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Obama-Romney - what don't they agree on?

media Wikimedia Commons/Montage RFI

Michelle Obama proudly cast her ballot early for hubby Barack on 15 October. While the choice was clear for the First Lady, not everyone else is clear on the differences between the two leading candidates in the US presidential election. Here’s how Barack Obama and Mitt Romney stand on some of the main issues.

Some observers have joked that Obama and Romney are, in fact, more similar than either of them wants to admit. Former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said in January that the two candidates were “the same people”.

Indeed, there are similarities. Both men earned degrees from Harvard University, neither have served in the military - a first for a US president - and both have been known to break into song during public appearances.

But, while Obama and Romney sometimes meet in the middle, there are important differences.



  • Repeal Bush tax cuts for households that earn more than $250,000.
  • Lower taxes on manufacturing industry; raise taxes on wealthy to reduce deficit.
  • Increase exports; improve rural job training to help businesses earn capital.


  • Make Bush tax cuts permanent; lower taxes and regulations.
  • Make homegrown businesses competitive in the global economy to reduce unemployment.
  • Balance the budget; increase trade deals to stimulate growth.

Environment and Energy


  • Enact clean energy standards; create new clean energy sources.
  • Cap-and-trade to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Nuclear power as a clean energy source.


  • Block proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on greenhouse gases.
  • Increase exploitation of domestic oil, gas and coal; decrease dependence on energy sources from outside North America.
  • Encourage potential drilling in Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves and offshore Alaska.

Foreign Policy


  • Withdraw troops from Afghanistan in next two years.
  • Tighten economic sanctions on Iran, military strike not ruled out.
  • International pressure against Syrian government.
  • Deepen cooperation with China but penalise it for unfair trade.
  • Work with multilateral organisations and allies.


  • Bring troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible.
  • Increase economic sanctions on Iran; keep military option on the table.
  • Support groups against Syrian government to oust Bashar al-Assad.
  • Get tougher with China.
  • Act unilaterally; promote American values to accomplish goals.



  • Increase security at the border.
  • Uphold the DREAM act to allow path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants with family ties in America.
  • Strengthen penalties for businesses that hire illegal workers.


  • Construct fence at US-Mexico border.
  • Scrap education benefits, such as offering resident college tuition, to illegal immigrants.
  • Reduce chain of immigration for those joining US citizen family members; end visa caps for spouses and young children of legal immigrants.



  • Universal coverage (passed landmark law to forbid insurance companies from denying coverage to people based on pre-existing illness).
  • Lower healthcare costs.


  • No nationwide healthcare system - says states should drive policy, not Washington.
  • Health insurance plans to be purchased by individuals, not employers.

These large-scale matters are what Washington will probably tackle first. However, headline-grabbing social issues are the ones dearest to many Americans’ hearts and may be what tips the scale towards one candidate or the other.

Obama and Romney are opposed on the issue of legalising gay marriage, with Obama for and Romney against. Many states have a gay marriage bill on their ballots this season. The issue has incited protests and petitions against it, especially by some religious groups.

Special dossier

Abortion often makes its way into US presidential campaigns and this year has been no different. Republicans caused a firestorm with women’s rights groups by calling for an end to Roe v Wade, which made abortion legal in the US. "Pro-lifer" Romney believes states should be allowed to ban abortions. Obama supports the upholding of Roe v Wade and is "pro-choice".

The abortion debate segued into talks of contraception reform this year.

Many female voters, who are expected to play a major role in the outcome of the election, did not take kindly to a Republican call to allow employers to reject health insurance coverage of contraceptives for female employees. Republicans have since quietened down on the issue, in an attempt to avoid losing women's precious votes.

With the election less than a week away, the two candidates have the choice of either treading lightly from here on out, or going out with a bang.

It may come down to undecided voters - who don’t show up in statistics - to decide who becomes the next US president.


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