As both campaigns enter the final days before the Nov. 4 election, we take a look at how John McCain and Barack Obama stand on the major issues.
McCain: Opposes abortion rights. Has voted for abortion restrictions permissible under Roe vs. 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 is running his general campaign with public money and within its $84 million spending limits. He applied for federal matching funds for the primaries but later turned them down so he could spend more than the limits. McCain accepts campaign contributions from lobbyists.
Obama: The presidential campaign's fundraising champion has raised more than $600 million since the start of his White House bid and he is expected to spend in excess of $300 million on the general election. His fundraising and spending levels are possible because he rejected public financing -- despite his proposal last year to accept spending limits if his Republican opponent did. 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 benefits the nominee. Obama does accept money from state lobbyists and from family members of federal lobbyists.
McCain: Ease restrictions on Cuba once the United States 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 an Illinois lawmaker, he wrote a 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. He also would put $250 million into a program to help states expand online education.
Obama: An $18 billion plan that would encourage, but not mandate, universal pre-kindergarten. Teacher pay raises tied to, although not based solely on, test scores. An overhaul of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law to better measure student progress, make room for non-core subjects like music and art and be less punitive toward failing schools. A tax credit to pay up to $4,000 of college costs for students who perform 100 hours of community service a year. Obama would pay for his plan by ending corporate tax deductions for CEO pay and delaying NASA's moon and Mars missions.
McCain: Favors increased offshore drilling and federal money to help build 45 nuclear power reactors by 2030. Opposes drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Proposed suspending the 18-cent-a-gallon federal gasoline tax but idea got no traction. Global warming plan would increase energy costs. He said he would make government "an ally but not an arbiter" in developing alternative energy sources.
Obama: Now would consider limited increase in offshore drilling. Opposes drilling in Arctic reserve. He would increase federal investment in clean energy by $150 billion over a decade, including research on alternative fuels and conservation. Proposes windfall-profits tax on largest oil companies to pay for energy rebate of up to $1,000. Opposed suspension of the gas tax. Open to tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for short-term relief from high energy costs. Global warming plan would increase energy costs.
McCain: Opposes constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Says same-sex couples should be allowed to enter into legal agreements for insurance and similar benefits, and states should decide about marriage. Supports the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and gives states the right to refuse to recognize such marriages.
Obama: He has a similar stance, also opposing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Supports civil unions, says states should decide about marriage. Switched positions in 2004 and now supports repeal of Defense of Marriage Act, saying "decisions about marriage should be left to the states as they always have been."
McCain: Broke with President Bush on global warming. Led Senate effort to cap greenhouse gas emissions; favors tougher fuel-efficiency standards. Favors plan that would see greenhouse gas emissions cut by 60 percent by 2050.
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 and aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. 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: Sponsored a 2006 bill that would have allowed illegal immigrants to stay in the United States, 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 the 2006 bill offering legal status to illegal immigrants subject to conditions. Voted for border fence.
McCain: Has ridiculed the idea of negotiating with leaders such as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez or Cuba's Raul Castro. Unlike Obama, he supported Bush's invasion of Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, and has suggested using military force to deal with nuclear-weapons programs in Iran and North Korea.
Obama: During the Democratic primaries, he said he'd be willing to meet in his first year in office, without precondition, with Ahmadinejad and Chavez. Obama has since backed off slightly, saying that such diplomacy would need careful preparation. In his first debate with McCain, however, he criticized Bush's refusal to talk to enemies, saying "this notion [that] by not talking to people we are punishing them has not worked."
McCain: Supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on embryos that would be discarded. Opposes the creation of human embryos solely for research purposes. Opposes human cloning and any related experimentation.
Obama: Supports increased stem cell research. Opposes the creation of human embryos solely for research purposes and opposes human cloning. His website says: "We owe it to the American public to explore the potential of stem cells to treat the millions of people suffering from debilitating and life-threatening diseases."
McCain: He calls for workers to have the option of investing at least 20 percent of their Social Security payroll taxes in private accounts. He also has emphasized that he would not allow Social Security money to be used for any other purpose. He said he doesn't want to increase the retirement age, but has said he might agree with proposals to raise the age for full retirement from the current age of 65 for those born before 1960 and 67 for those born since then.
Obama: Would raise payroll tax on wealthiest by applying it to portion of income over $250,000. Now, payroll tax is applied to income up to $102,000. Rules out raising the retirement age for benefits. He has said he would eliminate income taxes for retirees making less than $50,000 a year. TRADE
McCain: A longtime supporter of free trade, backing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central American pact and a pending deal with South Korea. He criticized Obama for opposing the deal with Colombia, which he said would lower tariffs, create U.S. jobs and bolster a U.S. ally. "Free trade with Colombia is something that's a no-brainer," he said.
Obama: Seeks to reopen NAFTA to strengthen enforcement of labor and environmental standards. "I believe in free trade. But I also believe that for far too long ... the attitude has been that any trade agreement is a good trade agreement," he said.
McCain: Favors unspecified boost in U.S. forces. Said he would "follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell."
Obama: Would add about 7,000 troops to the U.S. force of 36,000, bringing the reinforcements from Iraq. Has threatened unilateral attack on high-value terrorist targets in Pakistan as they become exposed, "if Pakistan cannot or will not act" against them.
McCain: Favors tougher sanctions, opposes direct high-level talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Obama: Initially said he would meet Ahmadinejad without preconditions, but has now backed off from that. But he says direct diplomacy with Iranian leaders would give the United States more credibility to press for tougher international sanctions. Says he would intensify diplomatic pressure on Tehran before Israel feels the need to take unilateral military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.
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. Was 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. Voted against one major military spending bill in May 2007; otherwise voted in favor of money to support the war. Says his plan would complete withdrawal of combat troops in 16 months. Initially had said a timetable for completing withdrawal would be irresponsible without knowing what facts he'd face in office.
Eliminate taxes on unemployment benefits; order the Treasury Department to guarantee 100 percent of all savings for six months; lower the tax rate on retirement funds to the lowest rate, 10 percent, on the first $50,000 withdrawn; cut the tax rate on capital gains in half, down to 7.5 percent for two years. It would cost $52.5 billion over two years.Obama's plans for the economy
Allow early withdrawals (before age 59 1/2) of up to 15 percent -- capped at $10,000 -- from IRAs or 401(k)s this year and next year without tax penalties; give companies a $3,000 tax credit per new worker for net U.S. jobs created through 2010; place a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures at banks participating in the federal bailout; have the Federal Reserve and Treasury create an agency to lend money to states and cities caught in the credit crunch. It would cost $60 billion.
McCain: He has proposed a $300 billion plan for the government to buy bad mortgages in exchange for lower-rate government-backed loans, and to take bad debt off banks' books.
Obama: He has called for a three-month moratorium on home foreclosures; a tax credit covering 10 percent of annual mortgage-interest payments for "struggling homeowners"; a scoring system for consumers to compare mortgages; a fund for mortgage-fraud victims; and new penalties for mortgage fraud. Cost: $20 billion.
McCain: Pledged not to raise taxes, then equivocated, saying nothing can be ruled out in negotiating compromises to keep Social Security solvent. 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 to balance the 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. Proposes $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.
national securityMcCain on national security
Vows to ensure "that America retains the edge." He voted for a bill -- which passed -- that authorized military tribunals to try detainees designated as alien unlawful enemy combatants. The bill allowed the use of some coerced testimony and evidence seized without a warrant and suspended the right of habeas corpus. In his own words: "Simply put, this [military tribunal] legislation ensures that we respect our obligations under [the] Geneva [Conventions], recognizes the president's constitutional authority to interpret treaties, and brings accountability and transparency to the process of interpretation by ensuring that the executive's interpretation is made public."
Obama on national security
Would put his administration "on a path" to doubling federal spending on defense research. He voted against the military tribunal bill. In his own words: "There will be 30-second attack ads and negative mail pieces, and we will be called everything from cut-and-run quitters to Defeatocrats. ... While I know all of this, I'm still disappointed, and I'm still ashamed, because what we're doing here today -- a debate over the fundamental human rights of the accused -- should be bigger than politics."