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|United States presidential election, 2008|
|November 4, 2008|
|Nominee||John McCain||Evan Bayh|
|Running mate||Colin Powell||Brian Schweitzer|
|Presidential election results map. Green denotes states won by Edwards/McCain (41 + DC), Blue denotes those won by Dean/Edwards (9).|
President before election
Charles Malcolm Edwards
The United States presidential election of 2008 was the 56th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. Incumbent Vice President John McCain, the Republican nominee, defeated Democratic Senator Evan Bayh from Indiana. Incumbent President Charles Malcolm Edwards was ineligible to seek a third term, due to term limits established by the 22nd Amendment. With Edwards' support, McCain secured the Republican party's nomination with little opposition.
Running an aggressive campaign, McCain capitalized on a good economy and Edwards' popularity. New York Senate Hillary Clinton won the 2008 Democratic nomination after Democratic leaders such as Joe Biden and Barack Obama declined to run, making Clinton the first woman to be the presidential nominee of a major American party. Clinton's no nomination proved too controversial for some Democrats, and 2008 saw a wave of anti-establishment challengers from Dennis Kucinich, Alan Keyes, and Mike Gravel. Ron Paul's Libertarian ticket briefly looked like a legitimate possibility for the country's second choice vote, however the late-entry ticket from Blue Dog Democratic leader Evan Bayh, who announced his formal departure from the Democratic party along with the rest of the Blue Dog coalition to form the new Center Party, ultimate unseated Clinton as the general election challenger to McCain.
McCain won a decisive victory over Bayh , winning the Electoral College and the popular vote by a sizable margin. McCain swept the Northeastern United States and won the swing states of the West, Southwest, and the South. Bayh had a respectable showing in the Midwest, but failed to garner the broad voting coalition of McCain.
Following the economic explosion and federal surplus, of what some have come to call "The Space Boom," the American GDP and GDP per capita were the highest of any nation on Earth, even after the expansion of the United States over the whole of the North American continent. This left an almost universally favorable public outlook on President Edwards, and the consensus between major political analysts was that whoever the President would back would be guaranteed the win in November. Both houses of Congress were controlled by a very popular Independent plurality, and the Libertarian party was just beginning to place some major candidates in the West and Southwest to counter what was widely expected to be a sweeping win for the Independents. The Republican and Democrat camps were drafting insurgent strategies to stay in power, though some party firebrands were advocating for a more serious strategy to win.
In 2007 Treasury Secretary Ron Paul, a long time Republican who ran on the Libertarian ticket in 1988, resigned to join the Libertarians in a new Presidential run after being fed up with his old party's dogma. With Paul's resignation many saw a potential conflict between two parties and the President's endorsement, considering that Vice President Clark had long since been predicted to be the likely winner for the Democrats. All assumptions were laid to waste when the Vice President announced that he had no intention of running in 2008, and that he would retire at the end of the administration. Polling immediately following the Vice President's statement confirmed that 67% of the public expected President Edwards to endorse Secretary Paul, being that he was now the only member of the Edwards cabinet actively running for the Presidency.
With the addition of the Latin and Canadian states the political map was completely unknown to most of the country. The newly admitted latin states were considered by many to be almost guaranteed to the Democratic or Independent camps, while the West and Central Canada was leaning largely Libertarian. By the time the primaries were nearly done, Ron Paul had been nominated in a sweeping majority by the Libertarians in the belief that Edwards would endorse him. Edwards surprised everyone when he endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama. With this endorsement, an Independent majority was practically guaranteed.
Democratic Party nomination
Democratic candidates gallery
Democratic Party primaries
The Democrats saw the 2008 election as a chance to regain a hold on the White House, and were committed to keeping the Republicans down. As early as January 2007, many Democrats were toting an easy win in 2008, and were convinced that Democratic Vice President Wesley Clark would run for the Presidency, and knew that with the backing of President Edwards, there was no chance that he would lose. Shock swept over the party when Clark announced on March 12th, 2007, that he had no desire to seek the office of President, and would retire after the election. The Democrats panicked, with Clark not running and Hillary Clinton in the Supreme Court, there were few party favorites left who had a chance of winning; and with the unknown factor of the newly admitted states to the Union, few were very sure of how the electoral map would turn out. The Democrats rallied behind three major candidates by Super Tuesday that they thought could supplement the giants of Clark and Clinton: former President of Mexico Vicente Fox, a Conservative by Mexican standards, Chesapeake Senator Joe Biden, and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards. Following super Tuesday, the primary battle started to get ugly. Fox had swept the Mexican States, Biden had almost all of New England, and the West Coast, and Edwards had taken the South and the Midwest. By December the race was down to the wire, Biden was ahead by a mere 15 delegates, with Fox trailing and Edwards down by close to 200. By the Quebec primary Biden emerged victorious and was nominated on January 19th, 2008.
Republican Party nomination
Republican Party candidates
Republican candidates gallery
Republican Party primaries
The Republican Party was still holding onto to the belief that they were in the right in 2003, despite major backlash from the vast majority of the country, and based the whole 2008 election on proving themselves right. By April 2007, Former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee had emerged as the front runner of the primaries, despite strong campaigns against former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and 2000 nominee George W. Bush. Huckabee ran on a campaign of making the Republicans the party of faith, and was seen by many as a relaxed, more enjoyable face than his competitors. By Super Tuesday Huckabee had swept the South and the Midwest. and was making serious gains in Mexico for his staunch Christian rhetoric. He received the Nomination on July 14th, 2008 at the Super Dome, in New Orleans.
The election officially started with the launch of the privately developed primary web sight for independent candidates: indie-primary.org. The website, heavily regulated by federal standards for primary elections, and the laws imposed by states, was designed to allow any citizen eligible to be president as defined by Article II of the US Constitution. The day the sight launched on January 20th, 2007 the sight exploded with close to 40,000 candidates, each posting videos and comments on what they would do as President. The first primary of the sight was held on January 31st, 2007. Half the candidates got to move on in the primaries, the other half were defeated and had to drop out. By May 15th, there were only 200 candidates left, and the first debates began. Unlike traditional primary debates, these debates were on a challenge basis any number of candidates could challenge the other to a debate, and comment from subscribers and voters would flow in as the candidates answered questions. These debates could be moderated if the candidates chose to, but usually they were unmoderated. By December, the primary was coming to a close, there were three candidates left; YouTube politico and blogger CSPANJUNKIE, former Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean, and Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Many were unsure of who the independents would ultimately nominate, Senator Obama was holding a mere 1% lead against a near three way tie. Many believed Michaëlle Jean would win the nomination for her plethora of experience in running a government. When President Edwards announced his support of Senator Obama, however, the polls turned completely in Obama's favor. On January 14th, 2008 the Independent movement nominated Senator Barack Obama as the first African-American to be nominated by a major political entity for the Presidency in Springfield, Illinois.
The Indo-Pakistan war had begun in the middle of the election and all attention was quickly drawn to its execution. All parties supported the war, but debate over how to handle it was dominating the campaign for most of the Summer. Huckabee' statement that the United States should respond to Pakistan with nothing less than a complete nuclear assault would prove costly as Obama, Biden, and Paul all launched simultaneous attack adds painting Huckabee as an irresponsible warmonger.
Obama's support for the successful UN Multinational Force's invasion of India under the leadership of General David Petraeus, which was one of several factors credited with the quick capture and disarmament of Pakistani Nuclear facilities, boosted Obama's stance on the issue in voters' minds. Paul (who supported the invasion) argued that his support was very conditional, as the threat of a nuclear war anywhere in the world was a direct threat to America, however he was very much opposed to US involvement anywhere in the world other than Afghanistan. Obama was quick to remind voters that the conflicts the US was currently involved with were entirely multinational, and the US troops were part of the greater UN Multinational Force. Paul countered that such a force was unconstitutional, stating that it compromised US sovereignty. Obama, a professor of Constitutional Law, dismissed the argument out of hand.
Entering 2008, Charles Malcolm Edwards was very popular with polls consistently showing his percent support from the American public in the seventies and eighties. In March 2008, Obama was endorsed by Edwards at the White House, and made many appearance on Obama's behalf during the campaign. Although he did not support US support of the war in Burma, Obama made an effort to show that he agreed with Edwards on almost every other key issues such as climate change. During the entire general election campaign, Obama pointed out in ads and at numerous campaign rallies he had voted with Edwards 90% of the time, and this was supported by the congressional voting records for the years Edwards was in office.
Progress vs. the Status Quo
Before even the first primaries, the dichotomy of continued progress versus the status quo had already become a common theme in the presidential campaign, with CSPANJUNKIE and Michaëlle Jean positioning themselves as the candidates that would try to stabilize the current state of the US and Obama embracing the characterization as the candidate most able to continue the progress started by President Edwards. Before the official launch of her campaign, aides for Jean were already planning to position her as the 'progress' candidate, as strategist Mark Penn made clear in an October 2006 memo titled "The Strategy." In his candidacy announcement, Obama framed his candidacy by emphasizing that "America must continue to move forward." In response to this, Jean adopted her experience as a major campaign theme, while CSPANJUNKIE began a massive YouTube campaign on why stabilizing the current situation in America was the only option for the next president. By mid-2007, polls regularly found voters identifying Jean as the more experienced candidate and Obama as the "fresh" or "new" candidate. Exit polls after the May 3rd primary found that while Obama won voters who thought that the ability to continue to progress was the most important quality in a candidate, who made up a majority of the Independent electorate, by a margin of about 2-1, Jean was able to make up for this deficiency with voters who though experience was the most important; CSPANJUNKIE had already eclipsed her with conservative Independents who believed that the ability to return the US to stability was the most important quality in a candidate. These margins generally remained the same until Obama received President Edward's endorsement on January 3rd.
Ron Paul and Joe Biden quickly adopted similar campaign themes against Obama at the start of the general election campaign, while Huckabee was running a campaign to bring the US back to a "state of moral fortitude". Polls regularly found the general electorate as a whole divided more evenly between 'progress' and 'status quo' as candidate qualities than the Independent primary electorate, which split in favor of 'progress' by a nearly 2-1 margin. Advantages for Paul and Obama on returning to stability and the ability to continue to progress as a nation, respectively, remained steady through the November 4 election, although final pre-election polling found that voters considered Obama's inexperience less of an impediment than Paul's radical opposition to the Civilization Acts.
Huckabee appeared to attempt to draw attention to his campaign by picking first-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Palin had been governor only since 2006, and prior to that had been a council member and mayor of Wasilla. Nonetheless, she excited what was left of the conservative base of the GOP with her speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, a group that was already fervently in support of Huckabee's candidacy. Media interviews suggested that Palin lacked knowledge on certain key issues, and they cast doubt among many voters about her qualifications to be Vice President or President. President Edwards went so far to call her, "the ultimate example of how stupid the Republicans think the American people are." In addition, because of Palin's conservative views, there was also concern that, while she would bring more social conservatives to Huckabee, she would also alienate Independents and fiscal conservatives, failing to achieve Huckabee's goal of gaining votes from more socially conservative Independents and Libertarians.
Polls taken in the last few months of the presidential campaign as well as exit polls conducted on election day showed that while the economy was not necessarily a concern for voters, the credit for its success was. In the fall of 2008, many news sources were reporting that the US economy was experiencing its largest boom in history, largely thanks to the subsidy and regulation reforms of President Edwards. During this period Ron Paul's election prospects fell with several politically costly comments about the economy.
On August 20, Ron Paul said in an interview with The Young Turks that he thought the regulation of the financial sector was a mistake, and that the Civilization acts were driving the US towards a socialist welfare state, the Huckabee camp had issued similar comments on Glen Beck. Both on the stump and in Obama's political ad, "Close Call", the statement was used to portray Paul as unable to relate to the concerns of ordinary Americans. This out-of-touch image was further cultivated when, on September 15, at a morning rally in Jacksonville, Florida, Paul declared that "the fundamentals of our economy are in peril," despite what he described as "the quality of life of the average American has never been higher." With the perception among voters to the contrary, the comment appeared to cost Paul politically.
The Presidential debates solidified Obama and Paul as the two front runners, while Huckabee was able to garner only a little more attention than before; the Biden camp had lost almost all support by this point. In the first debate at Cascadia Commonwealth University, Obama was the clear winner on issues such as the economy and domestic policy, while Ron Paul won on certain foreign policy strategies, such as his plan to accelerate the global draw down of US troops. In the first town hall debate at Ol' Miss, the debate was considered a draw between Paul and Obama, with Paul continuing to champion a non-intervention strategy and Obama supporting greater involvement in the UN. The Vice Presidential debate was a disaster for the Huckabee campaign. All three opposing VP picks all gained up on Palin for her seemingly ignorant, and at times callous answers. Congresswoman Lorreta Sanchez even went so far as to accuse Palin as a traitor to women's causes, and Governor Richardson suggested that the Huckabee campaign was insensitive to Latinos.
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote||Electoral|
|Running mate||Running mate's|
|Barack Hussein Obama Jr.||Independent||Illinois||146,230,554||39.7%||544||Bill Richardson||Arizona|
|Ronald Ernest Paul||Libertarian||Texas||103,449,532||28.2%||108||Bob Barr||Dixie|
|Michael Dale Huckabee||Republican||Missouri||86,254,937||23.3%||83||Sarah Palin||Alaska|
|Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.||Democratic||Chesapeake||31,316,586||8.4%||45||Loretta Sanchez||Baja California|
|Charles Obadiah "Chuck" Baldwin||Constitution||Dixie||1,046,721||0.3%||0||Douglas Winston Phillips||Texas|
|Needed to win||391|
Results by state