Where the candidates stand on issues

A look at where Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama stand on a selection of issues as the national party conventions affirm their presidential nominations and launch the fall campaign:


McCain: Opposes abortion rights. Has voted for restrictions permissible under Roe v. Wade and now says he would seek to overturn it. Would not seek constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

Obama: Favors abortion rights.


McCain: Favors unspecified boost in U.S. forces.

Obama: Would add about 7,000 troops from Iraq. Has threatened attack on terrorist targets in Pakistan as they become exposed, “if Pakistan cannot or will not act.”

Campaign finance

McCain: The co-author of McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, he plans to run his campaign with public money and within its limits. He has urged Obama to do the same. McCain accepts campaign contributions from lobbyists.

Obama: Has brought in $390 million. He plans to 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 account that would benefit the nominee.


McCain: Favors parental choice, including vouchers for private schools when approved by local officials. More money for community college education.

Obama: An $18 billion plan that would encourage, but not mandate, universal prekindergarten. Teacher pay raises tied to, though not based solely on, test scores. An overhaul of No Child Left Behind law to better measure student progress, make room for 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 missions.


McCain: Favors increased offshore drilling and federal money to help build 45 nuclear power reactors by 2030. Proposed suspending the 18-cent-a-gallon federal gasoline tax but idea got no traction.

Obama: Would consider limited increase in offshore drilling. 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.

Gay marriage

McCain: Opposes constitutional amendment to ban it. Says same-sex couples should be allowed to enter into legal agreements for benefits, and states should decide about marriage.

Obama: Opposes constitutional amendment to ban it. Supports civil unions, says states should decide about marriage.

Global warming

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.

Gun control

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.

Health care

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 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.

Obama: Voted for 2006 bill offering legal status to illegal immigrants subject to conditions, including English proficiency and payment of back taxes and fines.


McCain: Opposes scheduling a troop withdrawal, saying strategy is succeeding. Supported decision to go to war but was early critic of how 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.

Social Security

McCain: “Nothing's off the table.”

Obama: Would raise payroll tax on wealthiest by applying it to portion of income over $250,000. Rules out raising the retirement age for benefits.


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, now says they should be permanent. Proposes cutting corporate tax rate to 25 percent. Promises balance budget in first term.

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 higher credit for larger families. 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.

Associated Press