts, but now says the tax cuts should be made permanent. Eliminate alternative minimum tax.
—Huckabee: Replace system of taxing income and investment with 23 percent national sales tax on goods and services, cushioned for lower-income people and with rebates for essential purchases.
—Romney: Tax breaks to those earning less than $200,000, including eliminating capital gains, interest and dividend taxes for most. Estimated cost of $32 billion a year to be paid in part by cutting growth of federal spending. Eliminate estate tax.
—Thompson: Let people choose between current system or one with flat rate of 10 percent on first $50,000 of individual income or $100,000 of joint income, and 25 percent on income above those amounts. Exempt family of four from tax on first $39,000 of income, and more than double standard deduction. The simplified option would contain no other tax credits or deductions, and would retain 15 percent tax rate on capital gains. Also, end the estate tax and cut the top corporate tax rate to no more than 27 percent from 35 percent.
—Clinton: Seek to reopen North American Free Trade Agreement to strengthen enforcement of labor and environmental standards.
—Edwards: Make human rights ‘‘central to our trade policy.’’ NAFTA and other regional trade agreements have been a ‘‘total disaster.’’ Supported bringing China into World Trade Organization, says it’s ‘‘wrong to not hold them responsible for their obligations.’’
—Obama: Seek to reopen NAFTA to strengthen enforcement of labor and environmental standards.
—Richardson: Impose trade sanctions against countries that violate human rights or don’t hold free elections, ‘‘as we probably should consider doing with China.’’
—Giuliani: Supports free trade, says NAFTA has been good for U.S.
—McCain: Free trade advocate.
—Huckabee: Blames China’s currency manipulation and weak U.S. regulatory enforcement for imbalance in trade and imports of unsafe products, but has not said what he would do.
—Romney: Renegotiate liberalized trade with China to stop currency manipulation that gives Chinese products unfair advantage.
—Thompson: Supports free trade, says NAFTA has been good for U.S.