This is an unbiased comparison of the policies and positions of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties respectively in the 2012 election for President of the United States. In most cases, their political positions are aligned with the typical liberal and conservative ideologies in the U.S.

RESULT: Barack Obama won the election.

For election results by state, jump to the 2012 Presidential Election Results section.

Current tally for popular and electoral votes:

Comparison chart

Barack Obama

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Barack Obama

Mitt Romney

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Mitt Romney
Political Party Democratic Republican
Alma Mater Occidental College, Columbia University (BA), Harvard Law School (JD) Stanford University, Brigham Young University (BA), Harvard University (MBA, JD)
Position on Healthcare Signed the 2010 healthcare overhaul bill. Calls for patient protections like allowing coverage for pre-existing conditions, not letting insurers cancel policies when patients get sick, and requiring individuals to buy health insurance or pay a fine. Created similar legislation in Mass. but believes it's not appropriate for all of USA and wants to repeal. Proposes encouraging individuals to purchase their own health insurance rather than via employers, and allowing insurance across state lines.
Position on Immigration Supports path to legalization for illegal immigrants that includes learning English & paying fines; toughen penalties for hiring illegal immigrants; voted for fence along Mexican border. Issued exec order to not deport certain undocumented immigrants Would make English the official language of the US and "turn off the magnets like tuition breaks or other breaks that draw people into this country illegally". In favor of promoting legal immigration.
Position on Iraq Opposed invasion from the beginning; opposed troop increase; ended military operations in Iraq(on previously negotiated Bush timeline). Made no effort to keep promise to exit in 2009. Troops moved to Afghanistan and Iranian border. Romney says that keeping the U.S. in Iraq is the best option for minimizing casualties and maintaining a democratic government in Iraq.
Position on Iran Engage in direct diplomacy; tighten economic sanctions with international cooperation; military option not off the table. Failed to deliver on 2008 campaign promise to meet with the Iranian president without preconditions. Tighten economic sanctions; Military option not off the table.
Full name Barack Hussein Obama Willard Mitt Romney
Profession Lawyer, politician, author Businessman, politician, author
Position on the Economy Repeal Bush tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000. Lower taxes on manufacturing industry. Stimulus spending and tax cuts to grow the economy (short term). Cut spending and raise taxes on wealthy to reduce deficit (long term). Make Bush tax cuts permanent. Lower corporate tax rate across the board to 25%. Cut taxes and regulations to encourage business. Cut "non-security discretionary [government] spending" by 5% to reduce deficit.
Position on Abortion Supports Roe v. Wade; criticized Supreme Court decision that upheld ban on partial-birth abortions. Opposes Roe v. Wade; believes states should be allowed to ban abortions., 1994: Supported abortion rights but personally opposed, No punishment for women who have partial birth abortions, change of heart in 2005 when preparing to run for President
Place of Birth Honolulu, Hawaii Detroit, Michigan
Website http://www.barackobama.com http://www.mittromney.com
Position on Global Warming and Environment Supports a mandatory cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions. Delayed decision on northern leg of Keystone XL pipeline due to environmental concerns. Opposes cap and trade legislation. Supports Keystone XL pipeline. Exporting carbon emissions to China hurts US and planet. (Aug 2007), Humans contribute to world getting warmer. (Nov 2011), $20 billion package for energy research & new car technology
Children Malia Ann (b July 4, 1998) and Natasha (known as Sasha) (b June 10, 2001) Tagg (b. 1970), Matt (b. 1971), Josh (b. 1975), Ben (b. 1978), Craig (b. 1981)
Position on Indefinite detention Publicly opposed but debate on Congressional floor revealed that his Administration asked for language excluding American citizens. Would have signed NDAA as is.
Religion Christian (United Church of Christ) Christian (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a.k.a. Mormon)
Spouse(s) Michelle Obama Ann Romney (m. 1969–present)
Position on Military Intervention Publicly opposed wars and intervention but has recently admitted to expanding Afghan conflict into Pakistan. Says Congressional approval not required if UN gives approval. Consult with lawyers on legality but believes President has the right to do what he believes makes the country safer.
Position on Gay rights Supports same-sex marriage; pushed Congress to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, allowing gays to serve openly in the military Opposes same-sex marriage; supports legal unions; supports Don't Ask, Don't Tell but favors gays serving openly in the military(Govwatch 1994), supported ENDA to ban anti-gay employer discrimination
Residence Washington, D.C. Belmont, Massachusetts
Running mate Joseph "Joe" Biden Paul Ryan
Date of Birth August 4,1961 March 12, 1947
Books Authored Dreams from My Father: A story of Race and Inheritance; and The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts of Reclaiming the American Dream. No Apology: The Case for American Greatness; and Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games
Obama vs romney caricature by DonkeyHotey
Obama vs romney caricature by DonkeyHotey

Differences in Economic Policy

Tax Policy

Highlights of Mitt Romney's tax plan include:

In order to pay for these tax cuts, Romney has proposed eliminating certain tax deductions, such as mortgage interest deduction for second homes, state income tax deduction and state property tax deduction. Romney has also said he would look to the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for budget cuts.[1]

Highlights of Barack Obama's tax policy include:

Stimulus Spending and Bailouts

As President, Barack Obama supported the bailouts for banks and other financial services firms like AIG, as well as the auto bailouts for GM and Chrysler. Romney opposed the auto bailouts and had proposed that the companies should have been allowed to file for bankruptcy.

Obama also passed a stimulus bill that included tax cuts as well as government spending, including programs like the "cash for clunkers" program. Romney opposes stimulus spending by the government because it adds to the deficit. Instead, he favors cutting taxes on individuals and businesses to stimulate growth.

Regulation

Obama believes the 2008 financial crisis was a result of excessive deregulation of the banking industry and that government regulation is needed for when markets fail[2]. But he has called for a review of regulations to eliminate ones that "don't make sense". Romney favors deregulation to foster a more business-friendly environment.[3]

Trade

Mortgage Modification and Housing Policy

Social Security

Healthcare Policy

Healthcare is a contentious issue in the 2012 election because of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). President Obama signed the bill into law and is a strong supporter of universal healthcare coverage. Several provisions of the plan, including the controversial mandate requiring individuals to buy health insurance, were modeled after the bill passed by Romney in Massachusetts when he was governor. However, Romney has said the bill is wrong at the federal level. Romney has promised to repeal the bill via an executive order if he gets elected president. Trying to differentiate between the Massachusetts law he signed and the federal law, Romney said:[4]

I would repeal Obamacare, if I were ever in a position to do so. My experience has taught me that states are where healthcare programs for the uninsured should be crafted, just as the Constitution provides. Obamacare is bad law, bad policy, and it is bad for America's families.

On Medicare

Obama favors a government-run Medicare program while Romney believes that the federal government does a poor job of running Medicare and has embraced Paul Ryan's plan of overhauling Medicare. Highlights of Ryan's plan include:

Supporters of the Republican plan say that the private sector is likely to administer health insurance better than the government does with Medicare. They also predict that seniors will benefit from increased competition in the marketplace, which will drive down costs and improve quality. Critics have argued that Ryan's plan would weaken Medicare because private insurers will cherry-pick customers and only provide insurance to the relatively healthy, leaving sicker, higher-cost patients in the Medicare pool. They also say that seniors may be too old or too ill to make informed choices and deal with problems (such as billing errors, pre-authorization requirements) that may arise with private insurance. Finally, critics believe that if the value of the voucher does not keep pace with the rising healthcare costs, then seniors will be unable to afford health insurance.

On Medicaid

Romney supports greater state control of the Medicaid program. The New York Times has argued that while Obama wants to greatly expand the number of people covered by Medicaid, Romney wants to greatly reduce the reach of the program.

The president envisions adding as many as 17 million people to the rolls by allowing everyone with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level to enroll, including many childless adults.
Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan would take Medicaid in the opposite direction. They would push for the repeal of the health care law and replace the current Medicaid program with block grants, giving each state a lump sum and letting them decide eligibility and benefits. (Currently, the federal government sets minimum requirements, like covering all children under the poverty level, which some states surpass. It also provides unlimited matching funds.) The grants would grow at the rate of inflation, with adjustments for population growth.
As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Mr. Ryan has proposed cutting federal spending on Medicaid by $810 billion over 10 years, largely from repealing the health care law. Mr. Obama’s expansion plan, by contrast, would cost an additional $642 billion over the same period, according to the most recent estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

Quotes

Social Issues

On Gay Rights

Marriage equality (aka Gay Marriage)

In the 2008 election, Obama's stand was that he supported civil unions and according gay couples all the legal rights that married couples had. However, he did not support same-sex marriage. In May 2012, he revised his stand and said that he supports the right of gay couples to get married.

Mitt Romney holds a more conservative position on the issue. He wants to enact federal legislation outlawing gay marriage.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

President Obama repealed the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that prevented gays from serving openly in the military. Romney was not in favor of the repeal.

On Abortion

Obama supports Roe v. Wade while Romney has called for the landmark Supreme Court decision to be overturned. When contesting in Massachusetts elections (both for Governor in 2002 and for the U.S. Senate seat in 1994), Romney's position was different. He had said that while he was personally opposed to abortion on moral grounds, he agreed with the Supreme Court decision. He has said he had a change of heart in 2005.

When Obama was Illinois state senator, he opposed the Induced Infant Liability Act and repeatedly voted against requirements and restrictions intended to stop what opponents label "born alive" abortions. Obama said his opposition was because Illinois law already required medical care in such situations where the child is alive and because of technical language he felt might have "interfered with a woman's right to choose".

Obama voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, saying "On an issue like partial birth abortion, I strongly believe that the state can properly restrict late-term abortions. I have said so repeatedly. All I've said is we should have a provision to protect the health of the mother, and many of the bills that came before me didn't have that." Obama voted against a bill that would have made it a federal crime for anyone other than a parent to accompany a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion. Obama has, however, expressed support of bans on some late-term abortions, provided they include exemptions for the mental and physical health of the mother.

Quotes

On Immigration

Under President Obama's term, the Department of Homeland Security has carried out more deportations than the Bush administration. However, in June 2012, President Obama announced a shift in immigration policy via an executive order. The new policy would stop deportations of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children (under 16), have finished high school, have no criminal record and are under 30 years of age.[5]

The policy is similar to the DREAM Act but does not offer amnesty or a path to citizenship. It merely gives young immigrants a two-year work visa.

While voters approved of Obama's decision 2-to-1[6], Romney criticized it saying it was not a long-term solution because it was not a legislation but a Presidential executive order that could be overturned.[7]

Romney's stated policy during the Republican primaries was to allow undocumented immigrants to "self-deport" by making it impossible for them to find work. Romney has said he is in favor of legal immigration, including giving green cards to international students who graduate from U.S. colleges and have the skills that the U.S. needs.

Women's Rights

Education Policy

From the Washington Post reporting on the issues:

Obama has approved waivers to states for some of the most onerous requirements of the No Child Left Behind law. The Obama administration's Race to the Top competition has rewarded winning states with billions of dollars for pursuing education policies Obama supports. Won approval from Congress for a $10,000 college tax credit over four years and increases in Pell grants and other financial aid.
Mitt Romney supported the federal accountability standards of the No Child Left Behind law. He has said the student testing, charter-school incentives and teacher evaluation standards of Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition “make sense” although the federal government should have less control of education. Says increases in federal student aid encourage tuition to go up, too. Wants to see private lenders return to the federal student loan program.

Quotes

Gun Control

Civil Liberties and Homeland Security

Differences in Foreign Policy

In an interview with NPR's All Things Considered, Susan Glasser, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine said that policy specifics from the two candidates were not dramatically different. She added that:

There is, at heart, an assertion across all of Mitt Romney's critiques of Barack Obama in the course of this campaign on foreign policy that comes down to America can be a shaper of events and not merely a passive reactor. He equates shaping events with proving or disproving American decline.

In an article for the Washington Post, Jackson Diehl outlined several foreign policy differences between the two candidates.

Russia

Obama wants to strike a new deal with Vladi­mir Putin to significantly cut the U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles. In what he thought was a private aside, Obama told then-President Dmitry Medvedev that “after my election, I have more flexibility” on that, referring to compromises with Russia on U.S. and NATO plans for missile defense. In contrast, Romney strongly opposed Obama’s New Start treaty with Russia, which made a small reduction in nuclear warheads, and has promised to boost spending on missile defense.

Afghanistan

Both candidates support NATO’s plan to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. While some analysts say this means Obama and Romney's views are similar, Diehl has conjectured that Obama is more likely to reduce combat troops there in 2013 while Romney is more likely to follow the advice of U.S. generals who will advocate that combat troops not be cut.

A notable highlight of Obama's strategy against Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is the use of drones. Although his administration claims the attacks are carefully targeted at major terrorists, they frequently kill civilians.[8]

Syria

President Obama is opposed to arming the rebel forces in Syria and has repeatedly rejected proposals that the United States help establish safe zones for civilians. On the other hand Romney has voiced support for arming the Syrian opposition.

Iran

Romney and Obama have both said that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. Diehl has suggested that Obama

probably would use force only if Iran actually tried to build a bomb, while a Romney attack could be triggered if Iran were merely close to acquiring all the means for a weapon — which it is.

Israel-Palestine Conflict

Obama supports a two-state solution with statehood for Palestine. Romney has not indicated that Palestinian statehood is among his top priorities. He has also expressed pessimism about there ever being peace in the region, calling the possibility "unthinkable". [9]

Position on Iraq

Global Popularity

When Barack Obama was sworn in as President in 2009, he was immensely popular abroad. American popularity had waned during the Bush presidency but with Obama's election attitudes had begun to change. Expecting a major shift in foreign policy, the Nobel Peace Prize committee even chose Obama as the winner of the prize in 2009. However, his popularity abroad has decreased significantly since then.[10]

Mitt Romney made some blunders on his foreign tour just ahead of the London Olympics when he made remarks about the under-preparedness of the city for the Olympics. This did not go over very well in the U.K. His fared better during his visit to Israel, whose Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has had a tenuous relationship with Obama.

Energy Policy

The Obama administration has supported clean energy projects, some of which have failed like Solandra. He has postponed the final decision on the Keystone XL extension, the northern leg of the Keystone pipeline, until an environmental review is completed.[11] In the aftermath of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the Obama administration forced BP to create a $20 billion spill response fund, announced a moratorium on permits for new offshore oil wells and ended the policy of granting environmental waivers to oil companies. However, these announcements did not prevent new permits from being issued.[12][13] Read more about Obama's energy policy.

Mitt Romney announced his energy policy in August 2012 and proposed giving states the power to determine whether drilling and mining should occur on federal lands within their borders. Romney’s policy also calls for opening more offshore drilling options, including off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas.[14] He is in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline. Read more about Mitt Romney's energy policy.

Impact

A recent Congressional Budget Office report suggested that opening nearly all federal lands to drilling would yield just $7 billion in government revenue over the next decade—a vast difference from "trillions of dollars" estimated by the Romney campaign. Asked about the disparity, Oren Cass, Romney's domestic policy director, said the campaign was including revenues from both onshore and offshore drilling on federal lands and suggested the CBO had produced lower numbers by not including lease payments, royalties and taxes certain to be earned in coming "years and decades."[15]

Oil companies

Romney has been criticized for favoring large oil and gas companies in his policies after they donated to his campaign.

Environmental Policy

Debates

All Presidential debates begin at 9:00pm Eastern time (6pm Pacific).

First Debate

The first presidential debate was held on October 3, 2012 at the University of Denver and was moderated by Jim Lehrer. Most analysts and viewers were of the opinion that Romney won the debate.[16][17][18]

An analysis of the claims made during the debate is available on factcheck.org.

Here's the full debate video:

Ahead of the debate, the Wall Street Journal published on Facebook this analysis contrasting the positions of the two candidates:

Contrasting the positions of Obama and Romney (via WSKJ)

Second Debate

The second debate was held on October 16, 2012 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. It was a town-hall style debate where ordinary people will ask questions to the two candidates. It was a tense debate and the exchange became testy on several occasions, with both candidates being aggressive and attacking each other's record and policies. The full video is presented below and analysis of the debate can be found here, here and here.

Fact Checking for the Second Debate

Several organizations published analyses after the debate fact-checking the claims made by the two candidates, including:

Third Debate

The third and final presidential debate was held on October 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Although billed as a foreign policy debate, the discussion often veered into domestic issues such as the economy and education. The debate was moderated by Bob Schieffer. Here's the full video of the final debate:

Recent News

Chances of winning

The key battleground states are Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire. Three weeks before the election, John Cassidy analyzed the opinion polls and dissected them state-wise to determine the probability of Obama winning another term:

For the sake of argument, let’s assume Romney carries Florida and Virginia. According to my map, that would leave him with 248 votes, still twenty-two short of victory. If he also wins Colorado and New Hampshire, both of which I have listed as toss-ups, he would get to 261 votes, leaving him needing nine more to reach 270. That means he would have to win Ohio or Wisconsin, or Iowa and Nevada. The good news for Democrats is that Obama appears to be holding onto his leads in all four of these states. That’s his firewall.

Opinion Polls

Opinion polls show Obama and Romney in a statistical dead heat the week before the election, with Obama holding a minor lead in swing states according to most polls, but well within the margin of error. BBC News has a great poll tracker that visually plots the various opinion poll results over time.

Prediction markets

These charts show the chances for Obama and Romney in the 2012 presidential election, as predicted by the market on Intrade.com.[19][20] While opinion polls showed a dead heat, the prediction markets almost always gave Obama a more than even chance of winning. By election day, his chance of winning as predicted by Intrade prices, was close to 2 in 3.

Charts showing the chances for Obama and Romney in the 2012 presidential election, as predicted by the market on Intrade.com

Nomination Acceptance Speeches

Other notable speeches included Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention and Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention.

Books Authored

Obama vs Romney Presidential Election Results

CNN has called the election for Barack Obama. The results will be updated in this section as they are announced. The map can also be seen here on the New York Times or here on BBC News.

Summary of 2012 Presidential Election Results

StateElectoral VotesWinner
Alabama9Mitt Romney
Alaska3Mitt Romney
Arizona11Mitt Romney
Arkansas6 Mitt Romney
California55Barack Obama
Colorado9Barack Obama
Connecticut7Barack Obama
Delaware3Barack Obama
Washington, D.C.3Barack Obama
Florida29Barack Obama
Georgia16Mitt Romney
Hawaii4Barack Obama
Idaho4Mitt Romney
Illinois20Barack Obama
Indiana11Mitt Romney
Iowa6Barack Obama
Kansas6Mitt Romney
Kentucky8Mitt Romney
Louisiana8Mitt Romney
Maine4Barack Obama
Maryland10Barack Obama
Massachusetts11Barack Obama
Michigan16Barack Obama
Minnesota10Barack Obama
Mississippi6Mitt Romney
Missouri10Mitt Romney
Montana3Mitt Romney
Nebraska5Mitt Romney
Nevada6Barack Obama
New Hampshire4Barack Obama
New Jersey14Barack Obama
New Mexico5Barack Obama
New York29Barack Obama
North Carolina15Mitt Romney
North Dakota3Mitt Romney
Ohio18Barack Obama
Oklahoma7Mitt Romney
Oregon7Barack Obama
Pennsylvania20Barack Obama
Rhode Island4Barack Obama
South Carolina9Mitt Romney
South Dakota3Mitt Romney
Tennessee11Mitt Romney
Texas38Mitt Romney
Utah6Mitt Romney
Vermont3Barack Obama
Virginia13Barack Obama
Washington12Barack Obama
West Virginia5Mitt Romney
Wisconsin10Barack Obama
Wyoming3Mitt Romney

Election Results in swing states

StateElectoral VotesWinnerVotes
Arizona11Mitt RomneyTBA
Colorado9Barack ObamaTBA
Florida29Barack ObamaTBA
Iowa6Barack ObamaTBA
Michigan16Barack ObamaTBA
Missouri10Mitt RomneyTBA
Nevada6Barack ObamaTBA
New Hampshire4Barack ObamaTBA
New Mexico5Barack ObamaTBA
North Carolina15Mitt RomneyTBA
Ohio18Barack ObamaTBA
Pennsylvania19Barack ObamaTBA
Virginia13Barack ObamaTBA
Wisconsin10Barack ObamaTBA

References

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