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Race for the White House

The Year Ahead | As 2011 wound down, the 2012 presidential campaign appared to be shaping up as a four-man race among President Obama, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul. Here's where they stand on issues likely to play a large part in the 2012 race

Issue: "2012: The Year Ahead," Jan. 14, 2012

Social Issues

Obama: Obama overturned an order barring overseas pro-abortion groups from receiving U.S. taxpayer money. He has nominated pro-abortion cabinet secretaries and federal judges. He pushed to repeal the ban on gays openly serving in the military and instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

Gingrich/Romney: Gingrich signed a pledge to select only pro-life appointees for top jobs and to stop federal dollars going to pro-abortion clinics. Romney supported legal abortion earlier in his career and did not sign the pro-life pledge but voices strong opposition to abortion. Both support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

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Paul: Paul is pro-life. "Some people believe that being pro-choice is being on the side of freedom," he wrote in his 2011 book Liberty Defined. "I've never understood how an act of violence, killing a human being ... is portrayed as a precious right." He supports overturning Roe v. Wade but believes that states should regulate abortion. On marriage, Paul supports the federal Defense of Marriage Act, but also supported the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

Entitlements

Obama: Obama considered changes in the way Social Security is linked to inflation in 2011 but backed off after upsetting core supporters. He did propose higher Medicare premiums and raised deductibles and copays for wealthier seniors. His biggest proposed source of Medicare savings, $135 billion over 10 years, came from extending price controls on prescription drugs.

Gingrich/Romney: Gingrich's plan gives younger workers the option of diverting Social Security taxes to private retirement accounts and provides a private insurance option for Medicare patients. Romney also supports private competition in Medicare and said he would consider increasing the Social Security eligibility age, and reducing inflation adjustments for wealthy retirees. Both would convert Medicaid to a block grant administered by states.

Paul: Paul's proposed budget allows younger workers to opt out of Social Security and Medicare. Current seniors would continue to receive their benefits, and he has said cuts to defense and foreign aid would help cover the current recipients. Paul would turn Medicaid and other welfare programs into block grants to states.

Immigration

Obama: After gaining two-thirds of the Latino vote in 2008, Obama abandoned his promise for a comprehensive reform bill in Congress his first year in office, disappointing many Hispanics. He unsuccessfully pushed for passage of the DREAM Act in 2010, which would grant permanent residency to illegal immigrant graduates of U.S. schools.

Gingrich/Romney: Gingrich wants to make English the official language of the U.S. government, but rivals have attacked Gingrich for supporting legal status for some illegal immigrants. Romney said the focus should be on first securing the U.S.--Mexico border, and he opposes illegal immigrants receiving higher education benefits.

Paul: Paul wrote in Liberty Defined that the United States should have a "generous visitor work program," and perhaps provide undocumented immigrants a "'green card' with an asterisk," because the country can't deport everyone. He would also revoke birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants. He opposes laws forcing employers to check employees' immigration status, which he says is a "police and court function."

Healthcare

Obama: The president's flagship accomplishment remains the massive overhaul of America's healthcare system. The $1 trillion law includes a mandate requiring all Americans to buy health insurance. It also forces businesses to offer insurance or pay fines. The Supreme Court is set to decide if the program is constitutional.

Gingrich/Romney: Repealing Obamacare is a top priority for both, although both have supported forms of insurance mandates in the past. Both support the ability to purchase policies across state lines, tax deductions for health insurance costs, protection of insurance of those who get sick, health savings accounts, and caps on medical malpractice lawsuits.

Paul: Paul said he would push to repeal Obama's healthcare law, institute tax credits and deductions for all medical expenses, and allow Americans to buy insurance across state lines to increase competition. He thinks Americans should increasingly rely on medical savings accounts, which allow them to save for medical costs tax-free. He has proposed tort reform where patients would receive a tax credit to buy their own "negative outcomes" insurance.

Tax Policy

Obama: Obama wants to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire and also favors limiting deductions and closing loopholes for top income earners. He has repeatedly argued that the government's deficit problem cannot be solved without tax increases.

Gingrich/Romney: Gingrich would offer a 15 percent flat tax to households and cut the corporate tax rate to 12.5 percent. Romney would cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from its current 35 percent. Both would eliminate the capital gains tax and the estate tax while extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

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