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2008 Presidential Election

31 Jul

The 2008 election was what some thought the 2004 election would be.  A push for higher voter turnout resulted in what was one of the highest U.S. election turnouts in recent history.  The country was ready for a change in direction.  The 2006 election showed voter dismay over the Iraq War as well as how the Republicans were running the country.  The 2008 election became an exclamation point on the 2006 election.

I didn’t know what to expect for the 2008 election.  In 2007 I discussed with some people what the 2008 race could bring.  We talked about how the Democrats had a realistic shot winning back the White House for the first time in 8 years.  I had some skepticism, as I have with almost every election.  The other part of the conversation was who could take on Hilary Clinton in the primary.  The Democratic primary the following year would end up being just that, Hilary Clinton vs. who?

By the fall of 2007 most people assumed that Hilary Clinton would easily win the Democratic nomination for President of The United States.  Then Senator Barack Obama was trailing her by double digits.  I told people that although she was poised to win the Democratic nomination she was by no means certain to win.  I didn’t know what was going to happen in the 2008 primary fight but I knew that almost anything was possible.  She was formidable, but I didn’t think it would be a blow out like some presidential primaries.

The Republican primaries were somewhat murky.  Rudy Giuliani was the early front-runner, but history showed that John McCain would win the nomination.  The Republicans usually go with the logical successor, i.e. Dole in 1996.  Giuliani ended up going nowhere and Super Tuesday ended with McCain leading his rivals with Romney and Huckabee still in the race.  Mitt Romney dropped out of the race leaving McCain and Huckabee as the last contenders in the Republican primary, with Ron Paul well behind in the delegates.  Mike Huckabee dropped out after Senator John McCain sealed enough delegates to win the nomination.

The Democratic primaries were clearer from beginning to end.  Before the primaries began it was a Clinton/Obama race and it ended that way.  The Democratic primaries were a three-horse race between Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards.  After Edwards dropped out the momentum went towards Obama until he secured enough delegates towards the end of the primary season.  The contentious primary between Clinton and Obama brought questions as to whether the party could recover by November.  I was concerned, but Hilary didn’t put up a fight at the convention and campaigned for Obama.

The tough primary helped prepare Obama for the general election against Senator John McCain.  Although McCain had won the primary, his party had doubts of his conservative credentials.  His advisers wanted him to pick a running mate who could energize the base, so he picked the then unknown Governor Sarah Palin from Alaska.  His pick initially gave his campaign a much needed boost.  After the convention McCain briefly led in the polls.  That faded when Sarah Palin had several disastrous TV interviews.

John McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin cost him a shot at winning the election.  I still don’t think he would have won if he had picked someone else.  After the financial crisis hit the country Obama was poised to win big.  McCain was further hampered by the damage that President Bush did to the Republican brand.  McCain’s campaign went negative which did nothing to help his struggling campaign.  On Election Night Obama won in a landslide both electorally and by popular vote.

I was in Whitewater on Election Day trying to get out the vote for President Obama.  By the end of the day I was exhausted and ready for the election to end.  I watched the returns in the University Center with some of my friends.  I was watching with the UW-Whitewater BSU (Black Student Union) when then-Senator Obama was announced to be the projected winner.  Tears were streaming down faces in the room.  History was made that night.  A country which once had slaves and segregation elected the first African-American president.  I doubt I will ever see an election as amazing as the 2008 election ever again.