Are Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney the same? Vice President Joe Biden seems to think so.
This is a Republican fight, but substantively, I don't see any fundamental difference between the men, Biden told CBS News Wednesday, the morning after President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address.
Newt Gingrich is a talented guy. You know, the guy is really good -- he's a great debater, Biden said, casting the two candidates as distinct in style but not substance. But the bottom line here is, there is no fundamental difference between Newt Gingrich and Gov. Romney on the things we care about -- on the whole issue of how we deal with foreign policy, on how we deal with the domestic policy.
As much as many Republican voters and the candidates have painted the 2012 primaries as a battle of opposing ideologies, Biden is right. In terms of backgrounds and rhetorical styles, Gingrich and Romney are vastly different, but in terms of platforms, they are more similar than they care to admit. Gingrich may be seen as the conservative alternative to Romney, but Romney's stated platform is dollar-for-dollar as conservative as Gingrich's -- conservatives just perceive Gingrich as stronger because they don't have an image of him as a flip-flopper or a Massachusetts moderate, and because he has been more adept than Romney at publicizing his conservative views.
Gingrich, 68, is far more bombastic, less polished and less canned on the stump, but a side-by-side comparison of his and Romney's platforms shows more similaries than differences. The differences they have tend not to be stark: sometimes, for example, Romney, 64, will mention something in his platform that Gingrich doesn't mention, but that doesn't mean Gingrich opposes it. They have substantial differences of opinion on some aspects of entitlement reform, abortion policy, education and immigration, but for the most part, they agree on fundamental principles and policies.
Note: Issues on which Gingrich and Romney differ substantially are highlighted in red. Both candidates have flip-flopped on certain issues over the years, but only their current positions are listed here.
Gingrich: Block-grant Medicaid funding to the states; allow seniors to opt out of Medicare and/or Social Security; maintain existing benefits; do not raise retirement age.
Romney: Block-grant Medicaid funding to the states; allow seniors to choose between Medicare and private insurance; reduce benefits for wealthy recipients; raise the retirement age.
HEALTH CARE REFORM
Gingrich: Repeal the 2010 health care law; allow seniors to opt out of Medicare; block-grant Medicaid funding to the states; make insurance affordable through tax credits and deductions; prohibit insurers from canceling sick people's policies or charging them more; limit malpractice lawsuits; expand untaxed health savings accounts; allow people to buy insurance across state lines; set up state High Risk Pools to cover people too sick to buy insurance; fund more medical research.
Romney: Repeal the 2010 health care law; allow seniors to opt out of Medicare; block-grant Medicaid funding to the states; make insurance affordable through tax credits and deductions; extend employer tax breaks to individuals who buy their own insurance; prohibit discrimination based on pre-existing conditions; limit malpractice lawsuits; expand untaxed health savings accounts; allow people to buy insurance across state lines.
JOBS AND TAXES
Gingrich: Let taxpayers choose between current tax rate and 15 percent flat rate; reduce corporate tax rate to 12.5 percent; eliminate capital gains tax and estate tax; make Bush tax cuts permanent; repeal Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley laws and other regulations; break up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Romney: Broaden the tax base and lower rates by an unspecified amount; immediately reduce corporate tax rate to 25 percent, and further in the long run; eliminate capital gains tax and estate tax; transition to a territorial tax system; repeal Dodd-Frank law and other regulations; create zero-dollar regulatory cap; sign Colombia, Panama and South Korea Free Trade Agreements.
Gingrich: Do not set a timetable for withdrawal; deploy more troops to complete the mission against radical Islamism; pay more attention to Afghanistan's relationships with countries like Pakistan.
Romney: Do not set a timetable for withdrawal; conduct a full inter-agency review of the number of troops needed to complete the mission; push the Afghan government to combat the narcotics trade that fuels the Taliban.
Gingrich: Stop Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program by any means necessary, including pre-emptive military force; pursue covert operations, such as killing scientists, to disrupt the Iranian program; coordinate with Israel and support Israel if it invades Iran.
Romney: Stop Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program by any means necessary, including pre-emptive military force; tighten economic sanctions on Iran; coordinate with Israel and support Israel if it invades Iran; complete a missile defense system in Eastern Europe as a deterrent; urge the United Nations to indict Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide.
Gingrich: Abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape or incest, with exceptions to save the mother's life; defund Planned Parenthood; reinstate the Mexico City Policy banning federal funding to organizations that perform abortions overseas; appoint only strict constitutionalist judges.
Romney: Abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest and to save the mother's life; defund Planned Parenthood; reinstate the Mexico City Policy to ban funding for overseas abortions; appoint only strict constitutionalist judges.
Gingrich: Shrink the Department of Education, returning most of its functions to states and localities; support more charter schools; create a voucher program to increase student/parent choice; evaluate teachers and schools based on student achievement; repeal No Child Left Behind Act.
Romney: Shrink the Department of Education, but not as drastically as Gingrich; support more charter schools; create a voucher program to increase student/parent choice; evaluate teachers and schools based on student achievement; keep No Child Left Behind Act in place.
Gingrich: Marriage is between a man and a woman; Constitution should be amended to ban gay marriage; ban domestic partnerships; uphold the Defense of Marriage Act; reinstate don't ask, don't tell policy; make it illegal for same-sex couples to adopt children.
Romney: Marriage is between a man and a woman; Constitution should be amended to ban gay marriage; legalize domestic partnerships; uphold the Defense of Marriage Act; opposed don't ask, don't tell repeal, but wouldn't reinstate it; let states decide if same-sex couples can adopt children.
Gingrich: Secure the border with a fence; streamline the visa process for legal immigrants; expedite deportation process for illegal immigrants, especially those with criminal records; create a path to legal residency, but not citizenship, for some illegal immigrants; allow the children of illegal immigrants to earn legal residency by serving in the military.
Romney: Secure the border with a fence; streamline the visa process for legal immigrants; expedite the deportation process to 90 days; no path to legality or citizenship for illegal immigrants, but allow their children to earn legal residency by serving in the military.