Major Issues of US Presidential Campaign

Article excerpt

Byline: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DES MOINES, Iowa - Here are the main issues addressed by candidates in the 2008 US presidential campaign:

Iraq

Democratic candidates promise to bring an end to the war in Iraq and to begin withdrawing troops "immediately." New York Senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton's 2002 vote authorizing the war is frequently criticized by her rivals, including Illinois Senator Barack Obama and 2004 vice presidential candidate John Edwards. Long-shot candidate Joseph Biden, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, advocates a federal system for Iraq.

Most Republican candidates say the US engagement in Iraq will eventually succeed and reject all calls for a timetable for withdrawal. Libertarian candidate Ron Paul sets himself apart by proposing an immediate end to the war. Senator John McCain, a sharp critic of former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has long advocated sending more soldiers to Iraq, and praises the apparent success of the troop "surge" begun one year ago.

The economy

Polls show that health insurance is a top concern among voters, and Democrats play up the issue, promising universal coverage. They propose reversing the Bush administration's tax cuts for the rich but preserving those that benefit the middle class.

Republicans call for additional tax cuts or promise to at least maintain tax cuts put in place by Bush. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee advocates replacing all federal income and payroll taxes with a federal sales tax.

Diplomacy

John Edwards plays down the "war on terrorism," which he calls a political slogan. His main rivals consider it real but say the Bush administration has managed it badly. Democrats favor direct contacts with Iran, Syria and North Korea. Clinton's rivals criticize her Senate vote to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, saying it is an implicit green light for an attack on Iran.

Among Republicans, Huckabee slams what he says is an "arrogant bunker mentality" on the part of the Bush administration. …