Nation should continue on path toward recovery.

Voters always should weigh a candidate's plan for the future when they cast their ballots.

In Tuesday's presidential election, they also should consider the nation's state of affairs four years ago.

President Barack Obama inherited a mess in two wars and the worst economic crisis in several decades.

Even though the president fought an uphill battle against Republicans eager to see him fail in his first term, achievements were notable:

The war in Iraq ended, and Osama bin Laden is dead.

The nation received long overdue health-care reform, which in part will eliminate restrictions on pre-existing conditions, make health care more affordable for families and small businesses, and allow children to be on their parents' health-care plans longer. (GOP challenger Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal Obamacare, even though it was modeled after the universal health-care law he endorsed while governor of Massachusetts.)

And on the economic front, we saw the jobless rate decline and creation of millions of new private-sector jobs.

But while progress was made, the president has acknowledged there's much more work to do.

Voters must decide whether to continue on the current path, or return to many of the same failed Republican strategies of the George W. Bush administration.

The Democratic incumbent has outlined a plan for continued recovery that would give the middle class a tax break it deserves. He's rightly made education a cornerstone of his plan for economic recovery.

Romney, unfortunately, would side with programs that favor the wealthy that much we know of a candidate who's otherwise offered scant details on his vision.

Every voter should be troubled by Romney's lack of specifics. Also, he's changed his position so many times on health care, government regulation, women's rights and other issues that it's hard to tell where his administration would be headed.

With much work to do in recovering from a devastating recession, such waffling and uncertainty only will stand in the way of progress.

The next president of the United States must lead with conviction and compassion. Obama did as much in his first term, and deserves another four years to continue moving the nation forward.