Syria's conflict is the most violent to emerge from last year's Arab Spring. Activists say at least 23,000 people have died over the last 18 months.
Obama wants Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. But he won't use U.S. military force to make that happen.
Romney says "more assertive" U.S. tactics are needed, without fully spelling them out.
The future of Arab democracy could hinge on the crisis. After dictatorships fell in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, critics say Assad's government has resorted to torture and mass killings to stay in power.
Its success would deny the U.S. a major strategic victory. Assad long has helped Iran aid Hamas and Hezbollah, destabilizing Lebanon while threatening Israel's security and U.S. interests in the Middle East.
But extremists among the opposition, Assad's weapons of mass destruction and worries about Israel's border security have policymakers wary about deeper involvement.
Almost every U.S. taxpayer faces a significant tax increase next year, unless Congress and the White House agree on a plan to extend a huge collection of tax cuts expiring at the end of the year.
And there's a huge debate over how to overhaul the tax code to make it simpler, with lower rates balanced by fewer deductions.
Obama wants to extend Bush-era tax cuts again, but only for individuals making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000.
Romney wants to extend all those tax cuts and enact new ones, dropping all income tax rates by 20 percent. Romney says he would pay for that by eliminating or reducing tax credits, deductions and exemptions. But he won't say which ones would go.
Most lawmakers want a simpler tax code, but millions count on the mortgage interest deduction, child tax credit and more, making progress all but impossible.
Wall Street regulation:
The debate over banking rules is, at its core, a dispute about how to prevent another economic cataclysm.
The financial crisis that peaked in 2008 touched off a global economic slowdown. Four years later, the recovery remains painfully slow.
After the crisis, Congress passed a sprawling overhaul of banking rules and oversight. The law gives regulators new tools to shutter banks without resorting to emergency bailouts. It restricts risky lending and establishes a new agency to protect consumers from misleading marketing and other traps.
The new rules also boost companies' costs, according to Romney and many in the business community. Romney believes the law is prolonging the nation's economic agony by making it harder for companies to invest and grow. He has pledged to repeal it. Obama fought for and supports the law.
Associated Press writers Nancy Benac, David Crary, Tom Raum, Seth Borenstein, Robert Burns, Jack Gillum, Paul Wiseman, Carole Feldman, Mark Sherman, Matthew Pennington, Bradley Klapper, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Daniel Wagner, Stephen Ohlemacher, Alicia A. Caldwell, Christopher S. Rugaber, Jason Keyser, Sam Hananel, Desmond Butler and Richard Lardner contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE _ Part of a series examining issues at stake in the election and their impact on people
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