US History/2008 Vote

No Incumbent


The 22nd Amendment prevented George W. Bush from running for a third term as President, and Vice-President Dick Cheney declined to seek the presidency.[1] Thus, for the first time since 1928, there was no sitting president or vice-president running.[2] The public campaign began quite early, with a wide field of candidates jockeying for position for the primaries during 2007. The Iowa caucuses were on January 3, 2008[3], an early date which prompted other states to move up their primaries.[4][5]

Primary Season


Republican Primary

2008 Republican Primary results. Orange represents McCain wins, Red represents Mike Huckabee wins, and green represents states won by Mitt Romney.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Senator John McCain, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney led the early Republican field. Rudy Giuliani was mayor of NYC during 9/11, was seen as a strong choice in urban areas[6], and at one point had a 20 point lead.[7] Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson joined the race later. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee appeared to be in the lower tier, but eventually surged in polls.

Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses. Romney placed a disappointing second, while Thompson and McCain placed a distant third and fourth. Giuliani had not campaigned in Iowa, concentrating on other early states instead. Likely Giuliani supporters, however, increasingly looked elsewhere, especially to McCain. McCain won the New Hampshire primary; Romney placed second, but was steadily losing momentum. In a serious setback for Huckabee, McCain then won South Carolina. Giuliani still hoped to win the Florida primary, but quickly lost momentum and placed well behind McCain and Romney in Florida.[8] Giuliani then dropped out and endorsed McCain.

McCain had strong momentum after winning Florida, and secured enough delegates for the nomination on March 4.

John McCain

Arizona Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee.

Both McCain's grandfather and his father were Admirals in the United States Navy. McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958, becoming a naval aviator, flying attack aircraft from carriers during the Vietnam War. On his twenty-third bombing mission over North Vietnam later in 1967, he was shot down and badly injured. He then endured five and a half years as a prisoner of war, including periods of torture, before he was released following the Paris Peace Accords in 1973.

Retiring from the Navy in 1981 and moving to Arizona, McCain entered politics. In 1982 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona's 1st congressional district. After serving two terms, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986. He was re-elected in 1992, 1998, and 2004. While generally adhering to American conservatism, McCain established a reputation as a political maverick for his willingness to defy Republican orthodoxy on several issues. Surviving the Keating Five scandal of the 1980s, he made campaign finance reform one of his signature concerns, which eventually led to the passing of the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002.

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin and John McCain campaigning in Fairfax, Virginia.

Alaska governor Sarah Louise Heath Palin was chosen as McCain's running mate. She became the first female Vice Presidential candidate representing the Republican Party and the second female Vice Presidential candidate representing a major political party.

Palin was born in Idaho and raised in Alaska. In 1984, she was the runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant, receiving a scholarship that allowed her to attend the University of Idaho, where she received a degree in journalism. After working as a sports reporter at an Anchorage television station, Palin served two terms on the Wasilla, Alaska, City Council from 1992 to 1996, was elected mayor of Wasilla (population 5,470 in 2000) in 1996, and ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in 2002.

Palin was elected Governor of Alaska in 2006 on the theme of governmental reform, defeating incumbent governor Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary and former Democratic Alaskan governor Tony Knowles in the general election. She gained attention for publicizing ethical violations by state Republican Party leaders.

Democratic Primary

Obama walks on stage in Minnesota the night he won the Democratic nomination.

For the Democrats, New York Senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton was the decisive front-runner, but former North Carolina Senator John Edwards and Illinois Senator Barack Obama also generated enthusiasm, which they hoped would result in momentum as the primaries approached. Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson also pursued the nomination, but got little attention.

The Democratic Primary featured much more controversy and complexity than that of the Republicans. The Democratic Convention features unelected "superdelegates," who are party officials who may cast their vote for the candidate of their choice. In the early stages of the race, Senator Clinton held an overwhelming lead among superdelegates, while Senator Obama led the popular vote. This disparity, and the possibility that unelected officials could decide the outcome of the nomination was a point of contention among Democrats.

Additionally, the Democratic National Committee penalized the states of Michigan and Florida for changing their primary dates to be ahead of schedule. The DNC decided that the delegates from these states would not be seated at the Convention, effectively nullifying the votes of these states. Senator Clinton (who coincidentally won both states' vote) was a constant proponent of reversing this decision and allowing the delegates to be seated. Eventually a compromise was reached, and all of each states' delegates were allowed to vote, but they were only allowed half a vote each.

As the primary season wore on, the difference between the delegate count of Senators Obama and Clinton changed little. As other candidates dropped out and endorsed one of the two, it became clear that this primary would be a historic one- whether it be the first nomination of an African-American or a woman by a major party for the office of President of the United States. In the end, Senator Obama garnered enough delegates to secure the historic nomination, and he chose Senator Biden to be his running mate.

Joe Biden


Joe Biden had represented the state of Delaware in the United States Senate since 1972, when he was elected at the age of twenty-nine.

Illinois Senator Barack Obama

Election Controversy


The issues of caging lists and other techniques of voter suppression which gave rise to many 2004 United States election voting controversies have not been addressed by further legislation or a regulatory crackdown, and are predicted by Greg Palast (a reporter who has investigated these controversies) to recur to the extent that they could swing the result.

Voter list purges using unlawful criteria threaten election integrity in at least six swing states: Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina.

On October 5, 2008 the Republican Lt. Governor of Montana, John Bohlinger, accused the Montana Republican Party of vote caging to purge 6,000 voters from three counties which trend Democratic. These purges included decorated war veterans and active duty soldiers.

An allegation that the Republican Party in Michigan plans to challenge the eligibility of voters based on lists of foreclosed homes has led to a lawsuit from the Obama campaign and a letter from the House Judiciary Committee to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation.

Libertarian candidate Bob Barr filed a lawsuit in Texas petitioning to have Obama and McCain removed from the ballot in that state. The suit alleged that both the Republicans and Democrats missed the deadline to file, and were present on the ballot contrary to Texas election law. The Texas Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit without giving an explanation.

Voter Fraud


The liberal activist group ACORN came under fire for allegedly filing a few thousand fake voter registration forms in several states.[9] John McCain declared ACORN to be possibly trying to conduct a massive voter fraud campaign, and following the election a poll showed that over half of Republicans polled believed that ACORN stole the election.[10] A 2009 inquiry by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that ACORN had not filed any fraudulent ballots or committed financial fraud in the five year period leading up to the investigation, though some Republicans found the report unconvincing.[11] Shortly following the election controversy, edited videos were released showing ACORN members engaging in illegal activity.[12] Though the videos were shown to be intentionally edited to be misleading, the soured public opinion of ACORN ultimately caused the organization to fold.[12][13]

Obama wins

The 2008 Electoral College results.

On November 4, with 364 Electoral votes, Obama won the White House.

Barack Obama did more than thump John McCain in the Electoral College tally; he also handily won the popular vote and redrew the great divide between red states and blue states.

Riding a Democratic tide that bolstered the party's presence in both houses of Congress, Obama snared about 63 million votes to McCain's 55.8 million, according to early totals.

According to exit polls, Obama did well compared to McCain among women voters (56 percent to 43 percent); voters under 30 (66 percent to 32 percent); African-American voters (95 percent to 4 percent); Latino voters (66 percent to 32 percent); first-time voters (68 percent to 31 percent); and voters making less than $100,000 a year (55 percent to 43 percent).

"I think this is the passing of an old order," CNN senior political analyst David Gergen said as the results rolled in Tuesday night and the outcome became increasingly evident.

"I think what we see ... is a new coalition, a new order emerging. It isn't quite there, but with Barack Obama, for the first time, it's won. It is the Latino vote we just heard about. It is the bigger black vote that came out. Very importantly, it's the youth vote, the 18-to-29-year-old," said the Harvard University professor and former presidential adviser.


  1. "Next election may be first in 56 years without incumbent". Notre Dame News. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  2. "Historic Election 2008: For the Record Books" (in en). ABC News. Retrieved 21 September 2020. 
  3. "Say What?! The Iowa Caucus Explained" (in en). ABC News. Retrieved 21 September 2020. 
  4. Goodnough, Abby (4 May 2007). "Seeking an Edge, Florida Changes Its Primary Date". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 September 2020. 
  5. "Election Guide 2008 - Presidential Election - Politics - Republicans - The New York Times". Retrieved 22 September 2020. 
  6. Gabbatt, Adam (19 January 2020). "Rudy Giuliani once had a real chance of becoming president – and he blew it". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2020. 
  7. "Rudy Giuliani's 2008 campaign stratey is bound to go down in history as an utter disaster" (in en). the Guardian. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 22 September 2020. 
  8. Powell, Michael; Cooper, Michael (30 January 2008). "For Giuliani, a Dizzying Free-Fall". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 September 2020. 
  9. "Thousands of voter registration forms faked, officials say -". Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  10. "Analysis: Trump Not the First to Claim Voter Fraud Will Rig Elections" (in en). NBC News. Retrieved 21 September 2020. 
  11. Schwartz, John (23 December 2009). "Report Uncovers No Voting Fraud by Acorn". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 September 2020. 
  12. a b Dreier, Peter; Atlas, John (1 August 2012). "Lessons from The Right's Attacks on Acorn And Planned Parenthood". New Labor Forum. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  13. "In New Political Warfare, 'Armies Of Video Trackers' Swarm Candidates" (in en). Retrieved 21 September 2020. 

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