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Presidential Candidates on the Issues

Election season is in high gear, and as the candidates come down the home stretch, you’re probably hearing a lot of talk from campaign managers, surrogates, strategists, pundits and more. Unfortunately, not everything that you’re hearing accurately reflects the candidates’ actual positions.

The best way to choose a candidate is to judge each one on his own words and actions, as well as the legislation he passed while in office. To that end, we at mom.me have rounded up several of their positions to help you get a better idea of what each one stands for.

Hopefully, this will help you decide whether President Barack Obama deserves four more years, or if his challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, should get your vote instead. Read their words for yourself, so that you can make the most informed choice for you and your family on November 6.

Economy

Without question, the No. 1 issue in this election is the economy. Although economists say that the recession technically ended in 2009, the recovery has not been immediately noticeable to the average person with high cost-of-living expenses. How do the candidates plan to address the persistently lethargic economy?

“We've gone through a tough four years; there's no doubt about it,” President Obama said at his second debate against Governor Romney. “But four years ago I told the American people and I told you I would cut taxes for middle-class families, and I did. I told you I'd cut taxes for small businesses, and I have. ... We've created 5 million jobs, gone from 800,000 jobs a month being lost. And we are making progress.”

“I'm happy to take a look at the Massachusetts record, because when I came in as governor, we were in a real free fall,” Governor Romney said in a 2011 Republican primary debate. “We were losing jobs every month. We had a budget that was way out of balance. We were able to turn around the job losses. At the end of four years, we had our unemployment rate down to 4.7 percent. The policies that will get us working again as a nation are policies I understand having worked in the private sector.”

NEXT: Education

Education

The U.S. Department of Education figures show that the dropout rate has been steadily declining since 1990. This is good news, but many parents remain dissatisfied with the educations that their children receive. What are the presidential candidates’ plans to improve these schools and make them the most effective in the world?

“Let's hire 100,000 new math and science teachers who are actually trained in math and science, as opposed to just being thrown into the classroom without the kind of preparation they need,” President Obama said in September. “Let's continue to focus on early childhood education … particularly for kids who are low income … let's figure out what are the dropout factories out there, the couple of thousand schools where we know they're really underperforming. And let's transform those schools.”

“Education is key, particularly [to] the future of our economy,” Governor Romney said in his first debate against the president. “But our training programs right now, we've got 47 of them, housed in the federal government, reporting to eight different agencies. Overhead is overwhelming. We've got to get those dollars back to the states and go to the workers so they can create their own pathways to get in the training they need for jobs that will really help them.”

Health Care

The cost of medical treatment in the United States poses a huge burden to the uninsured. Many people have health insurance through their employers, but millions more don’t have any coverage, and the cost of a hospital stay and the treatment of a major medical condition can easily cost thousands of dollars. With a medical emergency representing almost certain financial ruin for the uninsured, what is each candidate doing to contend with this issue?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), or “Obamacare,” is the Obama Administration’s signature legislative accomplishment. One of its provisions went into effect on August 1, 2012, which stipulates that women’s preventive services, including well visits for pregnant women, breast cancer mammography and Hepatitis B screening, are offered without cost-sharing. Most importantly, the PPACA requires all insurance companies to cover everybody at the same rate, whatever their gender and regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Mitt Romney enacted a similar law in Massachusetts in 2006, when he served as governor. It succeeded in insuring 95 percent of the state population, and served as a blueprint for the PPACA. Despite the similarities, Governor Romney has pledged to repeal the PPACA on day one of his administration if elected president. "Well, I'm not getting rid of all of health care reform," Romney said in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press. "Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I'm going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with preexisting conditions can get coverage. Two is to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to have policies that cover their family up to whatever age they might like. I also want individuals to be able to buy insurance, health insurance, on their own as opposed to only being able to get it on a tax advantage basis through their company."

NEXT: Abortion

Abortion

There are few political issues in the United States as divisive as abortion. The Democratic Party has traditionally had a pro-choice platform and the Republican Party’s has traditionally been pro-life, and it seems unlikely that there will ever be bipartisan consensus on the issue.

President Obama is pro-choice. In May 2012, he received the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a reproductive rights organization that opposes restrictions on abortion. “President Obama has been committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and making health care more accessible and affordable for women,” NARAL President Nancy Keenan said in her endorsement.

Governor Romney is pro-life. “I’ve said time and again, I’m a pro-life candidate, I’ll be a pro-life president,” he said at a campaign stop in Ohio on October 10. Earlier in the year, when discussing debt reduction with a St. Louis television news outlet, he mentioned Planned Parenthood, which offers abortions but also comprehensive health checks for men and women, as an example of an organization that would no longer receive federal funding. “Planned Parenthood,” he said, “we’re going to get rid of that.”

Pay Equity

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women earn only 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. How do the presidential candidates stack up when it comes to addressing pay equity in the workplace?

President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. It was a response to Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., a 2007 Supreme Court decision that set the statute of limitations on equal pay lawsuits 180 days from an employer’s decision to pay a female employee less than her male counterparts. The new law set the statute of limitations to 180 days from the most recent paycheck instead.

Governor Romney has never issued a position on the law, but a campaign spokesperson, Amanda Henneberg, said that he supports pay equity. “In order to have pay equity, women need to have jobs, and they have been getting crushed in this anemic Obama economy, losing far more jobs than men,” she said.

NEXT: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

Same-Sex Marriage

In 2004, former President Bush’s successful reelection campaign was based in part on a pledge to define marriage as a purely heterosexual institution. Eight years later, several states have legalized gay marriage, and others have put the matter on the ballot. Clearly, many Americans have had a change of heart, but regardless of where they stand on the ideological spectrum, they want a president who will support their viewpoints.

In May 2012, President Obama gave his support for same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News. “Over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

In an interview with Univision in September 2012, Governor Romney stated that he believed in preserving the traditional definition of marriage. “I would like to have the term ‘marriage’ continue to be associated with a relationship between one man and one woman. And that certainly doesn't prevent two people of the same gender living in a loving relationship together, having a domestic partnership, if you will. I can see rights, such as hospital visitation rights, and similar types of things, being provided to those individuals. But marriage for me continues to be a relationship between a man and a woman.”

Environment

The environment is a topic that has been relegated to the back burner this election season, so it hasn't gotten much attention from the candidates. However, they have both made statements that help clarify their positions on this issue somewhat.

"Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits," President Obama said in Scientific American in September. "Since taking office I have established historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history. My administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants and reduced carbon emissions within the Federal Government."

Governor Romney weighed in with Scientific American as well. “I support robust government funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies that will maintain American leadership in emerging industries,” he said. “And I believe the federal government must significantly streamline the regulatory framework for the deployment of new energy technologies, including a new wave of investment in nuclear power.”

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