I think it really depends on the specific situation – margins and padding do different things (or rather, they put the space in different places. If you want to see what I mean, put background colors in the different elements and then play with padding and margins. When you have no borders or backgrounds, it does not matter so much – though for resize it may matter.
Are you keeping those borders? Then, in general, you can either add padding to the containing element or margin to the inside element(s).
For twentytwelve, the resize issue can be neutralized by using media queries for the larger screen dislays (as is the case in the parent CSS)…
(But maybe this doesn’t answer your question at all :/ ?)
Your last paragraph was helpful. Otherwise I’m familiar with the box model but I try to practice proper CSS and wanted to start off on the right foot to avoid rearranging CSS later on. The borders are temporary for this discussion. You think I can just add left margin to secondary and right margin to primary?
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