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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sizing up Obama, Romney on regional issues

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will debate 90 minutes tonight and another 90 minutes next Monday, during the final three weeks of the presidential campaign.

But they are unlikely to spend much time visiting the Pacific Northwest, or even talking about some of the issues that would move its voters. If Obama doesn’t capture Washington state’s 12 Electoral College votes, he’ll lose re-election by a landslide; if Romney doesn’t win Idaho’s four, he’ll suffer a similar defeat.

That doesn’t mean the two states’ voters have all decided how they will cast their vote for president. Those undecided voters probably will hear plenty about the candidates’ stated positions on the big national issues, such as the budget, taxes, health care or Afghanistan. But if they are trying to learn the two candidates’ stances on some issues with regional impact, that may be more difficult.

Here’s some help:


Obama: Supports expanded crop insurance, emergency disaster assistance and farm credit programs, many of which are in a farm bill the administration supports that has stalled in Congress. Signed trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea to increase exports; wants to continue expanding the number of local and regional farmers markets. Would return the top estate tax rate to 45 percent with a $7 million per couple exemption, which he said would exempt all but 60 small farm and business estates in the country.

Romney: Released details of his farm policy last week that call for increased exports in the Pacific Rim and with any country “committed to the principles of free trade” while confronting countries like China that aren’t; freeze any new ag regulations and require congressional approval of major regulations in the future while making agencies spend as much time streamlining existing regulations as developing new ones; eliminate the estate tax to make it easier to keep family farms together. Would streamline the temporary worker visa system.

Base closures

Obama: The fiscal 2013 budget originally called for as many as two rounds of reductions through a Base Realignment and Closure commission by the end of the decade, but Congress did not approve them and in August he said in an interview, “I don’t think now is the time for BRAC … the strategy we have does not call for it.” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, however, he would push for BRAC approval in the coming years as the military is reduced.

Romney: Accuses the administration of a “draconian series of moves to cut military spending” and would increase spending, with no reduction in the active-duty forces or weapon systems. In an interview this summer he said, “I’d be surprised if there were major bases that were going to be closed as a result of plans I have.”

Gay marriage

Obama: After years of opposing, said earlier this year his position had “evolved” and he now supports same-sex marriage.

Romney: Opposes; doesn’t believe this is a state issue and would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.


Obama: Campaigned in 2008 for “sound, effective steps” to keep guns out of criminals’ hands but hasn’t proposed specific legislation. Would support renewing a ban on military-style semiautomatic assault weapons but hasn’t pushed for one. Signed legislation expanding the ability to carry firearms in national parks.

Romney: Once supported the Brady Act on gun control but later changed that stance. Doesn’t support new laws, says the country should enforce laws already on the books. Would expand opportunities to hunt and shoot on federal lands.

Legalizing marijuana

Obama: Said in 2008 his Justice Department would not go after medical marijuana users, but in the last year it has moved against dispensaries in Washington and other states with medical marijuana laws, forcing them to close or face property forfeiture. Does not support legalizing for personal use.

Romney: Does not support legalizing marijuana for medical or personal use. Would “fully enforce” federal drug laws, said recently he would fight legalization “tooth and nail.”

Nuclear waste

Obama: Has increased funds for cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, but stopped federal work on a permanent waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Romney: Said Nevada should have the final say on a waste repository at Yucca Mountain, and if that state refuses, other states should be allowed to offer a site and name their price.

Public lands

Obama: Signed legislation to set aside 2 million acres as wilderness, create three national parks, created three national monuments. Recently approved use of some 285,000 acres of federal lands in six Western states to develop solar energy. Generally supports restrictions on logging and mining in “roadless” areas of national lands instituted in Clinton administration and recently upheld by U.S. Supreme Court.

Romney: Wants Interior Department to do more to increase energy and mining exploration on public lands, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Would give states more control over energy exploration on federal lands within their borders. In one interview said he’s not familiar with some of the issues, but doesn’t know why the federal government “owns so much of this land.”

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