A look at where they stand
Where Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain stand on a selection of issues as they go head-to-head for the presidency:
McCain: Opposes abortion rights. Has voted for abortion restrictions permissible under Roe v. Wade, and now says he would seek to overturn that guarantee of abortion rights. Would not seek constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
Obama: Favors abortion rights.
McCain: The co-author of McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, he plans to run his general campaign with public money and within its spending limits. He has urged Obama to do the same. He turned down federal matching funds for primaries so he could spend more than the limits. Federal Election Commission letter said he needs FEC approval before withdrawing from the primary public financing system, but FEC has not had quorum to act. McCain says he needs no such approval. McCain accepts campaign contributions from lobbyists.
Obama: The presidential campaign’s fundraising champion has brought in nearly $265 million. Has signaled he will raise private money for his general election, despite his proposal last year to accept public financing and its spending limits if the Republican nominee does, too. Obama refuses to accept money from federal lobbyists and has instructed the Democratic National Committee to do the same for its joint victory fund, an account that would benefit the nominee. Obama does accept money from state lobbyists and from family members of federal lobbyists.
McCain: Ease restrictions on Cuba once U.S. is “confident that the transition to a free and open democracy is being made.”
Obama: Ease restrictions on family-related travel and on money Cuban-Americans want to send to their families in Cuba. Open to meeting new Cuban leader Raul Castro without preconditions. Ease trade embargo if Havana “begins opening Cuba to meaningful democratic change.”
McCain: Has supported expansion of the federal death penalty and limits on appeals.
Obama: Supports death penalty for crimes for which the “community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage.” As Illinois lawmaker, wrote bill mandating videotaping of interrogations and confessions in capital cases and sought other changes in system that had produced wrongful convictions.
McCain: Favors parental choice of schools, including vouchers for private schools when approved by local officials, and right of parents to choose home schooling. More money for community college education.
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 law “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.
McCain: Opposes constitutional amendment to ban it. Says same-sex couples should be allowed to enter into legal agreements for insurance and similar benefits.
Obama: Opposes constitutional amendment to ban it. Supports civil unions, says states should decide about marriage.
McCain: Broke with President Bush on global warming. Led Senate effort to cap greenhouse gas emissions; favors tougher fuel efficiency. Favors plan that would see greenhouse gas emissions cut by 60 percent by 2050. Supports more nuclear power.
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 earlier legislation that would set mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions. Supports tougher fuel efficiency standards.
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. “I believe the Second Amendment ought to be preserved — which means no gun control.”
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.
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.
Obama: Mandatory coverage for children, no mandate for adults. 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.
McCain: Open to helping homeowners facing foreclosure if they are “legitimate borrowers” and not speculators.
Obama: Tax credit covering 10 percent of annual mortgage interest payments for “struggling homeowners,” scoring system for consumers to compare mortgages, a fund for mortgage fraud victims, new penalties for mortgage fraud, aid to state and local governments stung by housing crisis, in $20 billion plan geared to “responsible homeowners.”
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.
Obama: Voted for 2006 bill offering legal status to illegal immigrants subject to conditions, including English proficiency and payment of back taxes and fines. Voted for border fence.
McCain: Favors tougher sanctions, opposes direct high-level talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Obama: Initially said he would meet Ahmadinejad without preconditions, now says he’s not sure “Ahmadinejad is the right person to meet with right now.” But says direct diplomacy with Iranian leaders would give U.S. more credibility to press for tougher international sanctions.
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. Key backer of the troop increase. Willing to have permanent U.S. peacekeeping forces in Iraq.
Obama: Spoke against war at start, opposed troop increase. Now says his plan would complete withdrawal of combat troops by end of 2009, four months sooner than his previous commitment. Before that, had said a timetable for completing withdrawal would be irresponsible without knowing what facts he’d face in office.
McCain: Would consider “almost anything” as part of a compromise to save Social Security, yet rules out higher payroll taxes for now.
Obama: Proposes raising cap with an unspecified “small adjustment” that would subject a portion of higher incomes to Social Security taxes.
STEM CELL RESEARCH
McCain: Supports relaxing federal restrictions on financing of embryonic stem cell research.
Obama: Supports relaxing restrictions on federal financing of embryonic stem cell research.
McCain: “No new taxes” if elected. Twice opposed Bush’s tax cuts, at first because he said they were tilted to the wealthiest and again because of the unknown costs of Iraq war. Now says those tax cuts, expiring in 2010, should be permanent. Proposes cutting corporate tax rate to 25 percent. Promises balance budget in first term, says that is unlikely in his first year.
Obama: Raise income taxes on wealthiest and their capital gains and dividends taxes. Raise corporate taxes. $80 billion in tax breaks mainly for poor workers and elderly, including tripling Earned Income Tax Credit for minimum-wage workers and higher credit for larger families. Eliminate 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.
McCain: Free trade advocate.
Obama: Seek to reopen North American Free Trade Agreement to strengthen enforcement of labor and environmental standards. In 2004 Senate campaign, called for “enforcing existing trade agreements,” not amending them.