What to Watch: Presidential Election
The former Senator from Illinois and incumbent candidate is seeking a second term after shepherding the country through the Great Recession and an otherwise polarized political climate.
Obama came into office on a platform of hope and change, heralding a new era of politics in Washington. Among his accomplishments include enacting comprehensive health care reform, winding down the United State's role in Iraq, setting a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, ordering U.S. Navy Seals to capture and kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and ramping up the drones program in the Middle East and North Africa in an effort to wipe out political enemies, especially Al Qaeda's top leaders. Other domestic achievements include the $700 billion stimulus package that restored a degree of stability to markets in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, including the lifeline to General Motors and Chrysler. Obama also enacted the DREAM Act, repealed the policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell in the United States Military, and affirmed his support for the right of gay and lesbian Americans to marry.
Criticism of Obama ranges from his demeanor to his policies. Opponents and supporters alike deride him as cold and distant, more professorial than personal. On his policies, Republicans consider Obama weak on foreign policy for supporting cuts in the Pentagon's budget and for neglecting to take a hard line with Syria and Iran. Obama is further criticized for jeopardizing the United States' relationship with Israel. Domestically, Obama is criticized for enacting policies that do not promote economic growth, and his record-number of illegal immigrant deportations have caused alarm among some voters, especially Latino communities.
The former governor of Massachusetts, head of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and former CEO of the private equity firm Bain Capital, first began his quest for president in 2008. Sen. John McCain earned the Republican party nomination but lost to Democrat Barack Obama, clearing the way for Romney to run in 2012.
Romney launched his presidential campaign in 2011 and received his party’s nomination in June 2012, beating out a heavy field of Republican contenders including Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, John Huntsman and Michelle Bachman.
To distinguish himself from Republican rivals - and President Obama - Romney has emphasized his business acumen and effective management strategies. He proposes lowering taxes, revising Obamacare in favor of a strategy that gives more leeway to states regarding Medicaid, cutting corporate taxes, eliminating the estate tax, encouraging more domestic drilling of oil and hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - in order to achieve energy independence.
Romney's edge is also his chief burden, as emphasizing his business skills have made the candidate seem wealthy and out-of-touch with ordinary Americans. His comments in a fundraising meeting that 47% of Americans do not pay taxes and are otherwise dependent on the government validated claims that Romney is a candidate of and for the wealthiest Americans.