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Berlin-Brandenburg School Project on the U.S. Presidential Elections 2008

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Index l Presidential Candidates l Opinion Polls l Issues l States l
About the USA: 2008 Elections
Candidates on the Issues
About the USA:
2008 Elections - Issues



In 2008, 'family values' are lower on the agenda compared to previous years. Voters and candidates alike have more immediate concerns: the on going U.S. action in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, the threat of terrorism, immigration issues and the state of the U.S. economy.

Throughout the history of Presidential Elections, presidential candidates have stood or stumbled by their stance on political issues. Despite the powers of personality and popularity, the presidential candidate who wants to win on November 4 must win on the issues as well. This year’s top issues — Iraq, economy, immigration and health care —will heavily influence the election.

However, the challenge for Americans voting is to select with care, acknowledging that electing the next U.S. President is not as simple as merely laying out a laundry list of issues and seeing who matches up best.

Candidates on the Issues

New York Times: The Candidates on the Issues - Where the candidates stand on:
Abortion * Climate Change * Economy * Health Care * Immigration * Iran * Iraq

National Journal: Presidential Candidates & The Issues - National Journal examines the differences between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain in a 10-part series looking at their policy records and proposals concerning the major issues in the presidential race.
The Economy: Sharp Contrast - Both men back tax cuts, but tax cuts of very different kinds. Tighter financial regulation is more likely with Obama than McCain. How the economy looks in 2009 may be more important than what they say today.
Iraq: The Fulcrum - McCain and Obama may be running for president, but they are also auditioning for the job of wartime commander-in-chief. Both have staked their claim to that job largely on the issue of Iraq are each betting that it plays to his strengths.
Energy & The Environment: Shades Of Green - Both John McCain and Barack Obama say that addressing the rising costs of gasoline and the environmental impact of climate change are among their top priorities. But McCain favors market-based approaches, while Obama tends to opt for federal mandates. VIDEO National Journal hosted a policy discussion on energy with representatives from the McCain and Obama camps.
Health Care: Divergent Paths - The most fundamental difference between McCain and Obama in this policy area is over the scope of government involvement in America's health care system.
Immigration: Shifting Borders - McCain's immigration stance got him into trouble with his party's base. Now, while calling illegal immigrants "God's children," he's careful to say that border security comes first. Obama has reached out to business as he woos Hispanic votes.
Ethics & Lobbying: Being Mr. Clean - McCain's name is on landmark bipartisan campaign reform legislation. Obama helped to pass a sweeping lobbying reform law. Both say they'll clean up Washington.
National Security & Defense: Beyond Iraq - McCain and Obama are both talking about new arms control initiatives and a future free of nuclear weapons. On defense spending, McCain's bark has often been tougher than his bite. Both contenders want more troops in uniform.
Abortion & Gay Rights: Social Schisms - Despite McCain's anti-abortion voting record, social conservatives don't quite trust him. Obama personally opposes same-sex marriage and talks in nuances about abortion, but gay- and abortion-rights groups back him strongly.
Trade: Trading Gibes - Obama and McCain disagree about NAFTA and pending agreements with Colombia and South Korea. Both want to avoid a war with China. But the economy's larger ills may take primacy this fall.
Education: Class President - Obama and McCain accept the basic concept of the No Child Left Behind law--setting high standards in the classroom and holding schools accountable for educating all children. Both say they would reform the law rather than rewrite it.

Washington Post: Issue Coverage Tracker - Review press coverage and opinion writing on the presidential candidates and the major issues of the 2008 campaign.

CNN: Issues & U.S. Elections Foreign Policy Explainer

LA Times: American Values and the Next President - A Times editorial series on the values and issues that will shape the 2008 election.

Foreign Press Centers Briefing: Presidential Campaign Update: Overview of the Battleground States & The Key Issues (June 24, 2008)

Candidates on Foreign Policy

Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): Candidate Positions on Foreign Policy & The Candidates on Immigration Top Issues - International Relations
John McCain: McCain long has been an advocate of promoting democracy in Africa and the Middle East. He has spoken critically or Russia during the country’s conflict with Georgia.. He recently welcomed the resignation of Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf and said it is critical that the United States continue its partnership with the country. McCain supports the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Accord as a “means of strengthening our relationship with the world’s largest democracy.”
Barack Obama: Obama says that he is “willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe.” He recently welcomed the resignation of Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf . He supports the United States providing aid to Georgia and believes Americans should help the country rebuild its economy. Obama voted for the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Accord.

Economic Issues

Gallup: On Economy, McCain Gains Ground on Obama - 48% of Americans say Barack Obama can better handle the economy, while 45% choose John McCain. This marks a significant gain by McCain; just before the Democratic National Convention in late August, Obama had a 16-point margin over McCain on the economy. (September 10, 2008)

Council of Foreign Relations: The Economy Vote - As Democrats and Republicans push into the final stretch of the 2008 presidential elections, economic concerns remain an enigmatic element of the U.S. electoral landscape. (Sept. 1, 2008)

USINFO Podcast: Economic Issues Prominent in 2008 Election Download Podcast (2 MB MP3) Recent polls show that 82 percent of American voters consider economic issues very important. Economics Continues to Dominate Presidential Campaign - Candidates use advertising to criticize each other’s economic plans: The 2006 midterm elections, in which dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq helped Democrats gain control of Congress, seemed to indicate that foreign policy would dominate the 2008 campaign. But that has not been the case, and as Election Day nears it seems the economy will remain the dominant issue on voters’ minds. As the number of deaths in Iraq has declined and the coverage of the war by the news media has decreased, Americans are less concerned about the situation overseas and more concerned about their economic situation at home. [...] More (August 15, 2008)

The Obama ad "Book" and the McCain ad "Taxman" are available on YouTube

Opinion Polls: Democrats and Independents Feel the Economy Will Get Worse in 2008 - As Americans head to the polls in both the primaries and the November general election, one thing that almost certainly will be on their minds is the state of the economy, not only in general terms, but also and probably more importantly, how it is impacting them personally and how they feel about the future. (The Harris Poll #3, January 7, 2008) Read more about the poll.

Half of Americans Pessimistic About Economy of Their Region over Next Six Months - Plurality Say Their Household’s Economic Condition has Worsened Compared to a Year Ago. Bad news about the slowing U.S. economy dominates news coverage daily, and it doesn’t appear likely to improve any time soon in the minds of American adults. According to a new nationwide Harris Poll, Americans are not only pessimistic about the economic conditions of their region in the near future, they are only slightly optimistic about their own financial situation looking forward. (The Harris Poll® #27, March 12, 2008) Read more about the poll.

Presidential Debates

NYT: Presidential Debates
Poynter: Presidential Debate History and Resources

Debate Dates

• First presidential debate 2008: Friday, Sept. 26, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
• Vice presidential debate: Thursday, Oct. 2, Washington University in St. Louis, MO
• Second presidential debate: Tuesday, Oct. 7, Belmont University, Nashville, TN
• Third presidential debate: Wednesday, Oct. 15, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

Commission on Presidential Debates - The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.


Articles Civil Rights Remains Major Issue, but Candidates Saying Little - Grassroots groups across voting spectrum are taking action (Sept. 5, 2008) Republicans Say John McCain Will Listen to American Allies - Party leaders tout presidential nominee’s foreign policy experience. (Sept. 5, 2008) Democrats Stress Barack Obama’s Willingness to Work with Allies - Improving international relations essential, Obama campaign adviser says. (August 27, 2008) Renewable Energy, Green Jobs Stressed by Democrats - Venture capitalist Floyd predicts green technology transformation. (August 27, 2008) Environmental Concerns Climb Higher on Political Issues List - Candidates who make environment a priority get advocacy group support. (August 12, 2008)

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September 2008