Election 2008 – What’s at Stake

The economy. Health care. Foreign policy. Immigration. The environment. Education. Social policy. These are the key issues voters are concerned about right now as we barrel down towards the Election ’08. These are the issues being debated by the candidates spread out over the months of the primaries, but their positions may still be a blur in many people’s minds. So, Monday and Tuesday on The Bob Edwards Show, we'll lay out and compare each of the candidates’ positions on each of these topics.

The biggest concern for voters right now is the lagging economy so Julie Sell, reporter for The Economist joins us to explain how the Democrats and Republicans differ. She describes not only the broader philosophical differences between the two parties, but within them as well. The Democrats both want to provide short term relief but would do so differently. To talk about healthcare, a major component of the economy, we talk to Sara Collins of the Commonwealth Fund, one of the most respected organizations dedicated to health care research and policy in the country. There are fewer distinctions within each of the parties on this issue, but Sara helps detail how Clinton’s and Obama’s plans would differ in scope and funding to how McCain’s plan would dramatically change how America currently uses healthcare.

Another contentious influence on the economy is immigration. The issue has lost some attention since the leading Presidential contenders largely share the same philosophy on how to handle the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, but it’s clearly a problem that persists and will require Presidential leadership. Dave Montgomery covers this and other political issues for the Forth Worth Star Tribune and he tells where the candidates currently stand on issues like amnesty, deportation, and the fence separating Mexico from the U.S. – and how the positions have changed through the political process.

The next President may not have started the war in Iraq but they most certainly will have to deal with it. That and US diplomacy between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Israelis and Palestinians, and the threat of Iran will likely dominate the foreign policy agenda of the next President. Matt Yglesias of the Atlantic describes how each of the candidates differ in their approach to these problems.

Grist.org is probably the oldest and most independent site for research related to the environment and energy. They have been running a site called “How Green is Your Candidate” and Dave Roberts tells us where they stand on curbing carbon emissions, the true value of biofuels, and more. With the environment being a priority for most Democrats, the interesting differences are among the Republicans. Huckabee essentially rejects the science of global warming while John McCain largely, at least in theory, accepts it.

President George W. Bush got a lot of attention with his education reform, No Child Left Behind, but there is evidence that our nation’s students still face certain inequities. In the last issue of Education Week, David Hoff wrote that the leading Democrats have been speaking from a similar script on education. . . that is until this month, when Barack Obama suggested that he could be persuaded to support private school vouchers. Hoff talks about that and where the candidates stand on other federal education issues.

And no political discussion would be complete without a discussion about social issues like gay marriage, and gun control. David Mark, a reporter for Politico, wraps up our series on where the presidential candidates stand on the issues. Mark will talk about the nuances in the contenders' positions on issues from abortion to ethics and campaign finance reform.

One of the best resources we found online is hosted by Project Vote Smart. They are dedicated to informing voters and keeping the facts straight. They make it very easy to look up the candidates’ Voting Records, Campaign Finances, and Interest Group Ratings. Everyone should add the following to their favorite sites list.