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2008 Presidential Election Obama vs. McCain

Updated: Aug 20, 2021



The 2008 United States presidential election was the 56th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. The Democratic ticket of Barack Obama, the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois, and Joe Biden, the senior U.S. Senator from Delaware, defeated the Republican ticket of John McCain, the senior Senator from Arizona, and Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska. Obama became the first African American ever to be elected to the presidency as well as being only the third sitting United States Senator elected president, joining Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy.

It all started when Barack Obama rose to national prominence with his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention:



The 2008 Democratic primaries were marked by a sharp contest between Obama and the initial front-runner, Senator Hillary Clinton. Clinton's victory in the New Hampshire primary made her the first woman to win a major party's presidential primary. After a long primary season, Obama secured the Democratic nomination in June 2008.



Early campaigning focused heavily on the Iraq War and Bush's unpopularity. McCain supported the war, as well as a troop surge that had begun in 2007, while Obama strongly opposed the war. Bush endorsed McCain, but the two did not campaign together, and Bush did not appear in person at the 2008 Republican National Convention. Obama campaigned on the theme that "Washington must change," while McCain emphasized his experience.


During the campaign, a McCain supporter, told him she did not trust Obama because "he's an Arab". He replied, "No ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues." McCain's response was considered one of the finer moments of the campaign and was still being viewed several years later as a marker for civility in American politics.



The campaign was strongly affected by the onset of a major financial crisis, which peaked in September 2008. McCain's decision to suspend his campaign during the height of the financial crisis backfired as voters viewed his response as erratic. Ultimately, Obama won the election and Election and here are some highlights of the historic moments:



Obama won a decisive victory over McCain, winning the Electoral College and the popular vote by a sizable margin, including states that had not voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 (North Carolina) and 1964 (Indiana and Virginia).


Obama received the largest share of the popular vote won by a Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and was the first Democrat to win an outright majority of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976. As of the 2016 presidential election, Obama's total count of 69.5 million votes still stands as the largest tally ever won by a presidential candidate. Obama flipped nine states that had voted Republican in 2004: Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. He also won an additional electoral vote in Nebraska, due to the split allocation between congressional districts in the state. Here is a clip of the victory speech with the Obama and Biden families on stage:



The election of the first African American to be elected president, prompted emotion in the crowd that included Oprah and Jesse Jackson, crying during Obamas victory speech:



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 131.3 million, compared to 122.3 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, 131.2 million votes could reflect a turnout as high as 63.0% of eligible voters, which would be the highest since 1960.


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