The candidates on the issues

A look at how the candidates for the 2012 presidential nomination differ on key issues.

  • By issue
  • By candidate

Click the issue to see candidate positions:

The candidates on EDUCATION . . .

Gingrich

Gingrich advocates shrinking the Education Department, and he has proposed financial incentives for students to explore advanced math and science classes, as well as jobs within schools. He has supported aspects of the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top initiatives.

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Hands on
Hands off

Paul

Paul has opposed federal involvement in education. He has voted against the federal No Child Left Behind Act and wants to abolish the Education Department. He opposes voucher programs that many Republicans have promoted.

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Hands on
Hands off

Romney

Romney has praised the federal No Child Left Behind law for its focus on standardized testing and teacher evaluations. He is a critic of teachers unions. He would like state and local governments to assume more power over education policy.

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Hands on
Hands off

Santorum

Santorum favors a limited federal role in education. He supports publicly-financed vouchers, opposes early childhood education in public schools and said he regrets voting for No Child Left Behind.

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Hands on
Hands off

The candidates on TAX CODE . . .

Gingrich

Gingrich has remained firm in his support of lower taxes and his opposition to new taxes. He has argued that any form of tax increase -- short of closing loopholes for special interests -- would hinder economic growth during an already sluggish recovery.

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Fix it
Blow it up

Paul

Paul has expressed support for lower taxes, arguing that the federal government should collect only enough revenue to pay for its constitutional obligations. He has never voted for a tax increase.

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Fix it
Blow it up

Romney

Romney says taxes must be lowered to grow the economy. He recommends making the George W. Bush-era tax cuts permanent, lowering corporate tax rates; eliminating taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for people who earn less than $200,000 a year; and getting rid of estate taxes.

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Fix it
Blow it up

Santorum

Santorum would cut the number of personal income tax rates to two: 10 percent and 28 percent. He would lower the capital gains tax rate, cut the corporate tax rate in half and use federal tax incentives (like tripling the child tax credit) to promote traditional marriage and families.

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Fix it
Blow it up

The candidates on IMMIGRATION . . .

Gingrich

Gingrich favors increasing security along part of the Mexican border by dispatching drones and moving as many as 23,000 homeland security workers to border states. He sparked controversy by proposing a path to legal status for some illegal immigrants.

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Welcome mat
Security fence

Paul

Paul opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants and has said that the government should abolish birthright citizenship for their children. But his libertarian leanings complicate matters, pitting him against some GOP colleagues who have supported measures to combat illegal immigration.

meter
Welcome mat
Security fence

Romney

Romney opposes in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants, would crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and would build a fence along the nation's southern border. It's unclear what he would do with the illegal immigrants who are already in the country.

meter
Welcome mat
Security fence

Santorum

Santorum opposes amnesty and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, and would immediately deport illegal immigrants involved in criminal activity. He favors increasing security along the Mexican border.

meter
Welcome mat
Security fence

The candidates on SOCIAL SECURITY . . .

Gingrich

Gingrich would keep the current system, but he would offer another choice. It would allow people to put their money into personal accounts, to be invested in the private market.

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Reform
Privatize

Paul

Paul has said Social Security is broke. He would abolish it after a transition period that would protect the elderly and the dependent but move younger people out. He has backed legislation to end the taxation of retirement benefits and to restrict government use of Social Security revenue.

meter
Reform
Privatize

Romney

Romney has said he would work to save Social Security. For future generations, he would raise the retirement age and slow the growth of benefits for higher-income retirees, partly changing the formula for cost-of-living adjustments. He supports allowing personal retirement accounts.

meter
Reform
Privatize

Santorum

Santorum has set himself apart from his rivals by calling for immediate cuts to benefits, instead of a phased approach. He favors a higher eligibility age and tighter restrictions on benefits for upper-income people.

meter
Reform
Privatize

The candidates on AFGHANISTAN . . .

Gingrich

Gingrich has been critical of President Obama's strategy and indicated that he would be willing to have U.S. forces stay longer and fight more aggressively in the war-torn country.

meter
Stay the course
Bring 'em home

Paul

Paul voted for the use of force in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks but cautioned against fighting a prolonged war without clearly defined goals. He would bring home all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and elsewhere as part of his plan to cut $1 trillion in spending his first year in office.

meter
Stay the course
Bring 'em home

Romney

Romney has said U.S. forces should remain in Afghanistan until U.S. commanders say the job is done. But he has contradicted himself on the war at times, saying that the United States should not fight another nation's battle for freedom while insisting that America should nurture democracy.

meter
Stay the course
Bring 'em home

Santorum

Santorum has said he would cancel President Obama's plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

meter
Stay the course
Bring 'em home

Click the candidate to see their positions on the issues:

Newt Gingrich on . . .

Education

Gingrich advocates shrinking the Education Department, and he has proposed financial incentives for students to explore advanced math and science classes, as well as jobs within schools. He has supported aspects of the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top initiatives.

meter
Hands on
Hands off

Tax code

Gingrich has remained firm in his support of lower taxes and his opposition to new taxes. He has argued that any form of tax increase -- short of closing loopholes for special interests -- would hinder economic growth during an already sluggish recovery.

meter
Fix it
Blow it up

Social Security

Gingrich would keep the current system, but he would offer another choice. It would allow people to put their money into personal accounts, to be invested in the private market.

meter
Reform
Privatize

Immigration

Gingrich favors increasing security along part of the Mexican border by dispatching drones and moving as many as 23,000 homeland security workers to border states. He sparked controversy by proposing a path to legal status for some illegal immigrants.

meter
Welcome mat
Security fence

Afghanistan

Gingrich has been critical of President Obama's strategy and indicated that he would be willing to have U.S. forces stay longer and fight more aggressively in the war-torn country.

meter
Stay the course
Bring 'em home

Ron Paul on . . .

Education

Paul has opposed federal involvement in education. He has voted against the federal No Child Left Behind Act and wants to abolish the Education Department. He opposes voucher programs that many Republicans have promoted.

meter
Hands on
Hands off

Tax code

Paul has expressed support for lower taxes, arguing that the federal government should collect only enough revenue to pay for its constitutional obligations. He has never voted for a tax increase.

meter
Fix it
Blow it up

Social Security

Paul has said Social Security is broke. He would abolish it after a transition period that would protect the elderly and the dependent but move younger people out. He has backed legislation to end the taxation of retirement benefits and to restrict government use of Social Security revenue.

meter
Reform
Privatize

Immigration

Paul opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants and has said that the government should abolish birthright citizenship for their children. But his libertarian leanings complicate matters, pitting him against some GOP colleagues who have supported measures to combat illegal immigration.

meter
Welcome mat
Security fence

Afghanistan

Paul voted for the use of force in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks but cautioned against fighting a prolonged war without clearly defined goals. He would bring home all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and elsewhere as part of his plan to cut $1 trillion in spending his first year in office.

meter
Stay the course
Bring 'em home

Mitt Romney on . . .

Education

Romney has praised the federal No Child Left Behind law for its focus on standardized testing and teacher evaluations. He is a critic of teachers unions. He would like state and local governments to assume more power over education policy.

meter
Hands on
Hands off

Tax code

Romney says taxes must be lowered to grow the economy. He recommends making the George W. Bush-era tax cuts permanent, lowering corporate tax rates; eliminating taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for people who earn less than $200,000 a year; and getting rid of estate taxes.

meter
Fix it
Blow it up

Social Security

Romney has said he would work to save Social Security. For future generations, he would raise the retirement age and slow the growth of benefits for higher-income retirees, partly changing the formula for cost-of-living adjustments. He supports allowing personal retirement accounts.

meter
Reform
Privatize

Immigration

Romney opposes in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants, would crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and would build a fence along the nation's southern border. It's unclear what he would do with the illegal immigrants who are already in the country.

meter
Welcome mat
Security fence

Afghanistan

Romney has said U.S. forces should remain in Afghanistan until U.S. commanders say the job is done. But he has contradicted himself on the war at times, saying that the United States should not fight another nation's battle for freedom while insisting that America should nurture democracy.

meter
Stay the course
Bring 'em home

Rick Santorum on . . .

Education

Santorum favors a limited federal role in education. He supports publicly-financed vouchers, opposes early childhood education in public schools and said he regrets voting for No Child Left Behind.

meter
Hands on
Hands off

Tax code

Santorum would cut the number of personal income tax rates to two: 10 percent and 28 percent. He would lower the capital gains tax rate, cut the corporate tax rate in half and use federal tax incentives (like tripling the child tax credit) to promote traditional marriage and families.

meter
Fix it
Blow it up

Social Security

Santorum has set himself apart from his rivals by calling for immediate cuts to benefits, instead of a phased approach. He favors a higher eligibility age and tighter restrictions on benefits for upper-income people.

meter
Reform
Privatize

Immigration

Santorum opposes amnesty and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, and would immediately deport illegal immigrants involved in criminal activity. He favors increasing security along the Mexican border.

meter
Welcome mat
Security fence

Afghanistan

Santorum has said he would cancel President Obama's plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

meter
Stay the course
Bring 'em home

SOURCE: Washington Post analysis
GRAPHIC: Steven Ginsberg, Karen Yourish and Laura Stanton - The Washington Post. Updated Jan. 18, 2012.