There are several key questions facing voters in this election. I posited the first one, a referendum on Obama's record, here.
The first night of Democratic National Convention included the usual suspects: several stirring speeches, some partisan barbs, and an emotional and personal presentation from President Obama's wife. In addition to the speeches the Democratic party produced and debuted a video presentation which included a brief, but powerful statement:
"The government is the thing we all belong to..."
This provoked a response from the Romney campaign, which said:
"We do not belong to government; the government belongs to us."
This is a continued discussion from the Obama campaign's "Life of Julia" presentation, which demonstrates government interaction in the life of a fictional woman, from age 3 to 67. The Republican response to "Life of Julia" was a recitation of the problems of governmental intervention in Julia's life.
Perhaps the most stark differentiation between the two parties' views on the role of government was President Obama's statement to the National Governors Association, that if you own a business, you didn't build that on your own, the government helped you built that. This engendered myriad Republican responses, not the least of which was the theme of the Republican National Convention, "Built by US," with the intentional play on words of "us vs. U.S."
On the Republican side the rise of the Tea Party movement traces its roots back to a protest over the expanding role of the Federal government, and specifically the stimulus package.
All of these examples point to significant differences in the way that the two parties, and by extension the two candidates, approach how they would govern. For some time now the two parties have been converging in their approach to Federal governing, while remaining apart in social issues. This election, then, is a return to the debate of Adams vs. Jefferson, which is this:
What should be the size and scope of the role of the Federal government?