President Obama, the nation's 44th president, is seeking a second term in office. The Democrat's rise to power was historic, making him the first African-American president. In 2008, he defeated Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton's powerful primary campaign and surged ahead of Republican Sen. John McCain in the general election.
Obama graduated from Columbia University in 1983 and later became a community organizer in Chicago. He attended Harvard Law School in 1991 and became the first-African American president of the school's law review. Afterward, he became a lecturer of constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.
Obama ran for the Illinois state Senate in 1996 and served from 1997-2004. It was in 2004 that Obama set his sights on Washington, running for and winning Illinois' U.S. Senate seat. He would serve only four years of his six-year term, resigning to run for president in 2007.
A Grammy Award winner, author and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, he is married to Michelle (Robinson) Obama. The couple has two daughters, Malia and Natasha (Sasha).
Bio via CNNPolitics.com
Economy and Jobs
Perhaps the issue that will make or break his re-election campaign is the economy and his handling of what many call the Great Recession. Hammered by Republicans who say that he is steering the country in the wrong direction and that his policies haven't worked, Obama made a series of reforms to crack down on Wall Street practices and instituted programs to help small-business owners and consumers. His stimulus plan, which temporarily helped boost the economy, has failed to significantly drop the record-high unemployment rate of 9.1%. Obama, who came into office facing the fiscal crisis, says economic recovery will need years to fully kick in. That's why, his campaign says, he needs to be re-elected.
When the history books are written, health care reform will be at the top of the list of Obama's accomplishments. Despite facing heavy opposition by congressional Republicans, Democrats were able to pass the Affordable Health Care Act in March 2010 - a sweeping set of reforms aimed to help more Americans get insured.
Perhaps Obama's biggest victory and biggest future challenge in the election came when the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate was constitutional, not as a penalty, but a tax.
President Obama has been widely criticized by both the right and the left for not addressing immigration reform when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate during his first two years.
In mid-June, just before the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Arizona's controversial immigration law, President Obama announced a Department of Homeland Security directive halting deportation for young undocumented immigrants under the age of 30, who obtained a high school diploma or equivalent and/or served in the military. Obama said it allowed the government to "focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people."
The directive drew heavy fire from the right with Republican congressional members claiming Obama was trying to circumvent the democratic process that had already rejected the DREAM act, legislation that would have guaranteed similar rights as the DHS directive. The current Congress has not revisited the DREAM act, even though Obama has asked them to consider the legislation.
Obama's foreign policy has been defined as pursuing negotiation and working with other nations instead of taking unilateral American action.
Since taking office, the commander-in-chief has wound down two wars: withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Iraq, America's longest war, and setting a 2014 timeline to pull most troops out of Afghanistan.
One of Obama's crowning decisions, to capture and kill Osama bin Laden is seen as one of his administration's foreign policy victories, though critics from the right say his administration should not have shared details of the bin Laden raid with the public.
Obama has favored coalitions, sanctions, drone strikes and special operations over full-scale invasions to execute American foreign policy initiatives. But the Osama bin Laden raid, which broke sovereign Pakistan borders, and drone strikes that have killed Pakistani civilians have strained relations with one of the United States' most fickle allies.
And recently, Obama's policy toward liberation movements in Egypt, Syria and Libya has been to work with a coalition of nations to pressure dictators to step down. But with atrocities increasing in Syria, additional criticisms continue to come from the right, which attacks the president's seemingly hands-off approach to foreign policy.
Obama has also been criticized for not seeming to support Israel enough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the President fired back at Republicans recently over the issue of sequestration - a deal brokered last year that forced both parties to address needed spending cuts come this year - saying that Republicans favored taxes for millionaires over properly funding the military.
Over the past four years, the Obama administration has worked to craft a signature education reform policy that builds on provisions in the No Child Left Behind law while scuttling requirements that some states have deemed too cumbersome. Early on, many states were given waivers to allow more flexibility in meeting some of the standards of the law that requires that every child be proficient in reading and math by 2014.
The signature of the president's efforts is the competitive "Race to the Top" program, which has awarded states more than $4.35 billion in competitive grants in exchange for crafting "innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement." "Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids," Obama said during the 2011 State of the Union address.
Cost of College
Unlike most of the GOP candidates running, Obama is in favor of federal student aid. His 2010 Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act aims to strengthen the Pell Grant program and increase college accessibility for minorities. The act includes caps for repayments as one way to help students manage loans. Obama also recently signed an executive order that caps student loan payments on some federal loans and expands the government’s student loan forgiveness program. He has been touring college campuses to raise awareness about student loan interest rates doubling in July, while Congress debates how to prevent the interest hike and pay for it.
Cost of college information by powerof12.org
President Obama supports Roe v. Wade and has consistently voted in favor of pro-choice initiatives, including opposing a Supreme Court ruling that supported a partial birth abortion ban and a repeal of a Bush prohibition on international funding to groups that supported abortions.
Obama drew criticism regarding women's reproductive rights several times during the last four years. The first came from women's reproductive rights groups when Obama signed an order banning the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest and if the woman's life was in danger. The compromise was needed to gain the votes to pass the health care reform bill in 2010.
The second round of criticism for the Obama administration came when the Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule interpreting the health care reform law as requiring religious employers to offer birth control under their health plans to employees. The Obama administration bowed to pressure from Catholic outrage on the rule, offering a compromise that shifted the burden for providing contraception to the insurance companies. But regardless of these two compromises, Obama has remained a staunch supporter of women's reproductive rights and a woman's right to choose.
Reversing an earlier stance, President Obama is now in favor of same-sex marriage. In May, he explained his change in thought during an ABC interview. "At a certain point, I've just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."