Unless you are a political junkie, you probably aren’t too concerned with the daily minutiae of the 2012 presidential race. GOP debates seem to appear on television nightly and Barack Obama never stopped campaigning after he started in 2007. Begrudgingly, it may be time to get on board with someone. However, with a dozen or so legitimate candidates for president, how do you decide whom to support?

There are a number of issues and policies that might help you narrow your selection. Judging the merits of each candidate based on these variables could be useful to your selection process.

First, Social Security and Medicare. To see how much trouble Social Security is in, you only need to look at the statements you receive from the Social Security Administration (yes, you do get them) to know it will become insolvent in our lifetimes. Medicare is in even worse shape. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Medicare fund for hospital care will be depleted by 2017; Social Security should run until 2037.

Confronting these programs is considered political poison. Any time a solution or reform is offered the opposition launches an all-out attack, claiming seniors will be thrown on the streets and left penniless. Look for a candidate who isn’t afraid to tackle this 600-pound gorilla in the room.

Second, this country faces a monumental task in tackling the budget deficit and out-of-control federal spending. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that we are currently running a $1.3 trillion budget deficit, equaling 8.5 percent of our GDP. They also warn that “federal tax and spending policies will impose substantial restraint on the economy in 2013,” resulting in drastically reducing economic growth. In addition, we’re also facing unemployment rates of over 8 percent through 2014 if policies do not change.

The next president must confront these issues or all Americans, not just the super rich, can expect increased taxes. If you’re planning on graduating college in the next few years, be prepared for an economy with high unemployment, low wages and an extremely competitive marketplace for low-level jobs.

Third, the conversation about spending naturally includes national defense. Certainly fraud and abuse can be found and eliminated. However, the next president must not cut into vital defense programs and reduce key personnel in order to balance the books. The War on Terror cannot be ignored and the threats that face this country are still very real. We must remain vigilant and prepared for future conflicts.

These issues are a starting point and many should be considered. The best advice I can give is to ignore the he-said-she-said political back and forth between campaigns. Disregard the slips of the tongue that are supposedly indicative of a potentially failed presidency. Stay focused on the issues and the ability of the candidate to get them accomplished. In 2007, the country did exactly the opposite and the American people were left holding the proverbial bag.

This time, ignore the hype and vote on substance rather than style.