The direction of the nation is at stake in this election.
Hard economic times, a disappointing Republican administration and the seductive promises of a master orator are pushing America toward a European-style social democracy.
If you don't want that to happen, vote for Republican Sen. John McCain.
First, it must be acknowledged that Democratic Sen. Barack Obama gets a lot of things right, especially when emphasizing what has gone wrong. Studiously unflappable, he is the most inspirational campaigner in memory.
McCain, too, has many ideas for improvement, but his changes build on what has worked in the past to make our nation the strongest in the world.
McCain understands that U.S. companies must compete worldwide and shouldn't have to pay one of the world's highest corporate tax rates. He knows that federal spending is out of control. He knows that economic growth only comes from hard work and real investment, not through wholesale redistribution of tax dollars as Obama promises.
Obama became a political celebrity by representing the disaffected. He is generating unprecedented enthusiasm among the young and the poor, and their participation is welcome. Yet mainstream voters need to understand that the change these voters want will have historic consequences. Obama's future America is largely unrestrained by many of the traditional values long held by Middle America.
Obama promises a tax cut for 95 percent of households, even though only 62 percent of households pay any income tax now. Taxes would increase sharply for households making more than $250,000 a year - a policy that penalizes success.
Profitable small businesses would be hardest hit. Obama even has the audacity to promise a tax break for businesses that create jobs, while simultaneously increasing taxes that would force some businesses to cut payrolls.
Last year, Obama had the most liberal voting record in the Senate. If elected, he would appoint activist judges capable of finding liberal surprises in the Constitution. He would push for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. He would agree to new barriers to trade, which would raise consumer prices.
We urge voters, especially independents and moderate Democrats, to think about where the candidates and their parties are coming from, where they want to go and who the candidates really are.
Obama is a lawyer, a professor, a best-selling author and a winning debater. He is smart and patriotic, but as a leader on the national stage, mostly untested. His short tenure in the Senate has been unremarkable, other than being consistently partisan.
McCain brings a lifetime of useful experience, including his grueling captivity in Vietnam and long Senate service. He believes in federalism, a strong defense and disciplined self-interest.
McCain has been willing to cross party lines to work on tough problems. He co-authored a campaign finance law that failed to fulfill its objective, but he did muster the bipartisan support needed to try to control the buying and selling of public office.
He is more open-minded on energy reforms than Bush has been. He has an independent nature and passion for public service. He spoke out against torture and strongly criticized Bush's first defense secretary for resisting the surge of troops McCain knew Iraq needed for peace to have a chance.
McCain's biggest challenge is that after eight years of the Bush White House, it's hard to say his party still believes in smaller government. He has run an uneven campaign, facing an unfair share of blame for budget deficits, feeble economic growth, costly military interventions, uncontrolled immigration, emergency bailouts of misled corporations, and a diminished world opinion of America.
Yet the record shows blunt-talking McCain would begin to return his party, and the nation, to a more conservative, compassionate and productive path. He is not the candidate preferred in much of Europe and the Middle East, but he would keep us safe and begin to repair America's image worldwide.
A few states could make the difference in this election. Florida is likely to be one, and Tampa Bay will be a key battleground. The McCain-Obama race is a choice that divides families, friendships and even editorial boards.
Obama's vision of hope shines like a rainbow, appealing but just out of reach. McCain's call to freedom and responsibility is less exciting, but you know it works.
The Tribune encourages voters to vote what they believe, not what they wish were true. The nation needs a stable leader in these unpredictable times.
For president, the Tribune endorses Sen. John McCain.