2000 Flag of the United States 2008 › ›
United States presidential election, 2004
November 2, 2004
Official portrait of George W. Bush 152px
Nominee George W. Bush John Kerry
Party Republican Democratic
Home state Texas Massachusetts
Running mate Condoleeza Rice John Edwards
Electoral vote 323 222
States carried 35 16 + D.C.
Popular vote ???  ???
Percentage 48.7% 45.4%
President before election
George W. Bush
Elected President
George W. Bush

The United States presidential election of 2004 was held on Tuesday, November 2, 2004, to elect the President of the United States. It was the 55th consecutive quadrennial election for President and Vice President. Republican Party candidate and incumbent President George W. Bush defeated Democratic Party candidate John Kerry, the junior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts and Reform candidate John Hagelin of Iowa, the 2000 VP candidate. Foreign policy was the dominant theme throughout the election campaign, particularly Bush's conduct of the War on Terrorism and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The election would be marked historically with the choice of National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice to replace then incumbent Richard Cheney. Rice's choice would be the first time that an women and an african american to be chosen for a major parties ticket. This choice would hurt the Democratic Kerry/Edwards ticket and would spoil there chances for victory.

This would also be a year that the Reform Party was in decline as the Hagelin/Nader ticket would garner only 6% of the vote and would win no states, coming close in Alaska and doing well in Maine and Minnesota.

New Mexico would stay it's alliegances to the Democrats in the 2004 election as in certain areas more than expected hispanic voters came out and voted for Kerry, thus gaining the nail biting close state of New Mexico.


George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 by a tight margin over Gore and Ventura and wouldn't win a majority at 50% in the popular vote since 1992 like all other presidents.

Just eight months into his presidency, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 suddenly transformed Bush into a wartime president. Bush's approval ratings surged to near 90%. Within a month, the forces of a coalition led by the United States invaded Afghanistan, which had been sheltering Osama bin Laden, suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks. By December, the Taliban had been removed as rulers of Kabul, although a long and ongoing occupation would follow.

The Bush administration then turned its attention to Iraq, and argued the need to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq had become urgent. Among the stated reasons were that Saddam's regime had tried to acquire nuclear material and had not properly accounted for biological and chemical material it was known to have previously possessed. Both the possession of these weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and the failure to account for them, violated the U.N. sanctions. The assertions about WMD were hotly debated from the beginning, and their basis in U.S. military intelligence undermined by the subsequent failure to find any WMDs in Iraq. This situation escalated to the point that a coalition of about forty nations, including the United States, invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. Within about three weeks, the invasion caused the collapse of both the Iraqi government and its armed forces. On May 1, George W. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, in a Lockheed S-3 Viking, where he gave a speech announcing the end of major combat operations in the Iraq war. Bush's approval rating in the month of May was at 66%, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll. However, Bush's high approval ratings did not last. First, while the war itself was popular in the U.S., the occupation lost support as months passed and casualty figures increased, with no decrease in violence nor progress toward stability or reconstruction in Iraq. Second, as investigators combed through the country, they failed to find the predicted WMD stockpiles, which led to debate over the rationale for the war.


Republican party nomination


  • President George W. Bush of Texas

Bush's popularity as a wartime president helped consolidate his base, and ward off any serious challenge to the nomination. Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island considered challenging Bush on an anti-war platform in New Hampshire, but decided not to run after the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003.

On March 10, 2004, Bush officially clinched the number of delegates needed to be nominated at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. Before this, Cheney would declare that he wasn't running for the office of Vice President again and Bush would have to find an replacement. Bush's new choice would come from National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and this would invigorate the Republicans and the Bush/Rice ticket would be nominated at the convention in New York City. During the convention and throughout the campaign, Bush focused on two themes: defending America against terrorism and building an ownership society. The ownership society included allowing people to invest some of their Social Security in the stock market, increasing home and stock ownership, and encouraging more people to buy their own health insurance. Bush would also ignite a new campaign slogan of "Making History" as Bush made gains in the womens vote and made a small dent in the African American support for Kerry.

Democratic party nomination


  • John Kerry, U.S. senator from Massachusetts
  • John Edwards, U.S. senator from North Carolina
  • Howard Dean, former U.S. governor of Vermont
  • Wesley Clark, retired U.S. general from Arkansas
  • Dennis Kucinich, U.S. representative from Ohio
  • Al Sharpton, reverend and civil rights activist from New York
  • Joe Lieberman, U.S. senator from Connecticut
  • Dick Gephardt, U.S. representative from Missouri
  • Carol Moseley Braun, former U.S. senator from Illinois
  • Bob Graham, U.S. senator from Florida
Before the primaries

By summer of 2003, Howard Dean had become the apparent front runner for the Democratic nomination, performing strongly in most polls and leading the pack with the largest campaign war chest. Dean's strength as a fund raiser was attributed mainly to his embrace of the Internet for campaigning. The majority of his donations came from individual supporters, who came to be known as Deanites, or, more commonly, Deaniacs. Generally regarded as a pragmatic centrist during his time as governor, Dean emerged during his presidential campaign as a left-wing populist, denouncing the policies of the Bush administration (especially the 2003 invasion of Iraq) as well as fellow Democrats, who, in his view, failed to strongly oppose them. Senator Lieberman, a liberal on domestic issues but a hawk on the War on Terror, failed to gain traction with liberal Democratic primary voters.

In September 2003, retired four-star general Wesley Clark announced his intention to run in the presidential primary election for the Democratic Party nomination. His campaign focused on themes of leadership and patriotism; early campaign ads relied heavily on biography. His late start left him with relatively few detailed policy proposals. This weakness was apparent in his first few debates, although he soon presented a range of position papers, including a major tax-relief plan. Nevertheless, many Democrats did not flock to his campaign.

In sheer numbers, Kerry had fewer endorsements than Howard Dean, who was far ahead in the superdelegate race going into the Iowa caucuses in January 2004, although Kerry led the endorsement race in Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, South Carolina, New Mexico and Nevada. Kerry's main perceived weakness was in his neighboring state of New Hampshire and nearly all national polls. Most other states did not have updated polling numbers to give an accurate placing for the Kerry campaign before Iowa. Heading into the primaries, Kerry's campaign was largely seen as in trouble, particularly after he fired campaign manager Jim Jordan. The key factors enabling it to survive was when fellow Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy assigned Mary Beth Cahill to be the campaign manager, as well as Kerry's mortgaging his own home to lend the money to his campaign (while his wife was a billionaire, campaign finance rules prohibited using one's personal fortune). He also brought on the "magical" Michael Whouley who would be credited with helping bring home the Iowa victory the same as he did in New Hampshire for Al Gore in 2000 against Bill Bradley.

Iowa caucus

By the January 2004 Iowa caucuses, the field had dwindled down to nine candidates, as Bob Graham dropped out of the race and Howard Dean was a strong front-runner. However, the Iowa caucuses yielded unexpectedly strong results for Democratic candidates John Kerry, who earned 38% of the state's delegates and John Edwards, who took 32%. Former front-runner Howard Dean slipped to 18% and third place, and Richard Gephardt finished fourth (11%). In the days leading up to the Iowa vote, there was much negative campaigning between the Dean and Gephardt camps.

The dismal results caused Gephardt to drop out and later endorse Kerry. What further hurt Dean was a speech he gave at a post-caucus rally. Dean was shouting over the cheers of his enthusiastic audience, but the crowd noise was being filtered out by his unidirectional microphone, leaving only his full-throated exhortations audible to the television viewers. To those at home, he seemed to raise his voice out of sheer emotion. The incessant replaying of the "Dean Scream" by the press became a debate on the topic of whether Dean was the victim of media bias. The scream scene was shown an estimated 633 times by cable and broadcast news networks in just four days following the incident, a number that does not include talk shows and local news broadcasts. However, those who were in the actual audience that day insist that they were not aware of the infamous "scream" until they returned to their hotel rooms and saw it on TV.

Kerry, on the other hand, had revived his campaign and began using the slogan "Comeback Kerry."

New Hampshire primary

On January 27, Kerry triumphed again, winning the New Hampshire primary. Dean finished second, Clark was third and Edwards placed fourth.

South Carolina primary

The following week, John Edwards won the South Carolina primary and finished a strong second in Oklahoma. After Howard Dean's withdrawal from the contest, Edwards became the only major challenger to Kerry for the Democratic nomination. However, Kerry continued to dominate and his support quickly snowballed as he won caucuses and primaries, taking in a string of wins in Michigan, Washington, Maine, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., Nevada, Wisconsin, Utah, Hawaii, and Idaho. Clark and Lieberman dropped out during this time, leaving only Sharpton, Kucinich, and Edwards in the running against Kerry.

Super Tuesday

In March's Super Tuesday, Kerry won decisive victories in the California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island primaries and the Minnesota caucuses. Dean, despite having withdrawn from the race two weeks earlier, won his home state of Vermont. Edwards finished only slightly behind Kerry in Georgia, but, failing to win a single state other than South Carolina, chose to withdraw from the presidential race.

Democratic National Convention

On July 6, John Kerry selected John Edwards as his running mate, shortly before the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, held later that month. Days before Kerry announced Edwards as his running mate, Kerry gave a short list of three candidates: Sen John Edwards, Rep Dick Gephardt, and Gov Tom Vilsack. Heading into the convention, the Kerry/Edwards ticket unveiled their new slogan—a promise to make America "stronger at home and more respected in the world." Kerry made his Vietnam War experience the prominent theme of the convention. In accepting the nomination, he began his speech with, "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty." He later delivered what may have been the speech's most memorable line when he said, "the future doesn't belong to fear, it belongs to freedom," a quote that later appeared in a Kerry/Edwards television advertisement.

General Election campaign


Bush focused his campaign on national security, presenting himself as a decisive leader and contrasted Kerry as a "flip-flopper." Bush's point was that Americans could trust him to be tough on terrorism while Kerry would be "uncertain in the face of danger." Bush also sought to portray Kerry as a "Massachusetts liberal" who was out of touch with mainstream Americans. One of Kerry's slogans was "Stronger at home, respected in the world." This advanced the suggestion that Kerry would pay more attention to domestic concerns; it also encapsulated Kerry's contention that Bush had alienated American allies by his foreign policy.

According to one exit poll, people who voted for Bush cited the issues of terrorism and moral values as the most important factors in their decision. Kerry supporters cited the war in Iraq, the economy and jobs, and health care.

Over the course of Bush's first term in office, his extremely high approval ratings immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks steadily dwindled, peaking only during combat operations in Iraq in the Spring of 2003, and again following the capture of Saddam Hussein in December the same year. Kerry supporters attempted to capitalize on the dwindling popularity to rally anti-war sentiment.

During August and September 2004, there was an intense focus on events that occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Bush was accused of failing to fulfill his required service in the Texas Air National Guard. However, the focus quickly shifted to the conduct of CBS News after they aired a segment on 60 Minutes Wednesday introducing what became known as the Killian documents. Serious doubts about the documents' authenticity quickly emerged, leading CBS to appoint a review panel that eventually resulted in the firing of the news producer and other significant staffing changes.

Meanwhile, Kerry was accused by the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, who averred that "phony war crimes charges, his exaggerated claims about his own service in Vietnam, and his deliberate misrepresentation of the nature and effectiveness of Swift boat operations compels us to step forward." The group challenged the legitimacy of each of the combat medals awarded to Kerry by the U.S. Navy, and the disposition of his discharge.

In the beginning of September, the successful Republican National Convention along with the allegations by Kerry's former mates gave Bush his first comfortable margin since Kerry had won the nomination.


Three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate were organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, and held in the autumn of 2004. As expected, these debates set the agenda for the final leg of the political contest. Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik and Green Party candidate David Cobb were arrested while trying to access the debates. Badnarik was attempting to serve papers to the Commission on Presidential Debates. Hagelin would be excluded from the debates, there was an proposal about letting him into the debate but the Kerry camp opposed this and Hagelin and Nader were excluded from the debates

The first debate was held on September 30 at the University of Miami, moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS. During the debate, slated to focus on foreign policy, Kerry accused Bush of having failed to gain international support for the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, saying the only countries assisting the USA during the invasion were the United Kingdom and Australia. Bush replied to this by saying, "Well, actually, he forgot Poland" (in an ironic turn of events, Poland announced plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq shortly after the debate). Later, a consensus formed among mainstream pollsters and pundits that Kerry won the debate decisively, strengthening what had come to be seen as a weak and troubled campaign. In the days after, coverage focused on Bush's apparent annoyance with Kerry and numerous scowls and negative facial expressions. On October 5, the Vice Presidential debate was held between Condoleeza Rice and John Edwards at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and was moderated by Gwen Ifill of PBS. An initial poll by ABC and CNN indicated a victory for Rice, while polls by MSNBC gave it to Edwards.

The second presidential debate was held at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri on October 8, moderated by Charles Gibson of ABC. Conducted in a "town meeting" format, less formal than the first Presidential debate, this debate saw Bush and Kerry taking questions on a variety of subjects from a local audience. Bush attempted to deflect criticism of what was described as his scowling demeanor during the first debate, joking at one point about one of Kerry's remarks, "That answer made me want to scowl."

Bush and Kerry met for the third and final debate at Arizona State University on October 13. 51 million viewers watched the debate which was moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS News. However, at the time of the ASU debate, there were 15.2 million viewers tuned in to watch the Major League Baseball playoffs broadcast simultaneously.


Results by state

# State Winner Delegates
1 Washington Kerry / Edwards 11
2 Oregon Kerry / Edwards 7
3 California Kerry / Edwards 54
4 Arizona Bush / Rice 8
5 Nevada Bush / Rice 4
6 New Mexico Kerry / Edwards 5
7 Colorado Bush / Rice 8
8 Utah Bush / Rice 5
9 Idaho Bush / Rice 4
10 Montana Bush / Rice 3
11 Wyoming Bush / Rice 3
12 North Dakota Bush / Rice 3
13 South Dakota Bush / Rice 3
14 Nebraska Bush / Rice 5
15 Kansas Bush / Rice 6
16 Oklahoma Bush / Rice 8
17 Texas Bush / Rice 32
18 Louisiana Bush / Rice 9
19 Arkansas Bush / Rice 6
20 Mississippi Bush / Rice 6
21 Alabama Bush / Rice 9
22 Georgia Bush / Rice 13
23 Florida Bush / Rice 25
24 South Carolina Bush / Rice 8
25 North Carolina Bush / Rice 14
26 Virginia Bush / Rice 13
27 Tennessee Bush / Rice 11
28 Kentucky Bush / Rice 8
29 West Virginia Bush / Rice 5
30 Ohio Bush / Rice 21
31 Indiana Bush / Rice 12
32 Illinois Kerry / Edwards 22
33 Michigan Kerry / Edwards 18
34 Wisconsin Bush / Rice 11
35 Minnesota Kerry / Edwards 10
36 Iowa Bush / Rice 7
37 Maine Kerry / Edwards 4
38 Vermont Kerry / Edwards 3
39 New Hampshire Bush / Rice 4
40 Massachusetts Kerry / Edwards 12
41 Rhode Island Kerry / Edwards 4
42 Connecticut Kerry / Edwards 7
43 New York Kerry / Edwards 33
44 Pennsylvania Bush / Rice 23
45 New Jersey Kerry / Edwards 15
46 Delaware Kerry / Edwards 3
47 Maryland Kerry / Edwards 10
48 Missouri Bush / Rice 11
49 Alaska Bush / Rice 3
50 Hawaii Kerry / Edwards 4
51 Washington D.C. Kerry / Edwards 3
52 Puerto Rico Bush / Rice 7
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