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United States presidential election, 2008

united states presidential election 2008 electoral map, united states presidential election 2008 candidates
George W Bush

Elected President

Barack Obama

The United States presidential election of 2008 was the 56th quadrennial presidential election It was held on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 Democratic Party nominee Senator Barack Obama and running mate Senator Joe Biden defeated Republican Party nominee Senator John McCain and running mate Governor Sarah Palin Barack Obama became the first African American ever to be elected president of the United States, and Joe Biden became the first Roman Catholic ever elected vice president

The incumbent president, George W Bush, of the Republican Party, was ineligible to be elected to a third term due to term limits in the Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution McCain secured the Republican nomination by March 2008, but the Democratic nomination was marked by a sharp contest between Obama and initial front-runner Senator Hillary Clinton, with Obama not securing the nomination until early June Early campaigning had focused heavily on the Iraq War and the unpopularity of outgoing Republican President George W Bush, but all candidates focused on domestic concerns as well, which grew more prominent as the economy experienced the onset of the Great Recession and a major financial crisis that peaked in September 2008

Obama would go on to win a decisive victory over McCain, winning both the popular vote and the electoral college, with 365 electoral votes to McCain's 173; he received the largest percentage of the popular vote for a Democrat since Lyndon B Johnson in 1964 Obama's successes in obtaining a major party's nomination and winning the general election were both firsts for the African American community Although Hillary Clinton did not win the Democratic nomination, she was the first woman to win a major American party's presidential primary for the purposes of delegate selection when she won the primary in New Hampshire on January 8 She later went on to win the Democratic nomination in 2016 She also was the first woman to be an American presidential candidate in every primary and caucus in every state Similarly, Sarah Palin became the first woman to appear on a Republican presidential ticket, and the second woman overall to appear on a major party's presidential ticket after Geraldine Ferraro in 1984

Obama's total vote amount of 695 million votes is the highest amount ever won by a presidential candidate The total of 131 million votes cast in the election represents over 43% of the total US population, the highest share of any presidential election in US history This was also the first election in which neither candidate was born in the contiguous United States Obama was born in Hawaii and McCain was born at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone


  • 1 Background
  • 2 Nominations
    • 21 Democratic Party nomination
      • 211 Candidate
      • 212 Withdrawn candidates
      • 213 Before the primaries
      • 214 Early primaries/caucuses
      • 215 Super Tuesday
      • 216 Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania
      • 217 Indiana and North Carolina
      • 218 Florida and Michigan
      • 219 Clinching the nomination
    • 22 Republican Party nomination
      • 221 Candidate
      • 222 Withdrawn candidates
      • 223 Before the primaries
      • 224 Early primaries/caucuses
      • 225 Super Tuesday
    • 23 Other nominations
      • 231 Candidates gallery
    • 24 Party conventions
  • 3 General election campaign
    • 31 Issues
      • 311 Iraq
      • 312 Bush's unpopularity
      • 313 Change vs experience
      • 314 Economy
      • 315 Health care
      • 316 Race
    • 32 Debates
    • 33 Campaign costs
      • 331 Expense summary
    • 34 Notable expressions and phrases
  • 4 Internet campaigns
    • 41 Fundraising
    • 42 Promotion
    • 43 News
  • 5 Controversies
    • 51 Voter suppression
    • 52 Media bias
  • 6 Conduct
    • 61 Turnout
    • 62 Ballot access
  • 7 Results
    • 71 Results by state
    • 72 Close states/districts
    • 73 International reaction
  • 8 Voter demographics
  • 9 Analysis
  • 10 See also
    • 101 Opinion polling
  • 11 Notes
  • 12 References
  • 13 Further reading
    • 131 Voters
  • 14 External links


Further information: United States presidential election § Procedure George W Bush, the incumbent president, whose term expired in January 2009

In 2004, President George W Bush won reelection, defeating the Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry After Republican pickups in the House and Senate in the 2004 elections, Republicans maintained control of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government

Bush's approval ratings had been slowly declining from their high point of almost 90% after the September 11 attacks, and they barely reached 50% by his reelection Although Bush was reelected with a larger Electoral College margin than in 2000, during his second term, Bush's approval rating dropped more quickly, with the Iraq War and the federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 being most detrimental to the public's perception of his job performance

By September 2006, Bush's approval rating was below 40%, and in the November United States Congressional elections 2006, Democrats gained the majority in both houses Bush's approval ratings dropped for the last two years in office to the 25–37% range


In the United States, there are two major political parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party There are also several minor parties, usually called third parties, though most media and public focus is on the two major parties

Each major party hosts candidates who go through a nomination process to determine the presidential nominee for that party The nomination process consists of primaries and caucuses, held by the 50 states, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, Washington, DC, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands The winner of each of these primary elections usually receives delegates proportional to the percentage of the popular vote that candidate received in each state In the Democratic Party, high-ranking party members known as superdelegates each receive one vote in the convention Whichever candidate has the majority of the delegates at the end of the primary elections is designated the presumptive nominee until he or she is formally nominated and endorsed for the presidency by his or her political party This is done by the aforementioned delegates for each party

Democratic Party nomination

Main articles: Democratic Party presidential primaries, 2008 and 2008 Democratic National Convention


Main article: Democratic Party presidential candidates, 2008
Democratic Party Ticket, 2008
Barack Obama Joe Biden
for President for Vice President
US Senator from Illinois
US Senator from Delaware

Withdrawn candidates

  • Hillary Clinton, US Senator from New York withdrew on June 7, 2008 and endorsed Barack Obama
  • John Edwards, former US Senator from North Carolina withdrew on January 30, 2008 and endorsed Barack Obama
  • Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico withdrew on January 10, 2008 and endorsed Barack Obama
  • Dennis Kucinich, US Representative from Ohio withdrew on January 24, 2008 and endorsed Barack Obama
  • Joe Biden, US Senator from Delaware withdrew on January 3, 2008 and endorsed Barack Obama
  • Mike Gravel, former US Senator from Alaska withdrew on March 25, 2008 to run for the Libertarian Party nomination After losing the nomination, he endorsed Jesse Johnson
  • Christopher Dodd, US Senator from Connecticut withdrew on January 3, 2008 and endorsed Barack Obama
  • Evan Bayh, US Senator from Indiana withdrew on December 15, 2007 and endorsed Hillary Clinton He later endorsed Barack Obama
  • Tom Vilsack, former Governor of Iowa withdrew on February 23, 2007 and endorsed Hillary Clinton He later endorsed Barack Obama

Before the primaries

Media speculation had begun almost immediately after the results of the 2004 presidential election became known In the 2006 midterm elections, the Democrats regained majorities in both houses of Congress Early polls taken before anyone had announced a candidacy had shown Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as the most popular potential Democratic candidates Nevertheless, the media speculated on several other candidates, including Al Gore, the runner-up in the 2000 election; John Kerry, the runner-up in the 2004 election; John Edwards, his running mate; Delaware Senator Joseph Biden; New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack; and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh

Edwards was one of the first to formally announce his candidacy for the presidency, on December 28, 2006 This run would be his second attempt at the presidency Clinton announced intentions to run in the Democratic primaries on January 20, 2007 Obama announced his candidacy on February 10 in his home state of Illinois None of the candidates received a significant bounce in their poll numbers after their official announcements Through most of 2007, even after it was evident Al Gore would not run, John Edwards and Al Gore each hovered between the third and fourth place spots in the polls behind Clinton and Obama

"Front-runner" status is dependent on the news agency reporting, and by October 2007, the consensus listed the three aforementioned candidates as leading the pack after several debate performances The Washington Post listed Clinton, Edwards and Obama as the front runners, "leading in polls and fundraising and well ahead of the other major candidates" Clinton led in nearly all nationwide opinion polling until January 2008

Comedian and eventual Late Show host Stephen Colbert mounted his own campaign for the nomination in his home state of South Carolina Colbert announced his run for president on his former talk show, The Colbert Report, on October 16, 2007 Public Opinion Strategies conducted a poll and found Colbert nationally in fifth place at 23% behind Joe Biden's 27%

Early primaries/caucuses

The early primaries and caucuses are considered the most critical of nomination process Most candidates lacking support drop out after doing poorly in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, and these states' results often shift national preferences, according to historical polling data The states that hold early primaries and caucuses are, chronologically, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina In 2008, Florida and Michigan moved their primaries into January against the Democratic Party's rules, and the results of these primaries were discounted and disputed until after the rest of the contests occurred

Early in the year, the support for Barack Obama began rising in the polls, and he passed Clinton for first place in Iowa; Obama ended up winning the Iowa caucus, with John Edwards coming in second and Clinton in third Obama's win was fueled mostly by first time caucus-goers and Independents and showed voters viewed him as the candidate of change Iowa is viewed as the state that jump-started Obama's campaign and set him on track to win the nomination and the presidency After the Iowa caucus, Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd withdrew from the nomination contest

Obama became the new front runner in New Hampshire when his poll numbers skyrocketed after his victory in Iowa The Clinton campaign was struggling after a bad loss in Iowa and no strategy beyond the early primaries and caucuses According to The Vancouver Sun, "Campaign strategists had mapped a victory scenario that envisioned the former first lady wrapping up the Democratic presidential nomination by Super Tuesday on Feb 5" In what is considered a turning point for her campaign, Clinton had a strong performance at the Saint Anselm College, ABC and Facebook debates several days before the New Hampshire primary as well as an emotional interview in a public broadcast live on TV Clinton won that primary by 2% of the vote, contrary to the predictions of pollsters who consistently had her trailing Obama for a few days up to the primary date Clinton's win was the first time a woman had ever won a major American party's presidential primary for the purposes of delegate selection

On January 30, 2008, after placing in third in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, Edwards announced that he was suspending his campaign for the presidency, but he did not initially endorse any remaining candidate

Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday occurred on February 5, 2008, during which the largest-ever number of simultaneous state primary elections was held Super Tuesday ended up leaving the Democrats in a virtual tie, with Obama amassing 847 delegates to Clinton's 834 from the 23 states that held Democratic primaries

Earlier, on February 3 on the UCLA campus, celebrities Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy and Stevie Wonder, among others, made appearances to show support for Barack Obama in a rally led by Michelle Obama In addition, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife at the time, Maria Shriver, endorsed Obama California was one of the Super Tuesday states that were rich in delegates Obama trailed in the California polling by an average of 60% before the primary; he ended up losing the state by 83% Some analysts cited a large Latino turnout that voted for Clinton as the deciding factor

Barack Obama campaigns in Akron, Ohio on February 23, 2008

Louisiana, Nebraska, Hawaii, Wisconsin, US Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia primaries and the Washington and Maine caucuses all took place after Super Tuesday in February Obama won all of them, giving him ten consecutive victories after Super Tuesday

Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania

On March 4, Hillary Clinton carried Ohio and Rhode Island in the Democratic primaries; some considered these wins, especially Ohio, a surprise upset by 10%, although she led in the polling averages in both states She also carried the primary in Texas, but Obama won the Texas caucuses held the same day and netted more delegates from the state than Clinton

Only one state held a primary in April This was Pennsylvania, on April 22 Although Obama made a strong effort to win Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton won the primary by nearly 10%, with approximately 55% of the vote Obama had outspent Clinton three to one in Pennsylvania, but his comment at a San Francisco fundraiser that small-town Americans "cling" to guns and religion drew sharp criticism from the Clinton campaign and may have hurt his chances in the Keystone State In addition, Clinton had several advantages in Pennsylvania Throughout the primary process, she relied on the support of older, white, working class voters Pennsylvania held a closed primary, which means that only registered Democrats could vote, and, according to Ron Elving of NPR, "The established Democratic electorate was older, whiter, more Catholic and more working-class than in most of the primaries to date" After Pennsylvania, Obama had a higher number of delegates and popular votes than Clinton did and was still in a stronger position to win the nomination Clinton, however, had received the endorsement of more superdelegates than Obama

Indiana and North Carolina

On May 6, North Carolina and Indiana held their Democratic presidential primaries Clinton and Obama campaigned aggressively there before the voting took place The candidates acknowledged the importance of these primaries and said they were turning point states that could make or break either of their campaigns Polling had shown Obama a few points ahead in North Carolina and Clinton similarly leading in Indiana In the actual results, Obama outperformed the polls by several points in both states, winning by a significant margin in North Carolina and losing by only 11% in Indiana 5056% to 4944% After these primaries, most pundits declared that it had become increasingly improbable, if not impossible, for Clinton to win the nomination The small win in Indiana barely kept her campaign alive for the next month Although she did manage to win the majority of the remaining primaries and delegates, it was not enough to overcome Obama's substantial delegate lead

Scandal surrounded the primary in Indiana because a Democratic State Committee member and county chair led a forgery ring to get all of the Democratic candidates on the ballot This Democratic State Committee member, Owen "Butch" Morgan was convicted of felonies regarding the forgeries and sentenced to a year in prison, community corrections, and probation

Florida and Michigan

During late 2007, the two parties adopted rules against states' moving their primaries to an earlier date in the year For the Republicans, the penalty for this violation was supposed to be the loss of half the state party's delegates to the convention The Democratic penalty was the complete exclusion from the national convention of delegates from states that broke these rules The Democratic Party allowed only four states to hold elections before February 5, 2008 Initially, the Democratic leadership said it would strip all delegates from Florida and Michigan, which had moved their primaries into January In addition, all major Democratic candidates agreed officially not to campaign in Florida or Michigan, and Edwards and Obama removed their names from the Michigan ballot Clinton won a majority of delegates and popular votes from both states though 40% voted uncommitted in Michigan and subsequently led a fight to seat all the Florida and Michigan delegates

Political columnist Christopher Weber noted that while her action was self-serving, it was also pragmatic to forestall Florida or Michigan voters becoming so disaffected they did not vote for Democrats in the general election There was some speculation that the fight over the delegates could last until the convention in August On May 31, 2008, the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic Party reached a compromise on the Florida and Michigan delegate situation The committee decided to seat delegates from Michigan and Florida at the convention in August, but to only award each a half-vote

Clinching the nomination

Clinton withdrew in June 2008, and endorsed Barack Obama She campaigned fiercely on Obama's behalf, stating to her fans: "I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me"

Technically the nomination process for major political parties continues through June of election year In previous cycles the candidates were effectively chosen by the end of the March primaries In this cycle, Barack Obama did not win enough delegates to secure the nomination until June 3, after a 17-month-long campaign against Hillary Clinton Obama had a wide lead in states won, while Clinton had won majorities in several of the larger states Because a form of proportional representation and popular vote decided Democratic state delegate contests, numbers were close between Clinton and Obama By May, Clinton claimed to hold a lead in the popular vote, but the Associated Press found her numbers accurate only in one close scenario

In June, after the last of the primaries had taken place, Obama secured the Democratic nomination for President, with the help of multiple super delegate endorsements most of the super delegates had refused to declare their support for either candidate until the primaries were completed He was the first African American to win the nomination of a major political party in the United States For several days, Clinton refused to concede the race, although she signaled her presidential campaign was ending in a post-primary speech on June 3 in her home state of New York She finally conceded the nomination to Obama on June 7 She pledged her full support to the presumptive nominee and vowed to do everything she could to help him get elected

Republican Party nomination

Main articles: Republican Party presidential primaries, 2008 and 2008 Republican National Convention

Not only was the 2008 election the first time since 1952 that neither the incumbent president nor the incumbent vice president was a candidate in the general election, but it was also the first time since the 1928 election that neither sought his party's nomination for president; as Bush was term-limited from seeking another nomination, the unique aspect was Vice President Cheney's decision not to seek the Republican nomination This left the Republican field just as open to a wide field of new candidates as the Democratic field


Main article: Republican Party presidential candidates, 2008
Republican Party Ticket, 2008
John McCain Sarah Palin
for President for Vice President
US Senator from Arizona
Governor of Alaska

Withdrawn candidates

  • Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts withdrew on February 7, 2008 and endorsed John McCain
  • Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas withdrew on March 4, 2008 and endorsed John McCain
  • Ron Paul, US Representative from Texas withdrew on June 12, 2008 and endorsed Chuck Baldwin
  • Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City withdrew on January 30, 2008 and endorsed John McCain
  • Fred Thompson, former US Senator from Tennessee withdrew on January 22, 2008 and endorsed John McCain
  • Alan Keyes, former US ECOSOC Ambassador from Maryland withdrew on April 15, 2008 to run for the Constitution Party nomination After losing that nomination, he ran as the America's Independent Party nominee
  • Duncan Hunter, US Representative from California withdrew on January 19, 2008 and endorsed Mike Huckabee He later endorsed John McCain
  • Tom Tancredo, US Representative from Colorado withdrew on December 20, 2007 and endorsed Mitt Romney He later endorsed John McCain
  • Sam Brownback, US Senator from Kansas withdrew on October 18, 2007 and endorsed John McCain
  • Tommy Thompson, former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services withdrew on August 12, 2007 and endorsed Rudy Giuliani He later endorsed John McCain
  • Jim Gilmore, former Governor of Virginia withdrew on July 14, 2007 and endorsed John McCain

Before the primaries

Immediately after the 2006 midterm elections, media pundits began speculating, as they did about the Democrats, about potential Republican candidates for President in 2008 In November 2006, Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani led in the polls, followed closely by Arizona Senator John McCain The media speculated that Giuliani's pro-choice stance on abortion and McCain's age and support of the unpopular Iraq War would be detriments to their candidacies Giuliani remained the frontrunner in the polls throughout most of 2007, with McCain and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson fighting for second place Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Giuliani, Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul announced their candidacies on January 28, February 5, February 13, and March 12, respectively McCain officially announced his candidacy on March 1, 2007, after several informal announcements In the third quarter of 2007, the top four GOP Republican fundraisers were Romney, Giuliani, Thompson, and Ron Paul MSNBC's Chuck Todd christened Giuliani and John McCain the front runners after the second Republican presidential debate in early 2007

Early primaries/caucuses

Huckabee, winner of Iowa, had little to no money and hoped for at least a third-place finish in New Hampshire McCain eventually displaced Rudy Giuliani and Romney as the front runner in New Hampshire McCain staged a turnaround victory, having been written off by the pundits and polling in single digits less than a month before the race

With the Republicans stripping Michigan and Florida of half their delegates for moving their primaries into January 2008 against party rules, the race for the nomination was based there McCain meanwhile managed a small victory over Huckabee in South Carolina, setting him up for a larger and more important victory over Romney in Florida, which held a closed primary on January 29 By this time, after several scandals, no success in the early primaries, and a third-place finish in Florida, Giuliani conceded from the nomination race and endorsed John McCain the next day

Super Tuesday

McCain was also endorsed in February by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before the California primary took place on Super Tuesday This gave him a significant boost in the polls for the state's primary, which awarded the greatest number of delegates of all the states On Super Tuesday, McCain won his home state of Arizona, taking all 53 delegates He also won nearly all of California's 173 delegates, the largest of the Super Tuesday prizes McCain also scored wins in seven other states, picking up 574 delegates Huckabee was the "surprise performer", winning 5 states and 218 delegates Romney won 7 states and 231 delegates Two days later, Romney suspended his presidential campaign, saying that if he stayed in the race, he would "forestall the launch of a national campaign and be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win" His departure left Huckabee and Paul as McCain's only major challengers in the remaining primaries and caucuses Romney endorsed McCain on February 14

Louisiana, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Washington held primaries in February after Super Tuesday Despite McCain picking up big victories, Huckabee won Louisiana and Kansas McCain narrowly carried the Washington caucuses over Huckabee and Paul, who amassed a large showing The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico closed February for the Republicans After Super Tuesday, John McCain had become the clear front runner, but by the end of February, he still had not acquired enough delegates to secure the nomination In March, John McCain clinched the Republican nomination after sweeping all four primaries, Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island, putting him over the top of the 1,191 delegates required to win the GOP nomination Mike Huckabee then conceded the race to McCain, leaving Ron Paul, who had just 16 delegates, as his only remaining opponent

Other nominations

Main article: United States third party and independent presidential candidates, 2008

Along with the Democratic and Republican parties, three other parties nominated candidates with ballot access in enough states to win the minimum 270 electoral votes needed to win the election These were the Constitution Party, the Green Party, and the Libertarian Party In addition, independent candidate Ralph Nader ran his own campaign

The Constitution Party nominated writer, pastor, and conservative talk show host Chuck Baldwin for President, and attorney Darrell Castle of Tennessee for Vice President While campaigning, Baldwin voiced his opposition to the Iraq war, the Sixteenth Amendment, Roe v Wade, the IRS, and the Federal Reserve

The Green Party nominated former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia for President, and political activist Rosa Clemente from New York for Vice President McKinney campaigned on a platform that supported single-payer universal health care, the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, reparations for African Americans, and the creation of a Department of Peace

The Libertarian Party nominated former Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia for President, and his former rival for the Libertarian nomination Wayne Allyn Root of Nevada, for Vice President During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barr advocated a reworking or abolition of the income tax and opposed the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act

Candidates gallery

Party conventions

Denver Saint Paul Kansas City Chicago Sites of the 2008 National Party Conventions
  • April 23–26, 2008: 2008 Constitution Party National Convention held in Kansas City, Missouri
  • May 23–26, 2008: 2008 Libertarian National Convention, held in Denver, Colorado
  • July 10–13, 2008: 2008 Green Party National Convention, held in Chicago, Illinois
  • August 25–28, 2008: 2008 Democratic National Convention, held in Denver, Colorado
  • September 1–4, 2008: 2008 Republican National Convention, held in Saint Paul, Minnesota

General election campaign

An issue in the election was Obama's possible, and then actual, nomination by the Democratic Party On August 28, 2008, when Obama formally accepted the Democratic nomination for President, he became the first African American to be nominated for President by a major political party The television audiences for both McCain's and Obama's acceptance speeches broke records, according to Nielsen ratings



The unpopular war in Iraq was a key issue during the campaign before the economic crisis John McCain supported the war while Barack Obama opposed it Obama's early and strong opposition to the war helped him stand out against the other Democratic candidates during the primaries, as well as stand out to a war-weary electorate during the general campaign Though McCain meant it as a peacetime presence like the United States maintained in Germany and Japan after World War II, his statement that the United States could be in Iraq for as much as the next 50 to 100 years would prove costly Obama used it against him as part of his strategy to tie him to the unpopular President Bush

John McCain's support for the troop 'surge' employed by General David Petraeus, which was one of several factors credited with improving the security situation in Iraq, may have boosted McCain's stance on the issue in voters' minds McCain who supported the invasion argued that his support for the successful surge showed his superior judgment However, Obama was quick to remind voters that there would have been no need for a "surge" had there been no war at all, thus questioning McCain's judgment

Bush's unpopularity

George W Bush had become increasingly unpopular by 2006 Polls consistently showed that his approval ratings among American voters had averaged around 30 percent In March 2008, Bush endorsed McCain at the White House, but Bush did not make a single appearance for McCain during the campaign Bush appeared at the 2008 GOP convention only through a live video broadcast He chose not to appear in person due to disaster events in the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav Although he supported the war in Iraq, McCain made an effort to show that he had disagreed with Bush on many other key issues such as climate change During the entire general election campaign, Obama countered by pointing out in ads and at numerous campaign rallies that McCain had claimed in an interview that he voted with Bush 90% of the time, and congressional voting records supported this for the years Bush was in office

Change vs experience

John McCain and Sarah Palin onstage with Todd Palin, Cindy McCain and Robert Duvall in Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 6, 2008

Before the Democratic primaries began, the dichotomy of change versus experience had already become a common theme in the presidential campaign, with Senator Hillary Clinton positioning herself as the candidate with experience and Obama embracing the characterization as the candidate most able to bring change to Washington Before the official launch of her campaign, aides for Clinton were already planning to position her as the 'change' candidate, as strategist Mark Penn made clear in an October 2006 memo titled "The Plan" In his presidential run announcement, Obama framed his candidacy by emphasizing that "Washington must change" In response to this, Clinton adopted her experience as a major campaign theme By early and mid-2007, polls regularly found voters identifying Clinton as the more experienced candidate and Obama as the "fresh" or "new" candidate Exit polls on Super Tuesday found that Obama won voters who thought that the ability to bring change was the most important quality in a candidate, who made up a majority of the Democratic electorate By a margin of about 2-1, Clinton was able to make up for this deficiency by an almost total domination among voters who thought experience was the most important quality These margins generally remained the same until Obama clinched the Democratic nomination on June 3

Similar to Senator Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign, one of the more widely leveled charges against McCain was the issue of his age—he turned 72 in August and there was widespread concern about the idea of electing a man who would be 80 years old if he completed two full terms in office the oldest president, Ronald Reagan, had been a month shy of 78 when he left office in January 1989 In addition, McCain suffered from the ill effects of his captivity in North Vietnam and reportedly had difficulty lifting his arms above his head His age in particular was considered a liability against the youthful Senator Obama, who was the first Generation Xer to run for president on a major party ticket McCain for comparison was born before World War II and belonged to the generation preceding the baby boomers Much like Bob Dole, McCain attempted to counter these charges by releasing all of his medical records, something Obama did not do McCain's wife Cindy dismissed concerns about his health by arguing that "We went hiking the Grand Canyon last summer and did great and had no trouble keeping up with us" McCain also appeared at several campaign stops with his still-active 95-year-old mother In a speech on the House floor, Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha criticized McCain's age by saying "Seven presidents have come and gone since I've been in Congress, and I saw the toll the job took on each one of them" If elected, McCain would have been the first, and only, President born in the decade of the 1930s

Like the Clinton campaign in 1996, Obama avoided discussing McCain's age directly, instead preferring to simply call his ideas and message "old" and "old hat" He also made a strong appeal to youth voters and back during his primary contest with Hillary Clinton, had stated "When I watched the feud between the Clintons and unfold during the 1990s, I was reminded of old quarrels started on college campuses long ago It's time for a new generation to take over" Obama's active use of a Blackberry and other modern technology also stood in contrast to the Arizona Senator's admission that he did not use a computer or a cell phone McCain's service in Vietnam, while marketable to baby boomers, was referred to as "unimportant" to younger voters

Obama campaigning as a symbol of change in Cleveland, Ohio with a "Change We Need" sign

Obama promised "universal health care, full employment, a green America, and an America respected instead of feared by its enemies"

He used new media to "form a bond with his supporters" which helped him "appeal to the youth audience's need to feel special, in-the-know, empowered and special" This was best displayed in his text message announcement of Joe Biden as the vice-presidential candidate He has also declared, in his book The Audacity of Hope, that he did not experience a religious upbringing Rather he developed his faith due to the church's ability to motivate social change Bowdern wrote, "This is best exemplified in his "50 state strategy", meaning that he campaigned in states that historically would never vote for a Democrat The 2008 presidential election saw a large youth turn out, up to 51%"

John McCain quickly adopted similar campaign themes against Obama at the start of the general election campaign Polls regularly found the general electorate as a whole divided more evenly between 'change' and 'experience' as candidate qualities than the Democratic primary electorate, which split in favor of 'change' by a nearly 2-1 margin Advantages for McCain and Obama on experience and the ability to bring change, respectively, remained steady through the November 4 election However, final pre-election polling found that voters considered Obama's inexperience less of an impediment than McCain's association with sitting President George W Bush, an association which was rhetorically framed by the Obama campaign throughout the election season as "more of the same"

McCain appeared to undercut his line of attack by picking first-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate Palin had been governor only since 2006, and before that had been a council member and mayor of Wasilla The choice of Palin was controversial, however it appeared to solve two pressing concerns—McCain's age and health since a youthful vice president would succeed him to office if he died or became incapacitated, and appealing to right-wing conservatives, a group that had been comparatively unmoved by McCain Palin also came off as more down-to-earth and relatable to average Americans than McCain, widely tarbrushed as a "Beltway insider" However, 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 In this regard, her inexperience was also a liability when McCain's age and health were factored in—there was a higher-than-normal probability of Palin succeeding to the presidency and many moderates and independents chafed at this idea "One 72 year old heartbeat away from the presidency" became a popular anti-GOP slogan Late night TV host David Letterman jokingly referred to Palin as resembling "a slutty flight attendant" and even Obama himself on a September 9 speech referred to the Alaska governor as "the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig" She also came under attack on everything from her 17-year-old daughter giving birth to a child out of wedlock to actively participating in hunting moose and other animals Because of Palin's conservative views, there was also concern that she would alienate independents and moderates, two groups that pundits observed McCain would need to win the election


Polls taken in the last few months of the presidential campaign and exit polls conducted on Election Day showed the economy as the top concern for voters In the fall of 2008, many news sources were reporting that the economy was suffering its most serious downturn since the Great Depression During this period, John McCain's election prospects fell with several politically costly comments about the economy

On August 20, John McCain said in an interview with Politico that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, owned; "I think—I'll have my staff get to you" Both on the stump and in Obama's political ad, "Seven", the gaffe was used to portray McCain as unable to relate to the concerns of ordinary Americans This out-of-touch image was further cultivated when, on September 15, the day of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, at a morning rally in Jacksonville, Florida, McCain declared that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," despite what he described as "tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street" With the perception among voters to the contrary, the comment appeared to cost McCain politically

On September 24, 2008, after the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, McCain announced that he was suspending his campaign to return to Washington to help craft a $700 billion bailout package for the troubled financial industry, and he stated that he would not debate Obama until Congress passed the bailout bill Despite this decision, McCain was portrayed as not playing a significant role in the negotiations for the first version of the bill, which fell short of passage in the House He eventually decided to attend the first presidential debate on September 26, despite Congress' lack of immediate action on the bill His ineffectiveness in the negotiations and his reversal in decision to attend the debates were seized upon to portray McCain as erratic in his response to the economy Days later, a second version of the original bailout bill was passed by both the House and Senate, with Obama, his vice presidential running mate Joe Biden, and McCain all voting for the measure Hillary Clinton would as well

All the aforementioned remarks and campaign issues hurt McCain's standing with voters All these also occurred after the economic crisis and after McCain's poll numbers had started to fall Although sound bites of all of these "missteps" were played repeatedly on national television, many pundits and analysts say that the actual financial crisis and economic conditions caused McCain's large drop in support in mid-September and severely damaged his campaign

Health care

John McCain's proposals focused on open-market competition rather than government funding or control At the heart of his plan were tax credits – $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families who do not subscribe to or do not have access to health care through their employer To help people who are denied coverage by insurance companies due to pre-existing conditions, McCain proposed working with states to create what he calls a "Guaranteed Access Plan"

Barack Obama called for universal health care His health care plan proposed creating a National Health Insurance Exchange that would include both private insurance plans and a Medicare-like government run option Coverage would be guaranteed regardless of health status, and premiums would not vary based on health status either It would have required parents to cover their children, but did not require adults to buy insurance

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the two plans had different philosophical focuses They described the purpose of the McCain plan as to "make insurance more affordable," while the purpose of the Obama plan was for "more people to have health insurance" The Des Moines Register characterized the plans similarly The Commonwealth Fund concluded that, compared with McCain's approach, Obama's plan could provide more people with affordable health insurance that covers essential services, achieve greater equity in access to care, realize efficiencies and cost savings in the provision of coverage and delivery of care, and redirect incentives to improve quality

Critics of McCain's plan argued that it would not significantly reduce the number of uninsured Americans, would increase costs, reduce consumer protections and lead to less generous benefit packages Critics of Obama's plan argued that it would increase federal regulation of private health insurance without addressing the underlying incentives behind rising health care spending Mark Pauly suggested that a combination of the two approaches would work better than either one alone

Various analyses of the two candidates' plans came to widely varying predictions of their costs and effects A comparison by The Tax Policy Center, a project of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute estimated that Obama's proposals could cost $16 trillion over 10 years, while the tax-related provisions of McCain's proposals could cost $13 trillion over the same period A comparison by The Lewin Group, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, published in October 2008, found that the McCain plan would reduce the number of uninsured by 211 million and cost $205 trillion over 10 years, while the Obama plan would reduce the uninsured by 266 million and increase federal spending by $117 trillion over the same period Estimates prepared by HSI Networks found that the McCain plan would reduce the uninsured by 275 million at an annual cost of $287 billion, and the Obama plan would reduce the uninsured by 255 million at an annual cost of $452 billion

A poll released in early November 2008 found that voters supporting Obama listed health care as their second priority; voters supporting McCain listed it as fourth, tied with the war in Iraq Affordability was the primary health care priority among both sets of voters Obama voters were more likely than McCain voters to believe government can do much about health care costs


In an October 17–20, 2008, NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of registered voters, 2% said race made them more likely to vote for Barack Obama, 4% said it made them less likely to do so, and 2% were not sure The other 92% of respondents said race was not a major factor in their vote margin of error was ±29%

A July 18–21, 2008, NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that 20% of African American registered voters and 8% of white registered voters considered race the single most important factor when voting margin of error was ±31% This percentage increased in both groups from previous polls

A June 6–9, 2008, NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that 17% were enthusiastic about Obama being the first African American president, 70% were comfortable or indifferent, and 13% had reservations or were uncomfortable margin of error was ±31%

Obama generally avoided racial issues in his campaign He would often place white people behind him when in a hall speaking to a large black group in order to avoid racial imagery On June 11, 2008, Fox News Channel used the phrase "Outraged liberals: Stop picking on Obama's baby mama" in an on screen graphic in a discussion as to whether US presidential candidate Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, was being unfairly criticized A senior vice president of programming at Fox said in a statement that a producer "exercised poor judgment" during the segment There were also attempts to interpret a fist tap as either a racial move, or a "terrorist fist jab"


Main article: United States presidential election debates, 2008

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced four debates:

  • September 26: The first presidential debate took place at the University of Mississippi The central issues debated were supposed to be foreign policy and national security However, due to the economic climate, some questions appeared on this topic The debate was formatted into nine nine-minute segments, and the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, introduced the topics
  • October 2: The vice-presidential debate was hosted at Washington University in St Louis, and was moderated by Gwen Ifill of PBS
  • October 7: The second presidential debate took place at Belmont University It was a town meeting format debate moderated by NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and addressed issues raised by members of the audience, particularly the economy
  • October 15: The third and final presidential debate was hosted at Hofstra University It focused on domestic and economic policy Like the first presidential debate, it was formatted into segments, with moderator Bob Schieffer introducing the topics

Another debate was sponsored by the Columbia University political union and took place there on October 19 All candidates who could theoretically win the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election were invited, and Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, and Chuck Baldwin agreed to attend Amy Goodman, principal host of Democracy Now!, moderated It was broadcast on cable by C-SPAN and on the Internet by Break-the-Matrix

Campaign costs

Main article: Fundraising for the 2008 United States presidential election

The reported cost of campaigning for president has increased significantly in recent years One source reported that if the costs for both Democratic and Republican campaigns were added together for the presidential primary election, general election, and the political conventions, the costs have more than doubled in only eight years $4489 million in 1996, $6495 million in 2000, and $101 billion in 2004 In January 2007, Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael E Toner estimated that the 2008 race would be a $1 billion election, and that to be taken seriously, a candidate would have needed to raise at least $100 million by the end of 2007

Although he had said he would not be running for president, published reports in 2007 indicated that billionaire and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg had been considering a presidential bid as an independent with up to $1 billion of his own fortune to finance it Bloomberg ultimately ended this speculation by unequivocally stating that he would not run

With the increase in money expenditures, many candidates did not use the public financing system funded by the presidential election campaign fund checkoff John McCain, Tom Tancredo, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden qualified for and elected to take public funds throughout the primary process Major Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama chose not to participate in the public financing system

Expense summary

According to required campaign filings as reported by the Federal Election Commission FEC, 148 candidates for all parties collectively raised $1,644,712,232 and spent $1,601,104,696 for the primary and general campaigns combined through November 24, 2008 The amounts raised and spent by the major candidates, according to the same source, were as follows:

Candidate Party Amount raised Amount spent Votes Average spent per vote
Barack Obama D $778,642,962 $760,370,195 69,498,516 $1094
John McCain R $379,006,485 $346,666,422 59,948,323 $578
Ralph Nader I $4,496,180 $4,187,628 739,034 $567
Bob Barr L $1,383,681 $1,345,202 523,715 $257
Chuck Baldwin C $261,673 $234,309 199,750 $117
Cynthia McKinney G $240,130 $238,968 161,797 $148
Excludes spending by independent expenditure concerns
Source: Federal Election Commission

Notable expressions and phrases

  • Drill, baby, drill: Republican self-described energy policy
  • Yes We Can: Obama's campaign slogan
  • That One: McCain's reference to Obama during the 2nd debate
  • Lipstick on a pig: Obama used this phrase to insinuate that any changes that McCain was advocating from the policies of George W Bush would only be slight modifications of Bush's policies but the underlying policies would be the same, and in Obama's opinion, bad Some Republicans called it sexism, claiming it was a reference to Sarah Palin, who cracked a joke during the Republican convention that the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick

Internet campaigns


See also: Grassroots fundraising

Howard Dean collected large contributions through the Internet in his 2004 primary run In 2008, candidates went even further to reach out to Internet users through their own sites and such sites as YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook

On December 16, 2007, Ron Paul collected $6 million, more money on a single day through Internet donations than any presidential candidate in US history


Not only did the Internet allow candidates to raise money, but also it gave them a tool to appeal to newer and younger demographics Political pundits were now evaluating candidates based on their social media following Senator Barack Obama's victory is credited to his competitive edge in social media and Internet following Obama had over 2 million American supporters on Facebook and 100,000 followers on Twitter, while McCain attracted only 600,000 Facebook supporters likes and 4,600 followers on Twitter Obama's YouTube channel held 115,000 subscribers and more than 97 million video views Obama had maintained a similar advantage over Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary

Obama's edge in social media was crucial to the election outcome According to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life project, 35 percent of Americans relied on online video for election news Ten percent of Americans used social networking sites to learn about the election The 2008 election showed huge increases in Internet use

Another study done after the election gave a lot of insight on young voters Thirty-seven percent of Americans ages 18–24 got election news from social networking sites Almost a quarter of Americans saw something about the election in an online video YouTube and other online video outlets allowed candidates to advertise in ways like never before The Republican Party in particular was criticized for not adequately using social media and other means to reach young voters

Social media allowed voters to share their voting experience On November 4, 2008 at 10:30 pm, 49 million Facebook users had already posted an announcement that they had voted, simply by checking a box on the site Various websites allowed voters to share concerns over voting malfunctions, ballot shortages and other problems Social media and the Internet provided a new and interactive voting experience

Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama created a broad popular movement and a new method of campaigning by courting and mobilizing activists, donations, and voters through the Internet It was part of a campaign that mobilized grassroots workers in every state Obama also set fundraising records in more than one month by gaining support from a record-breaking number of individual small donors

Anonymous and semi-anonymous smear campaigns, traditionally done with fliers and push calling, also spread to the Internet Organizations specializing in the production and distribution of viral material, such as Brave New Films, emerged; such organizations have been said to be having a growing influence on American politics


YouTube was considered to be a valuable asset for free advertising Joe Trippi, the manager of Howard Dean's presidential campaign, claimed that Obama's YouTube campaign material was watched for 145 million hours, a viewing that would have cost $47 million for broadcast television YouTube and other online video outlets allowed candidates to advertise in ways like never before

The percentage of Americans who regularly rely on the Internet for campaign news almost doubled 13 to 24 percent from 2004 to 2008, according to a 2008 study from the Pew Research Center Americans who relied on traditional news sources rate was either stagnant or declining

A 2011 study by Ad Age magazine shows that 39 percent of voting-age social media users repost and share political messages The study also recorded 1/3 of Facebook friends opening video or article links The 2008 election was a catalyst for Internet use in American politics Jay Samit, a writer at Ad Age magazine, predicted the 2012 election to be "the most participatory election in our nation's history" because of social media


Voter suppression

Some pre-election controversies in the election revolved around challenges to voter registration lists, involving techniques such as caging lists alleged to constitute voter suppression

Allegations of voter list purges using unlawful criteria caused controversy 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 Allegations arose in Michigan that the Republican Party planned to challenge the eligibility of voters based on lists of foreclosed homes The campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama filed a lawsuit challenging this The House Judiciary Committee wrote to the Department of Justice requesting an investigation

Virginia election authorities were ordered by a federal judge to preserve late-arriving absentee ballots sent by active-duty military personnel following a suit by the McCain campaign It alleged that the state sent absentee ballots late to service members According to federal law, absentee ballots must be mailed to troops in foreign countries at least 45 days before an election The charge against Virginia was that the ballots were not printed until after the deadline and therefore were mailed late to soldiers abroad

Guam's 173,000 residents are US citizens, and must obey US laws passed in Washington, yet they have neither a voting member of Congress, nor votes in the Electoral College Since 1980, they have held a straw poll for president at the same time as the US national elections In 2007, Guam's legislature voted to move the straw poll up to September to draw attention to the choices of Guam's population and their continued disfranchisement, but the governor vetoed the bill Obama won the 2008 Guam straw poll with 20,120 votes to McCain's 11,940

Libertarian candidate Bob Barr filed a lawsuit in Texas to have Obama and McCain removed from the ballot in that state His campaign alleged that both the candidates had missed the August 26 deadline to file, and were present on the ballot contrary to Texas election law Neither Obama, or McCain at the time of the deadline had been confirmed as the candidate for their respective parties The Texas Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit without explanation

In Ohio, identified by both parties as a key state, allegations surfaced from both Republicans and Democrats that individuals from out of state were moving to the state temporarily and attempting to vote despite not meeting the state's requirement of permanent residency for more than 29 days The Franklin County Board of Elections referred 55 cases of possible voting irregularities to the local prosecutor Three groups attracted particular notice: 'Vote from Home,' 'Vote Today Ohio,' and 'Drop Everything and Come to Ohio' Vote from Home attracted the most attention when thirteen of the group's members moved to the same location in eastern Columbus Members of the group organized by Marc Gustafson, including several Marshall and Rhodes scholars studying at Oxford University, settled with Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien to have their challenged ballots withdrawn The Obama campaign and others alleged that members of the McCain campaign had also voted without properly establishing residency Since 1953, only six people in Ohio have gone to prison for illegal voting

Media bias

Republicans and independents leveled significant criticism at media outlets' coverage of the presidential election season An October 22, 2008 Pew Research Center poll estimated 70% of registered voters believed journalists wanted Barack Obama to win the election, as opposed to 9% for John McCain Another Pew survey, conducted after the election, found that 67% of voters thought that the press fairly covered Obama, versus 30% who viewed the coverage as unfair Regarding McCain, 53% of voters viewed his press coverage as fair versus 44% who characterized it as unfair Among affiliated Democrats, 83% believed the press fairly covered Obama; just 22% of Republicans thought the press was fair to McCain

At the February debate, Tim Russert of NBC News was criticized for what some perceived as disproportionately tough questioning of Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton Among the questions, Russert had asked Clinton, but not Obama, to provide the name of the new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev This was later parodied on Saturday Night Live In October 2007, liberal commentators accused Russert of harassing Clinton over the issue of supporting drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants

On April 16, ABC News hosted a debate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Moderators Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos were criticized by viewers, bloggers and media critics for the poor quality of their questions Many viewers said they considered some of the questions irrelevant when measured against the importance of the faltering economy or the Iraq war Included in that category were continued questions about Obama's former pastor, Senator Hillary Clinton's assertion that she had to duck sniper fire in Bosnia more than a decade ago, and Senator Obama's not wearing an American flag pin The moderators focused on campaign gaffes and some believed they focused too much on Obama Stephanopoulos defended their performance, saying "Senator Obama was the front-runner" and the questions were "not inappropriate or irrelevant at all"

In an op-ed published on April 27, 2008 in The New York Times, Elizabeth Edwards wrote that the media covered much more of "the rancor of the campaign" and "amount of money spent" than "the candidates' priorities, policies and principles" Author Erica Jong commented that "our press has become a sea of triviality, meanness and irrelevant chatter" A Gallup poll released on May 29, 2008 also estimated that more Americans felt the media was being harder on Hillary Clinton than they were towards Barack Obama Time Magazine columnist Mark Halperin stated that the media during the 2008 election had a "blind, almost slavish" worship of Obama

The Project for Excellence in Journalism and Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy conducted a study of 5,374 media narratives and assertions about the presidential candidates from January 1 through March 9, 2008 The study found that Obama received 69% favorable coverage and Clinton received 67%, compared to only 43% favorable media coverage of McCain Another study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University found the media coverage of Obama to be 72% negative from June 8 to July 21 compared to 57% negative for McCain An October 29 study found 29% of stories about Obama to be negative, compared to 57% of stories about McCain being negative


Final poll closing times on Election Day   7PM EST 6   7:30PM EST 3   8PM EST 15+DC   8:30PM EST 1   9PM EST 15   10PM EST 4   11PM EST 5   1AM EST 1

Election Day was on November 4, 2008 The majority of states allowed early voting, with all states allowing some form of absentee voting Voters cast votes for listed presidential candidates but were actually selecting representatives for their state's Electoral College slate

A McCain victory quickly became improbable as Obama amassed early wins in his home state of Illinois, the Northeast, and the critical battleground states of Ohio which no Republican has ever been elected President without winning and Pennsylvania by 9:30 PM Eastern Standard Time Obama won the entire Northeast by comfortable margins and the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota by double digits McCain held on to traditionally Republican states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and his home state of Arizona McCain, unlike Bush in 2000 and 2004, failed to win all the southern states: Obama won Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia Obama also won the hotly contested states of Iowa and New Mexico, which Al Gore had won in 2000 and George W Bush in 2004 Also, for only the second time since 1940 1964 being the other, Indiana went Democratic, giving Obama all eight Great Lakes states, the first time a presidential candidate had won all of them since Richard Nixon in 1972

CNN and Fox News called Virginia for Obama shortly before 11:00 PM, leaving him only 50 electoral votes shy of victory with only six West Coast states California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, and Hawaii still voting All American networks called the election in favor of Obama at 11:00 PM as the polls closed on the West Coast Obama was immediately declared the winner in California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii, McCain won Idaho, and the Electoral College totals were updated to 297 for Obama and 146 for McCain 270 are needed to win McCain gave a concession speech half an hour later in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona Obama appeared just before midnight Eastern Time in Grant Park, Chicago, in front of a crowd of 250,000 people to deliver his victory speech

Cartogram of the Electoral Votes for 2008 United States presidential election, each square representing one electoral vote The map shows the impact of winning swing states Nebraska, being one of two states that are not winner-take-all, for the first time had its votes split, with its second congressional district voting for Obama

Following Obama's speech, spontaneous street parties broke out in cities across the United States including Philadelphia, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles, Portland, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta, Madison, and New York City and around the world in London; Bonn; Berlin; Obama, Japan; Toronto; Rio de Janeiro; Sydney; and Nairobi

Later on election night, after Obama was named the winner, he picked up several more wins in swing states in which the polls had shown a close race These included Florida, Indiana, Virginia, and the western states of Colorado and Nevada All of these states had been carried by Bush in 2004 North Carolina and the bellwether state of Missouri remained undecided for several days Eventually Obama was declared the winner in North Carolina and McCain in Missouri, with Obama pulling out a rare win in Nebraska's 2nd congressional district This put the projected electoral vote count at 365 for Obama and 173 for McCain Obama's victories in the populous swing states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia contributed to his decisive win The presidential electors cast their ballots for President and Vice President, and Congress tallied these votes on January 8, 2009


An Obama sign displayed at a home in Arlington, VA, on November 1, 2008

The voter turnout for this election was broadly predicted to be high by American standards, and a record number of votes were cast The final tally of total votes counted was 1313 million, compared to 1223 million in 2004 which also boasted the highest record since 1968, the last presidential election before the voting age was lowered to 18 Expressed as a percentage of eligible voters, 1312 million votes could reflect a turnout as high as 630% of eligible voters, which would be the highest since 1960 This 630% turnout rate is based on an estimated eligible voter population of 208,323,000 Another estimate puts the eligible voter population at 213,313,508, resulting in a turnout rate of 616%, which would be the highest turnout rate since 1968

Broken down by age group, voters under 35 voted for Obama by a large majority with McCain most popular among voters over 60 Voters between 35 and 59 were nearly split 50/50 between the two candidates

American University's Center for the Study of the American Electorate released a report on November 6, 2008, two days after the election, which concluded that the anticipated increase in turnout had failed to materialize That report was the basis for some news articles that indicated voter turnout failed to meet expectations When the remaining votes were counted after the release of the report, the total number of votes cast in the presidential election was raised to 1312 million, which surpassed the American University report's preliminary estimate of 1265 to 1285 million voters by a factor of between 2% and 4%

The election saw increased participation from African Americans, who made up 111% of the electorate in 2004, versus 130% in 2008 According to exit polls, over 95% of African Americans voted for Obama This played a critical role in Southern states such as North Carolina 74% of North Carolina's registered African American voters turned out, as opposed to 69% of North Carolinians in general, with Obama carrying 100% with rounding of African-American females and African Americans age 18 to 29, according to exit polling This was the case in Virginia as well where much higher turnout among African Americans propelled Obama to victory in the former Republican stronghold Even in southern states where Obama was unsuccessful, such as Georgia and Mississippi, due to large African American turnout he was much more competitive than John Kerry in 2004

Ballot access

Presidential ticket Party Ballot access Votes
Obama / Biden Democratic 50+DC 69,498,516
McCain / Palin Republican 50+DC 59,948,323
Nader / Gonzalez Independent 45+DC 739,034
Barr / Root Libertarian 45 523,715
Baldwin / Castle Constitution 37 199,750
McKinney / Clemente Green 32 + DC 161,797
Others—total see below 242,685

No other candidate had ballot access in enough states to win 270 electoral votes All six candidates appeared on the ballot for a majority of the voters, while the 17 other listed candidates were available to no more than 30% of the voters

The following candidates and/or parties had ballot listing and/or write-in status in more than one state:

  • Alan Keyes America's Independent Party received 47,746 votes; listed in three states: Colorado and Florida, plus California listed as American Independent, and also had write-in status in Kentucky, Ohio, Texas, and Utah
  • Ron Paul received 42,426 votes; listed in Louisiana Louisiana Taxpayers and in Montana Constitution, with write-in status in California
  • Gloria La Riva Party for Socialism and Liberation received 6,808 votes nationally; listed in 12 states: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin
  • Brian Moore Socialist Party, see Brian Moore presidential campaign, 2008 received 6,538 votes; listed in eight states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Jersey, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and Tennessee independent and Vermont Liberty Union He also filed for write-in status in 17 other states: Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming
  • Róger Calero Socialist Workers Party received 5,151 votes; listed in ten states He was listed by name in Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont James Harris was listed as his stand-in in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, and Washington, and also had write-in status in California
  • Charles Jay Boston Tea Party received 2,422 votes; listed in Colorado and Florida, and in Tennessee as independent, with write-in status in Arizona, Montana, and Utah
  • Tom Stevens Objectivist received 755 votes; listed in Colorado and Florida
  • Gene Amondson Prohibition received 653 votes; listed in Colorado, Florida, and Louisiana
  • Jonathan Allen HeartQuake received 483 votes; listed only in Colorado, with write-in status in Arizona, Georgia, Montana, Texas, and other states

The following candidates parties were listed on the ballot in only one state:

  • Richard Duncan Independent – Ohio; 3,905 votes
  • John Joseph Polachek New Party Illinois; 1,149 votes
  • Frank McEnulty New American Independent – Colorado listed as unaffiliated; 829 votes
  • Jeffrey Wamboldt We the People – Wisconsin; 764 votes
  • Jeffrey Boss Vote Here Party – New Jersey; 639 votes
  • George Phillies – New Hampshire also listed with the label Libertarian; 531 votes
  • Ted Weill Reform – Mississippi; 481 votes
  • Bradford Lyttle US Pacifist – Colorado; 110 votes

In Nevada, 6,267 votes were cast for "None Of These Candidates" In the three states that officially keep track of "blank" votes for President, 103,193 votes were recorded as "blank" More than 100,000 write-in votes were cast and recorded for a scattering of other candidates, including 62 votes for "Santa Claus" in ten states and 11 votes for "Mickey Mouse" in five states

According to the Federal Election Commission, an unusually high number of "miscellaneous" write-ins were cast for president in 2008, including 112,597 tallied in the 17 states that record votes for non-listed candidates There were more presidential candidates on the ballot than at any other time in U S history, except for the 1992 election, which also had 23 candidates listed in at least one state


Popular vote totals are from the official Federal Election Commission report The results of the electoral vote were certified by Congress on January 8, 2009

Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote Electoral
Running mate
Count Pct Vice-presidential candidate Home state Elect vote
Barack Obama Democratic Illinois 69,498,516 5293% 365 Joe Biden Delaware 365
John McCain Republican Arizona 59,948,323 4565% 173 Sarah Palin Alaska 173
Ralph Nader Independent Connecticut 739,034 056% 0 Matt Gonzalez California 0
Bob Barr Libertarian Georgia 523,715 040% 0 Wayne Allyn Root Nevada 0
Chuck Baldwin Constitution Florida 199,750 015% 0 Darrell Castle Tennessee 0
Cynthia McKinney Green Georgia 161,797 012% 0 Rosa Clemente North Carolina 0
Other 242,685 018% Other
Total 131,313,820 100% 538 538
Needed to win 270 270
Popular vote
Obama    5293%
McCain    4565%
Nader    056%
Barr    040%
Baldwin    015%
McKinney    012%
Others    018%
Electoral vote
Obama    6784%
McCain    3216%

Results by state

Further information: United States presidential election: The popular vote on Election Day

The following table records the official vote tallies for each state for those presidential candidates who were listed on ballots in enough states to have a theoretical chance for a majority in the Electoral College State popular vote results are from the official Federal Election Commission report The column labeled "Margin" shows Obama's margin of victory over McCain the margin is negative for states and districts won by McCain

States/districts won by Obama/Biden
States/districts won by McCain/Palin
Barack Obama
John McCain
Ralph Nader
Bob Barr
Chuck Baldwin
Cynthia McKinney
Others Margin State Total
State #  % #  % #  % #  % #  % #  % #  % #  % Alabama 9 813,479 3874% - 1,266,546 6032% 9 6,788 032% - 4,991 024% - 4,310 021% - 0 000% - 3,705 018% - -453,067 -2158% 2,099,819 AL
Alaska 3 123,594 3789% - 193,841 5942% 3 3,783 116% - 1,589 049% - 1,660 051% - 0 000% - 1,730 053% - -70,247 -2154% 326,197 AK
Arizona 10 1,034,707 4512% - 1,230,111 5364% 10 11,301 049% - 12,555 055% - 1,371 006% - 3,406 015% - 24 000% - -195,404 -852% 2,293,475 AZ
Arkansas 6 422,310 3886% - 638,017 5872% 6 12,882 119% - 4,776 044% - 4,023 037% - 3,470 032% - 1,139 010% - -215,707 -1985% 1,086,617 AR
California 55 8,274,473 6101% 55 5,011,781 3695% - 108,381 080% - 67,582 050% - 3,145 002% - 38,774 029% - 57,764 043% - 3,262,692 2406% 13,561,900 CA
Colorado 9 1,288,633 5366% 9 1,073,629 4471% - 13,352 056% - 10,898 045% - 6,233 026% - 2,822 012% - 5,895 025% - 215,004 895% 2,401,462 CO
Connecticut 7 997,772 6059% 7 629,428 3822% - 19,162 116% - 0 000% - 311 002% - 90 001% - 34 000% - 368,344 2237% 1,646,797 CT
Delaware 3 255,459 6194% 3 152,374 3695% - 2,401 058% - 1,109 027% - 626 015% - 385 009% - 58 001% - 103,085 2500% 412,412 DE
District of Columbia 3 245,800 9246% 3 17,367 653% - 958 036% - 0 000% - 0 000% - 590 022% - 1,138 043% - 228,433 8592% 265,853 DC
Florida 27 4,282,074 5103% 27 4,045,624 4822% - 28,124 034% - 17,218 021% - 7,915 009% - 2,887 003% - 6,902 008% - 236,450 282% 8,390,744 FL
Georgia 15 1,844,123 4699% - 2,048,759 5220% 15 1,158 003% - 28,731 073% - 1,402 004% - 250 001% - 63 000% - -204,636 -521% 3,924,486 GA
Hawaii 4 325,871 7185% 4 120,566 2658% - 3,825 084% - 1,314 029% - 1,013 022% - 979 022% - 0 000% - 205,305 4526% 453,568 HI
Idaho 4 236,440 3609% - 403,012 6152% 4 7,175 110% - 3,658 056% - 4,747 072% - 39 001% - 51 001% - -166,572 -2543% 655,122 ID
Illinois 21 3,419,348 6192% 21 2,031,179 3678% - 30,948 056% - 19,642 036% - 8,256 015% - 11,838 021% - 1,160 002% - 1,388,169 2514% 5,522,371 IL
Indiana 11 1,374,039 4995% 11 1,345,648 4891% - 909 003% - 29,257 106% - 1,024 004% - 87 000% - 90 000% - 28,391 103% 2,751,054 IN
Iowa 7 828,940 5393% 7 682,379 4439% - 8,014 052% - 4,590 030% - 4,445 029% - 1,423 009% - 7,332 048% - 146,561 953% 1,537,123 IA
Kansas 6 514,765 4165% - 699,655 5661% 6 10,527 085% - 6,706 054% - 4,148 034% - 35 000% - 36 000% - -184,890 -1496% 1,235,872 KS
Kentucky 8 751,985 4117% - 1,048,462 5740% 8 15,378 084% - 5,989 033% - 4,694 026% - 0 000% - 112 001% - -296,477 -1623% 1,826,620 KY
Louisiana 9 782,989 3993% - 1,148,275 5856% 9 6,997 036% - 0 000% - 2,581 013% - 9,187 047% - 10,732 055% - -365,286 -1863% 1,960,761 LA
Maine★ 4 421,923 5771% 4 295,273 4038% - 10,636 145% - 251 003% - 177 002% - 2,900 040% - 3 000% - 126,650 1732% 731,163 ME
Maryland 10 1,629,467 6192% 10 959,862 3647% - 14,713 056% - 9,842 037% - 3,760 014% - 4,747 018% - 9,205 035% - 669,605 2544% 2,631,596 MD
Massachusetts 12 1,904,097 6180% 12 1,108,854 3599% - 28,841 094% - 13,189 043% - 4,971 016% - 6,550 021% - 14,483 047% - 795,243 2581% 3,080,985 MA
Michigan 17 2,872,579 5743% 17 2,048,639 4096% - 33,085 066% - 23,716 047% - 14,685 029% - 8,892 018% - 170 000% - 823,940 1647% 5,001,766 MI
Minnesota 10 1,573,354 5406% 10 1,275,409 4382% - 30,152 104% - 9,174 032% - 6,787 023% - 5,174 018% - 10,319 035% - 297,945 1024% 2,910,369 MN
Mississippi 6 554,662 4300% - 724,597 5618% 6 4,011 031% - 2,529 020% - 2,551 020% - 1,034 008% - 481 004% - -169,935 -1317% 1,289,865 MS
Missouri 11 1,441,911 4929% - 1,445,814 4943% 11 17,813 061% - 11,386 039% - 8,201 028% - 80 000% - 0 000% - -3,903 -013% 2,925,205 MO
Montana 3 231,667 4725% - 242,763 4951% 3 3,686 075% - 1,355 028% - 143 003% - 23 000% - 10,665 218% - -11,096 -226% 490,302 MT
Nebraska★ 5 333,319 4160% 1 452,979 5653% 4 5,406 067% - 2,740 034% - 2,972 037% - 1,028 013% - 2,837 035% - -119,660 -1493% 801,281 NE
Nevada 5 533,736 5515% 5 412,827 4265% - 6,150 064% - 4,263 044% - 3,194 033% - 1,411 015% - 6,267 065% - 120,909 1249% 967,848 NV
New Hampshire 4 384,826 5413% 4 316,534 4452% - 3,503 049% - 2,217 031% - 226 003% - 40 001% - 3,624 051% - 68,292 961% 710,970 NH
New Jersey 15 2,215,422 5727% 15 1,613,207 4170% - 21,298 055% - 8,441 022% - 3,956 010% - 3,636 009% - 2,277 006% - 602,215 1557% 3,868,237 NJ
New Mexico 5 472,422 5691% 5 346,832 4178% - 5,327 064% - 2,428 029% - 1,597 019% - 1,552 019% - 0 000% - 125,590 1513% 830,158 NM
New York 31 4,804,945 6288% 31 2,752,771 3603% - 41,249 054% - 19,596 026% - 634 001% - 12,801 017% - 8,935 012% - 2,052,174 2686% 7,640,931 NY
North Carolina 15 2,142,651 4970% 15 2,128,474 4938% - 1,448 003% - 25,722 060% - 0 000% - 158 000% - 12,336 029% - 14,177 033% 4,310,789 NC
North Dakota 3 141,278 4462% - 168,601 5325% 3 4,189 132% - 1,354 043% - 1,199 038% - 0 000% - 0 000% - -27,323 -863% 316,621 ND
Ohio 20 2,940,044 5150% 20 2,677,820 4691% - 42,337 074% - 19,917 035% - 12,565 022% - 8,518 015% - 7,149 013% - 262,224 459% 5,708,350 OH
Oklahoma 7 502,496 3435% - 960,165 6565% 7 0 000% - 0 000% - 0 000% - 0 000% - 0 000% - -457,669 -3129% 1,462,661 OK
Oregon 7 1,037,291 5675% 7 738,475 4040% - 18,614 102% - 7,635 042% - 7,693 042% - 4,543 025% - 13,613 074% - 298,816 1635% 1,827,864 OR
Pennsylvania 21 3,276,363 5449% 21 2,655,885 4417% - 42,977 071% - 19,912 033% - 1,092 002% - 0 000% - 17,043 028% - 620,478 1032% 6,013,272 PA
Rhode Island 4 296,571 6286% 4 165,391 3506% - 4,829 102% - 1,382 029% - 675 014% - 797 017% - 2,121 045% - 131,180 2781% 471,766 RI
South Carolina 8 862,449 4490% - 1,034,896 5387% 8 5,053 026% - 7,283 038% - 6,827 036% - 4,461 023% - 0 000% - -172,447 -898% 1,920,969 SC
South Dakota 3 170,924 4475% - 203,054 5316% 3 4,267 112% - 1,835 048% - 1,895 050% - 0 000% - 0 000% - -32,130 -841% 381,975 SD
Tennessee 11 1,087,437 4183% - 1,479,178 5690% 11 11,560 044% - 8,547 033% - 8,191 032% - 2,499 010% - 2,337 009% - -391,741 -1507% 2,599,749 TN
Texas 34 3,528,633 4368% - 4,479,328 5545% 34 5,751 007% - 56,116 069% - 5,708 007% - 909 001% - 1,350 002% - -950,695 -1177% 8,077,795 TX
Utah 5 327,670 3441% - 596,030 6258% 5 8,416 088% - 6,966 073% - 12,012 126% - 982 010% - 294 003% - -268,360 -2818% 952,370 UT
Vermont 3 219,262 6746% 3 98,974 3045% - 3,339 103% - 1,067 033% - 500 015% - 66 002% - 1,838 057% - 120,288 3701% 325,046 VT
Virginia 13 1,959,532 5263% 13 1,725,005 4633% - 11,483 031% - 11,067 030% - 7,474 020% - 2,344 006% - 6,355 017% - 234,527 630% 3,723,260 VA
Washington 11 1,750,848 5765% 11 1,229,216 4048% - 29,489 097% - 12,728 042% - 9,432 031% - 3,819 013% - 1,346 004% - 521,632 1718% 3,036,878 WA
West Virginia 5 303,857 4259% - 397,466 5571% 5 7,219 101% - 0 000% - 2,465 035% - 2,355 033% - 89 001% - -93,609 -1312% 713,451 WV
Wisconsin 10 1,677,211 5622% 10 1,262,393 4231% - 17,605 059% - 8,858 030% - 5,072 017% - 4,216 014% - 8,062 027% - 414,818 1390% 2,983,417 WI
Wyoming 3 82,868 3254% - 164,958 6478% 3 2,525 099% - 1,594 063% - 1,192 047% - 0 000% - 1,521 060% - -82,090 -3224% 254,658 WY
US Total 538 69,498,516 5293% 365 59,948,323 4565% 173 739,034 056% - 523,715 040% - 199,750 015% - 161,797 012% - 242,685 018% - 9,550,193 727% 131,313,820 US

★Maine and Nebraska each allow for their electoral votes to be split between candidates In both states, two electoral votes are awarded to the winner of the statewide race and one electoral vote is awarded to the winner of each congressional district The following table records the official presidential vote tallies for Maine and Nebraska's congressional districts

District Electors Obama % McCain % Nader % Barr % Baldwin % McKinney % Other % Margin % Total
Maine's 1st congressional district 1 232,145 6051% 144,604 3769% 5,263 137% 1,362 036% 252 007% 87,541 2282% 383,626
Maine's 2nd congressional district 1 189,778 5461% 150,669 4335% 5,373 155% 1,538 044% 179 005% 39,109 1125% 347,537
Nebraska's 1st congressional district 1 121,411 4433% 148,179 5410% 1,963 072% 922 034% 1,024 037% 394 014% -26,768 -977% 273,893
Nebraska's 2nd congressional district 1 138,809 4997% 135,439 4875% 1,628 059% 1,014 036% 599 022% 320 012% 3,370 121% 277,809
Nebraska's 3rd congressional district 1 73,099 2963% 169,361 6864% 1,815 074% 804 033% 1,349 055% 314 013% -96,262 -3901% 246,742

Close states/districts

States/districts in the 2008 United States Presidential election in which the margin of victory was less than 5% Blue states/districts went for Obama, red for McCain Yellow states were won by either candidate by 5% or more Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia and Iowa were won by Bush in 2004 but were won by Obama by a margin of more than 5% in 2008

Red font color denotes states won by Republican John McCain; blue denotes those won by Democrat Barack Obama

States/districts in which the margin of victory was under 5% 88 electoral votes:

  1. Missouri 013%
  2. North Carolina 033%
  3. Indiana 103%
  4. Nebraska's 2nd congressional district 121%
  5. Montana 226%
  6. Florida 282%
  7. Ohio 459%

States/districts in which margin of victory was more than 5% but less than 10% 73 electoral votes:

  1. Georgia 521%
  2. Virginia 630%
  3. South Dakota 841%
  4. Arizona 852%
  5. North Dakota 863%
  6. Colorado 895%
  7. South Carolina 898%
  8. Iowa 953%
  9. New Hampshire 961%
  10. Nebraska's 1st congressional district 977%

International reaction

Main article: International reaction to the United States presidential election, 2008 See also: International media reaction to Barack Obama's 2008 election

The American presidential election was followed closely internationally When it was clear that Obama was victorious, many world leaders sent congratulations and well wishes to the President-elect

Voter demographics

The 2008 presidential vote by demographic subgroup
Demographic subgroup Obama McCain Other  % of
total vote
Total vote 53 46 1 100
Liberals 89 10 1 22
Moderates 60 39 1 44
Conservatives 20 78 2 34
Democrats 89 10 1 39
Republicans 9 90 1 32
Independents 52 44 4 29
Men 49 48 3 47
Women 56 43 1 53
Marital status
Married 47 52 1 66
Non-married 65 33 2 34
White 43 55 2 74
Black 95 4 1 13
Asian 62 35 3 2
Other 66 31 3 2
Hispanic 67 31 2 9
Protestant 45 54 1 54
Catholic 54 45 1 27
Jewish 78 21 1 2
Other 73 22 5 6
None 75 23 2 12
Religious service attendance
More than weekly 43 55 2 12
Weekly 43 55 2 27
Monthly 53 46 1 15
A few times a year 59 39 2 28
Never 67 30 3 16
White evangelical or born-again Christian
White evangelical or born-again Christian 24 74 2 26
Everyone else 62 36 2 74
18–24 years old 66 32 2 10
25–29 years old 66 31 3 8
30–39 years old 54 44 2 18
40–49 years old 49 49 2 21
50–64 years old 50 49 1 27
65 and older 45 53 2 16
First time voter
First time voter 69 30 1 11
Everyone else 50 48 2 89
Sexual orientation
Gay, lesbian, or bisexual 70 27 3 4
Heterosexual 53 45 2 96
Not a high school graduate 63 35 2 4
High school graduate 52 46 2 20
Some college education 51 47 2 31
College graduate 50 48 2 28
Postgraduate education 58 40 2 17
Family income
Under $15,000 73 25 2 6
$15,000–30,000 60 37 3 12
$30,000–50,000 55 43 2 19
$50,000–75,000 48 49 3 21
$75,000–100,000 51 48 1 15
$100,000–150,000 48 51 1 14
$150,000–200,000 48 50 1 6
Over $200,000 52 46 2 6
Northeast 59 40 1 21
Midwest 54 44 2 24
South 45 54 1 32
West 57 40 3 23
Community size
Urban 63 35 2 30
Suburban 50 48 2 49
Rural 45 53 2 21

Source: Exit polls conducted by Edison Research of Somerville, New Jersey, for the National Election Pool, a consortium of ABC News, Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News


Obama, having a Caucasian mother and Kenyan father of the Luo ethnic group, became the first African American as well as the first bi-racial president Although he may have been the first black president to win an election, Obama was not the first African American to run for president Shirley Chisolm, Jesse Jackson, Lenora Fulani, Carol Moseley Braun, Alan Keyes, and Al Sharpton all at some point were in the process for presidential nomination The Obama-Biden ticket was also the first winning ticket in American history on which neither candidate was a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant; Biden is Roman Catholic and is the first Roman Catholic to be elected Vice President; all other tickets with Catholic vice presidential candidates had been defeated 1964, 1972, 1984 Obama and Biden were the first President and Vice President elected from the Senate since 1960 John F Kennedy/Lyndon B Johnson, Obama became the first Northern Democratic president since Kennedy, and the Obama-Biden ticket was the first winning Democratic ticket to feature two Northerners since 1940 Franklin D Roosevelt/Henry A Wallace Also, Obama became the first Democratic candidate to win a majority of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976, the first to win a majority of both votes and states since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and the first Northern Democrat to win a majority of both votes and states since Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 This was the first presidential election since 1952, where neither of the major party candidates was either the incumbent President or Vice-President

Swing by state States are listed by increasing percentage of Democratic votes, showing how the share of the vote changed between 2004 and 2008 Excluding the candidates' home states, only five states trended more Republican: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia

Prior to the election, commentators discussed whether Senator Obama would be able to redraw the electoral map by winning states that had been voting for Republican candidates in recent decades In many ways, he was successful He won every region of the country by double digits except the South, which John McCain won by nine percent Obama won Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia in the South region as defined by the US Census Bureau McCain won most of the Deep South, where white voters have supported Republican candidates by large margins in the last few decades Obama also defied political bellwethers, becoming the first person to win the presidency while losing Missouri since 1956 as well as the first Democrat ever to do so and while losing Kentucky and Tennessee since 1960 He was the first Democrat to win the presidency without winning West Virginia since 1916 and the first Democrat to win without Arkansas since that state joined the Union in 1836 Indiana and Virginia voted for the Democratic nominee for the first time since 1964 Although Obama did not win other normally Republican states such as Georgia and Montana which were won by Bill Clinton in 1992, he nonetheless was competitive in both He lost Montana by just under 3% and Georgia by slightly more than 5% Also notably, Barack Obama won all of the 2004 swing states states that either Kerry or Bush won by less than 5% by a margin of 85 percent or more except for Ohio, which the Democrat carried by 45 percent

Obama was the first presidential candidate to split the electoral votes from Nebraska Together with Maine, which would not split its votes until 2016, Nebraska is one of two states that split their electoral votes, two going to the statewide popular vote winner and the rest going to the winner of each respective congressional district Nebraska has three, and Maine has two Obama won the electoral vote from Nebraska's 2nd congressional district, which contains the city of Omaha Nebraska's other four electoral votes went to John McCain

This election exhibited the continuation of some of the polarization trends evident in the 2000 and 2004 elections McCain won whites 55–43 percent, while Obama won blacks 95–4 percent, Hispanics 67–31 percent, and Asians 62–35 percent Voters aged 18–29 voted for Obama by 66–32 percent while elderly voters backed McCain 53–45 percent The 25-year age gap between McCain and Obama was the widest in US presidential election history among the top two candidates

See also

  • Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories
  • Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories
  • History of the United States 1991–present
  • First inauguration of Barack Obama
  • Newspaper endorsements in the United States presidential election, 2008
  • Presidential transition of Barack Obama
  • United States gubernatorial elections, 2008
  • United States House elections, 2008
  • United States Senate elections, 2008
  • United States third party and independent presidential candidates, 2008

Opinion polling

  • Nationwide opinion polling for the United States presidential election, 2008
  • Statewide opinion polling for the United States presidential election, 2008
  • International opinion polling for the United States presidential election, 2008
  • Scientific forecasts: FiveThirtyEightcom


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Further reading

  • Plouffe, David The Audacity to Win 2009
  • Balz, Dan, and Haynes Johnson The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election 2009, by leading reporters with inside information
  • Crotty, William "Policy and Politics: The Bush Administration and the 2008 Presidential Election," Polity, July 2009, Vol 41 Issue 3, pp 282–311 online
  • Curtis, Mark Age of Obama: A Reporter's Journey With Clinton, McCain and Obama in the Making of the President in 2008 2009
  • Gidlow, Liette Obama, Clinton, Palin: Making History in Election 2000 2012
  • Nelson, Michael The Elections of 2008 2009, factual summary except and text search
  • Sussman, Glen "Choosing a New Direction: The Presidential Election of 2008," White House Studies, 2009, Vol 9 Issue 1, pp 1–20
  • Wolffe, Richard Renegade: The Making of a President 2010 excerpt and text search, narrative


  • Abramson, Paul R, John H Aldrich, and David W Rohde Change and Continuity in the 2008 Elections 2009 excerpt and text search
  • Corwin E Smidt and others The Disappearing God Gap Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election Oxford University Press; 2010 278 pages Finds that the gap between church-attending traditionalists and other voters is not closing, as has been claimed, but is changing in significant ways; draws on survey data from voters who were interviewed in the spring of 2008 and then again after the election
  • Crespino, Joseph "The US South and the 2008 Election," Southern Spaces 2008 online
  • Jessee, Stephen A "Voter Ideology and Candidate Positioning in the 2008 Presidential Election," American Politics Research, March 2010, Vol 38 Issue 2, pp 195–210
  • Kenski, Kate, Bruce W Hardy, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson The Obama Victory: How Media, Money, and Message Shaped the 2008 Election Oxford University Press; 2010 378 pages Draws on interviews with key campaign advisors as well as the National Annenberg Election Survey excerpt and text search
  • Sabato, Larry The Year of Obama: How Barack Obama Won the White House 2009
  • Stempel III, Guido H and Thomas K Hargrove, eds The 21st-Century Voter: Who Votes, How They Vote, and Why They Vote 2 vol 2015
  • Todd, Chuck, and Sheldon Gawiser How Barack Obama Won: A State-by-State Guide to the Historic 2008 Presidential Election 2009 excerpt and text search

External links

  • United States presidential election, 2008 at DMOZ
  • Beyond Red and Blue: 7 Ways to View the Presidential Election Map—from Scientific American
  • Campaign commercials from the 2008 election
  • How close was the 2008 election—Michael Sheppard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • US Election 2008 Web Monitor
  • 2008 Electoral Map
  • "Behind the Results", USA Today election coverage
  • Joseph Crespino, "The US South and the 2008 Election", Southern Spaces, December 11, 2008
  • Election of 2008 in Counting the Votes

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