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Clear philosophical differences define the 2012 presidential election.

President Barack Obama believes that government holds the solution to many of America’s economic and social ills. Challenger Mitt Romney favors less government and more reliance on market forces and private initiative to revive the nation’s economy and increase opportunities for its people.

The two candidates represent the outlooks of their respective parties. How Americans view the role of government will determine many votes.

One point that many Americans can agree on, however, is that the country is hurting economically. We are not doing well.

President Obama roared into office four years ago amid a landslide of euphoria and great expectations. This was to be a new era of renewed prosperity, high purpose, bipartisanship and diplomatic progress abroad. Reality has fallen short of expectations.

. Unemployment has soared throughout this presidency: the jobless rate went above 10 percent before dropping back below 8 percent. More than 12.1 million Americans are unemployed, but many more have grown discouraged and stopped looking for work.

For years, Americans have watched hopefully for small signs that would augur economic renewal but the economy continues to sputter and spin its wheels.

Faced with the lack of economic progress, President Obama has blamed the previous administration for present woes. But George W. Bush has been out of office four years.

The president did enter office amid an economic crisis — a housing market collapse, banks and financial houses teetering, massive layoffs. The administration acted to halt the economic slide by passing a $787 billion economic stimulus package in February 2009, buying up to $2 trillion in depreciated real estate assets and intervening in the troubled auto industry.

These steps, however well intentioned, were done at great cost to the country. This points to a major difference between Mr. Obama, who favors government intervention, borrowing and spending to revive the economy; and Mr. Romney, who would allow a market-oriented approach.

The Democrats’ approach has failed. The administration has passed thousands of pages of legislation making it harder to do business — the Affordable Care Act, Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, among others.

The federal government has borrowed too much money on the president’s watch. Our national economic policy is penalizing corporations. The Federal Reserve Bank is keeping interest rates so low that senior citizens and others who depend on interest earnings from their 401(k) accounts can make no headway.

American economic growth is being stymied by the heavy hand of government. Mr. Romney, a highly successful business leader, would take a wholly different tack.

On another note, President Obama’s promised bipartisanship has failed. He has not taken the extra steps required of a president to influence individual House members and senators to work together for the greater good. Congress is at its lowest ebb in many years — for which the president cannot bear too much blame — but a change is in order.

A low point in the Obama presidency occurred whenhe told then-Gov. David A. Paterson that he should not run for re-election. That disrespectful act showed a misunderstanding of the president’s role with respect to state leaders. If America is not better off economically for the administration’s leadership, what about our place in the world?

In fact, our foreign policy should be stronger in key areas. It was not wise to announce several months in advance our troops’ intended departure from Afghanistan. The desire to end the war prompted the administration to set and announce a deadline. U.S. policy in Syria has failed to stem the bloodbath there. The security and intelligence failure in Libya has been well discussed. The administration’s fussing with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a faithful ally, has diverted pressure from the enemy, Iran.

The administration has achieved some successes, killing Osama bin Laden and keeping terrorists at bay. But in other ways, America needs to put on a stronger face internationally.

Mitt Romney has shown his strength as a candidate. He has run a good campaign since Labor Day. His message to Americans is starting to hit home, as the polls have shown.

The former Massachusetts governor announced himself to the country in the first debate, showing that he was in command of domestic issues, putting the president on the defensive.

Mr. Romney has a realistic view of the economy: the solution is not government spending and borrowing, but private investment.

America is facing a fiscal cliff: if left unattended, tax increases and spending reductions will automatically go into effect at the beginning of 2013, adversely affecting every American. The president should have pressed Congress to address this; much is at stake.

During the Obama era, America has added deficits exceeding $1 trillion each year. Our national debt is $16.2 trillion and growing. The economy is listless. Businesses are not hiring. Congress is uncooperative and underachieving.

The country is struggling and needs a change. Mr. Romney knows how to lead. He understands the economy. His fiscal instincts are sound. He is intelligent and a quick study. Like President Obama, he is a family man of good character.

The Times recommends Mitt Romney for president of the United States.

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