Positions of the Republican candidates, in brief

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Associated Press

Posted on January 6, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 6 at 2:06 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A look at where the 2012 Republican presidential candidates stand on a selection of issues.

They are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

ABORTION:

Gingrich: Platform calls for conservative judges and no subsidies for abortion but not a constitutional abortion ban.

Huntsman: Signed abortion restrictions into law as governor, favors constitutional abortion ban.

Paul: Says federal government should have no authority either to legalize or ban abortion.

Perry: Now supports constitutional abortion ban after saying states should decide their own laws on such issues.

Romney: Says Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court and states should decide their own abortion laws.

Santorum: Favors constitutional abortion ban and opposes abortion even in cases of rape.

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DEBT:

Gingrich: As House speaker in 1990s, engineered passage of a seven-year balanced-budget plan. It was vetoed but helped form a bipartisan balanced budget later.

Huntsman: Only candidate to endorse the deal that averted a default on U.S. debt payments, "a positive step toward cutting our nation's crippling debt."

Paul: Would eviscerate federal government, slashing nearly half its spending, shut five Cabinet-level agencies, end spending on existing conflicts and on foreign aid.

Perry: Proposes capping federal spending at 18 percent of GDP; few specifics on spending cuts except to raise Social Security and Medicare age in future. Cut Congress pay.

Romney: Defended financial sector bailout, criticized GM and Chrysler bailout. Cap federal spending at 20 percent of GDP.

Santorum: Freeze social and military spending for five years to cut $5 trillion from federal budgets.

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ECONOMY:

Gingrich: Repeal the financial industry regulations that followed the Wall Street meltdown. Restrict the Fed's power to set interest rates artificially low.

Huntsman: End corporate subsidies, cut regulations, lower taxes, spur jobs through energy development, seek repeal of President Barack Obama's health care law, break up big banks as hedge against future bailouts.

Paul: Return to the gold standard, eliminate the Federal Reserve, eliminate most federal regulations.

Perry: Repeal rafts of regulations, Obama's health care law and the financial-industry regulations passed after Wall Street meltdown.

Romney: Lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budget, more trade deals to spur growth. Replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. Repeal new financial-industry regulations.

Santorum: Eliminate corporate taxes for manufacturers, drill for more oil and gas, and slash regulations.

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EDUCATION:

Gingrich: Shrink Education Department. But supported Obama administration's $4 billion Race to the Top grant competition for states.

Huntsman: "No Child Left Behind hasn't worked for this country. It ought to be done away with." Favors more school choice.

Paul: Abolish the Education Department and end the federal role in education.

Perry: Turned down federal education aid to Texas worth up to $700 million because he saw it as imposing national standards on Texas schools. Opposed No Child Left Behind law.

Romney: Supported No Child Left Behind law. Once favored shutting Education Department, later saw its value in "holding down the interests of the teachers' unions."

Santorum: Voted for No Child Left Behind law, now regrets vote. Wants "significantly" smaller Education Department but not its elimination.

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ENERGY:

Gingrich: Let oil and natural gas industries drill offshore reserves now blocked from development, end restrictions on Western oil shale development.

Huntsman: Phase out energy subsidies and cut regulations. Subject fuel distribution network to federal review to "break oil's monopoly" and expand opportunities for natural gas.

Paul: Remove restrictions on drilling, coal and nuclear power, eliminate gasoline tax, provide tax credits for alternative fuel technology.

Perry: Proposes more development on federal lands and slashing regulations to spur drilling in restricted areas including Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Romney: Supports drilling in the Gulf, the outer continental shelves, Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska; and exploitation of shale oil deposits.

Santorum: Favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, scaling back "oppressive regulation" hindering drilling elsewhere, and eliminating energy subsidies in four years.

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ENVIRONMENT:

Gingrich: Convert EPA into "environmental solutions agency" devoted to research and "more energy, more jobs and a better environment simultaneously." Once backed tougher environmental regulation.

Huntsman: End EPA's "regulatory reign of terror." Yet acknowledges the scientific evidence that humans contribute to global warming.

Paul: Previously said human activity "probably does" contribute to global warming; now calls such science a "hoax." Says emission standards should be set by states or regions.

Perry: EPA should be "research and advisory" agency with no enforcement powers except when states seek arbitration of regional disputes. Manmade global warming has "not been proven."

Romney: Acknowledged that humans contribute to global warming, but later said "we don't know what's causing climate change." Cap and trade would "rocket energy prices."

Santorum: The science establishing human activity as a likely contributor to global warming is "patently absurd" and "junk science."

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GAY MARRIAGE:

Gingrich: If the Defense of Marriage Act fails, "you have no choice except a constitutional amendment" to ban gay marriage.

Huntsman: Supports same-sex civil unions, with many of the rights of marriage, and says states should decide their own policies.

Paul: Decisions on legalizing or prohibiting gay marriage should be left to states.

Perry: Now supports constitutional ban on gay marriage after saying states should choose their own courses.

Romney: Favors constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, says policy should be set federally, not by states.

Santorum: Supports constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, not leaving decision to states. "We can't have 50 marriage laws."

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HEALTH CARE (All would seek repeal of Obama's health care law):

Gingrich: Prohibit insurers from cancelling or charging hefty increases to insurance holders who get sick. Offer "generous" tax credit to help buy insurance. Previously supported mandatory coverage.

Huntsman: "Let the states experiment." Open to restricting Medicare benefits for the wealthy.

Paul: Opposes compulsory insurance and all federal subsidies for coverage.

Perry: Raise eligibility age for Medicare benefits, limit benefits for the wealthy, offer federal aid to help elderly buy insurance instead of getting Medicare benefits.

Romney: Opposes federal mandate to obtain coverage; introduced mandate in Massachusetts. Proposes "generous" subsidies to help future retirees buy private insurance instead of going on Medicare.

Santorum: Would seek to starve Obama's health care law of money needed to implement it. Supported Bush administration's prescription drug program for the elderly, now regrets doing so.

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IMMIGRATION:

Gingrich: In contrast to most rivals, supports option of giving legal status to illegal immigrants who have sunk roots in the U.S. and lived otherwise lawfully. Supports path to citizenship for illegal immigrants' children who perform U.S. military service. Make English the official language. Divert more Homeland Security assets to at Mexican border.

Huntsman: Unrealistic to deport all illegal immigrants. In Utah, threatened to veto a bill to repeal cheaper in-state college tuition rates for children of illegal immigrants.

Paul: Do "whatever it takes" to secure the border, end right to citizenship of U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants, no social services for illegal immigrants, aggressive deportation.

Perry: Opposes complete U.S.-Mexico border fence, which he calls "idiocy," instead wants more border agents. Supports continued U.S. citizenship for U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

Romney: Would veto legislation that seeks to award legal status to some young illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the armed forces. Favors complete U.S.-Mexico border fence, opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants.

Santorum: Supports complete border fence, opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants.

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SOCIAL SECURITY:

Gingrich: Give younger workers the option of diverting Social Security taxes to private retirement accounts.

Huntsman: Open to raising the retirement age to qualify for full benefits and to restricting benefits for the wealthy.

Paul: Says younger workers should be able to opt out of Social Security taxes and retirement benefits; benefits for today's retirees should be protected.

Perry: Proposes gradually raising retirement age and restricting increases for the wealthy. Previously branded Social Security a "disease," now says it should be saved. Supports private accounts.

Romney: Says raising the age for benefits for future retirees and reducing inflation adjustments for rich retirees should be considered.

Santorum: Open to lowering benefits for wealthier retirees, raising the age to qualify for full benefits and restricting inflation increases in benefits, apparently for current as well as future retirees. Supports option of private retirement accounts instead of Social Security taxes and benefits for younger workers.

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TAXES (All support eliminating the estate tax and keeping Bush-era tax cuts):

Gingrich: Choice of filing under current system or paying a 15 percent tax, preserving mortgage interest and charitable deductions. Cut corporate tax to 12.5 percent.

Huntsman: Favors lower income tax rates coupled with the elimination of deductions and loopholes. Cut corporate tax to 25 percent.

Paul: Eliminate the federal income tax and the IRS, and defund close to half the government.

Perry: Choice between current system and 20 percent tax on income, preserving mortgage interest and charitable deductions. For each individual or dependent, exempt $12,500 in income.

Romney: No one with adjusted gross income under $200,000 should be taxed on interest, dividends or capital gains. Cut corporate tax rate to 25 percent.

Santorum: Triple the personal exemption for dependent children, reduce the number of tax brackets to two, exempt manufacturers from the corporate tax and halve the top rate for other business.

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TERRORISM:

Gingrich: Supports extending and strengthening investigative powers of Patriot Act. Supports continued use of Guantanamo Bay detention for suspected terrorists. Supported creation of Homeland Security apparatus. In 2009, said of waterboarding: "It's not something we should do."

Huntsman: Said Homeland Security Department has been heavy-handed, conveying a "fortress security mentality that is not American." Opposes waterboarding.

Paul: Opposes Patriot Act as an infringement on liberty. Says terrorists would not be motivated to attack America if the U.S. ended its military presence abroad. Says: "Waterboarding is torture. And it's illegal under international law and under our law. It's also immoral."

Perry: Said it was "unprincipled" for Republicans to vote for creation of the Homeland Security Department. Supports continued use of Guantanamo Bay detention for suspected terrorists. Said U.S. interrogators should "use any technique" short of torture, which he did not define.

Romney: No constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects. Campaign says he does not consider waterboarding to be torture.

Santorum: Defends creation of Homeland Security Department. Voted to reauthorize Patriot Act. Says airport screeners should employ profiling; "Muslims would be someone you'd look at, absolutely." Supports continued use of Guantanamo Bay detention for suspected terrorists. Says waterboarding has proved effective.

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WAR:

Gingrich: Supported Iraq war and opposed early withdrawal. Said U.S. forces should not have been used in Libya campaign, after he had called for such intervention. Opposes "precipitous" pullout from Afghanistan.

Huntsman: Proposes reducing U.S. involvement in conflicts and, unlike most rivals, says Pentagon budget should be cut. Opposes any U.S. military assistance of new Libyan government. Says no more than 15,000 U.S. troops should be left in Afghanistan.

Paul: Bring most or all troops home from foreign posts "as quick as the ships could get there." Opposed U.S. intervention in Libya. Cut Pentagon budget.

Perry: Criticized planned withdrawal of troops from Iraq last year and Afghanistan this year; has not said how many troops should stay or for how long.

Romney: Has not specified the troop numbers behind pledge to ensure the "force level necessary to secure our gains and complete our mission successfully" in Afghanistan.

Santorum: Says he would order bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities unless they were opened for international arms inspectors. Proposes freezing defense spending for five years.

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Associated Press writers Brian Bakst and Chris Tomlinson contributed to this report.

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