POLITICS

Where do the candidates stand on the issues?

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Here's where the 2012 Republican presidential candidates stand on a selection of issues.

They are Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

ABORTION:

Bachmann: Backed efforts to declare the unborn "persons" under the Constitution, the most direct challenge to the Supreme Court's affirmation of abortion rights. Signed pledge to advance only anti-abortion appointees for relevant administration jobs, cut off federal dollars for clinics that perform or finance abortions, and support a ban on abortions after the fetus reaches a certain stage in development. Introduced bill to require pregnant women to see and hear the fetal heartbeat before having an abortion. Promoted other anti-abortion bills, including some that contained exceptions for rape, incest or the life of a mother. Sought to put abortion restrictions into Minnesota's constitution while in state Legislature.

Gingrich: Signed anti-abortion pledge. "Principles to protect life" platform calls for conservative judges and no subsidies for abortion but not for constitutional abortion ban.

Huntsman: Signed abortion restrictions into law as governor, favors constitutional abortion ban.

Paul: Says federal government should have no authority either to legalize or ban abortion. Yet signed pledge to advance only anti-abortion appointees for relevant administration jobs, cut off federal dollars for clinics that perform or finance abortions, and support a ban on abortions after the fetus reaches a certain stage in development.

Perry: Now supports constitutional abortion ban after saying states should decide their own laws on such issues. Backed Texas law that attempts to discourage abortions by making doctors describe the fetus' size limbs and organs to the woman, and make available an image of the fetus and the sound of its heartbeat to her, before she can have the procedure.

Romney: Opposes abortion rights. Previously supported them. Says state law should guide abortion rights, and Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court. But says Roe vs. Wade is law of the land until that happens and should not be challenged by federal legislation seeking to overturn abortion rights affirmed by that court decision. Would not sign pledge to advance only anti-abortion appointees for relevant administration jobs, cut off federal dollars for clinics that perform or finance abortions, and support a ban on abortions after the fetus reaches a certain stage in development. "So I would live within the law, within the Constitution as I understand it, without creating a constitutional crisis. But I do believe Roe v. Wade should be reversed to allow states to make that decision."

Santorum: Favors constitutional abortion ban and opposes abortion even in cases of rape because "I would absolutely stand and say that one violence is enough." Previously supported right to abortion in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.

DEBT:

Bachmann: Opposed the agreement worked out by Congress and the White House to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a default. Said U.S. could have paid only the interest on debt while working out a plan to cut spending more deeply.

Gingrich: As House speaker in mid-1990s, engineered passage of a seven-year balanced-budget plan. It was vetoed by President Bill Clinton but helped form a bipartisan balanced budget two years later. Supports constitutional balanced budget amendment. Said that without a balanced budget, the U.S. had no choice but to raise its debt limit in the deal that avoided a default.

Huntsman: Only candidate to endorse the deal that averted a default on U.S. debt payments, "a positive step toward cutting our nation's crippling debt."

Paul: Would eviscerate federal government, slashing nearly half its spending, shut five Cabinet-level agencies, end spending on existing conflicts and on foreign aid.

Perry: Was non-committal on the deal that avoided default and raised debt ceiling. Proposes to cap federal spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product, down from about 25 percent today, but no specifics on major spending cuts other than raising retirement age for Social Security and Medicare benefits for future retirees. Favors constitutional balanced-budget amendment. "No more bailouts." Freeze size and salaries of federal civilian work force until budget is balanced. Press Congress to cut lawmakers' and president's pay by half.

Romney: Defended 2008 bailout of financial institutions as a necessary step to avoid the system's collapse, criticized the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler and said any such aid should not single out specific companies. Cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product, down from today's recession-swollen 25 percent. Stayed silent on the debt-ceiling deal during its negotiation, only announcing his opposition to the final agreement shortly before lawmakers cast their votes. Instead, endorsed GOP "cut, cap and balance" bill that had no chance of enactment. Favors constitutional balanced budget amendment. Proposes 10 percent cut in federal workforce, elimination of $1.6 billion in Amtrak subsidies and cuts of $600 million in support for the public arts and broadcasting.

Santorum: Opposed the financial-industry bailout and stimulus programs of the Bush and Obama administrations. Supports constitutional balanced budget amendment.

ECONOMY:

Bachmann: Voted for $192 billion in stimulus spending in July 2009; voted against two earlier stimulus packages totaling nearly $900 billion and against housing aid and auto-industry aid. Opposed extension of jobless benefits. "Government overregulation is the single biggest jobs killer." Repeal the financial-industry regulations enacted in response to the subprime housing crisis.

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