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Two candidates, one choice that affects us all

Associated Press Modified: November 3, 2012 at 3:30 am •  Published: November 3, 2012
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— It's a judgment about what the world needs next from the leader of the United States as America eases out of the war in Afghanistan. A more aggressive stance against Iran's nuclear ambitions? A measured response to turmoil in Libya and the Middle East and civil war in Syria? Does success in ridding the world of Osama bin Laden equal strength against terrorists? Would pushing harder against China's trade policies help U.S. workers or spark a trade war?

— And it's not just the White House. The tilt of the Supreme Court for decades to come may be at stake. Four justices are in their 70s; whoever is president will probably get to choose one or more replacements.

— With Social Security and Medicare on shaky ground, Election Day may shape the future of American retirement. Romney wants to gradually raise the Social Security age and hold down benefits for wealthier retirees; Obama says he wants to protect Social Security but hasn't offered a plan. Obama wants to keep today's Medicare but rein in its costs; Romney proposes giving future retirees payments to help buy private insurance as an alternative to Medicare.

— Maybe it's a matter of deciding who is best for the groups each voter identifies with most: women, Hispanics, small-business owners, union members, gun owners, middle-class families, rural residents, seniors, immigrants, Christian conservatives, gays and lesbians.

— Or choosing which way Washington should lean on social issues like abortion, gay marriage, women in combat, and making exceptions to federal rules for religious institutions that are also employers.

— For many voters, it's as simple as Democrat vs. Republican. But the choice is also law professor vs. venture capitalist. Illinois senator vs. Massachusetts governor. Stay the course vs. a new direction. Mr. You Didn't Build that vs. Mr. 47 percent.

Is a candidate the sum of all his policies? Would either man be able to keep his promises if stymied by recalcitrant Congress members? Maybe, in an uncertain world, character trumps everything.

The choice belongs to the voters.

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Follow Connie Cass on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ConnieCass