President George W. Bush had alarmingly low approval ratings heading into 2008, largely as a result of his unpopular war in Iraq. Although unpopular, the President secured renomination unchallanged, as did Vice-President McCain.
With former President Gore fully dedicated to global environmental activism (he was rumored to be in line to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009), there was no prohibitive establishment favorite or heir-apparent in the 2008 Democratic primaries for the first time in many years. As a result, the field was crowded, with Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton the early favorite. Other contestants included Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, former Senator and Gore administration Secretary of State Joseph Biden of Delaware, former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, and Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Preferences changed along the way, however, and Senator Obama overtook Hilary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary, with Kerry in third place. From that point on, the primaries became a 2-way race between Obama and Clinton -- and an exceedingly acerbic one. It was also very close, with Senator Clinton coming from behind to virtually tie Obama in number of delegates at the end of the process. The July Democratic Convention was tense, with no one sure of who would end up being the nominee. In the end, Obama prevailed, although owing to the closeness of the primaries (and so as to not alienate the female vote) he was forced to choose Clinton as his running mate. The Obama-Clinton reconciliation was brokered by party leaders and mutual friends such as Biden and Richardson.
Thus, facing Bush-McCain in the fall would be a unified, attractive, and diverse Democratic ticket headed by an African-American (Obama) and a woman (Senator Cliton). In the middle of the campaign, the American economy suffered massive blows stemming from the collapse of various key financial institutions, which sent ripples throughout Wall Street and caused panic. It was the most serious economic debacle the country had suffered since the Great Depression, and Bush's poll numbers sagged even lower.
As of October 2008, Obama-Clinton are ahead in the polls over Bush-McCain by more than 10 points, and it is expected that the Democrats will be easily returned to the White House in early 2009.
Top-Finishers in the Democratic Primaries
- Barack Obama (nominee)
- Hillary Rodham Clinton
- John Kerry
- John Edwards
- Bill Richardson
Electoral College Result
House of Representatives
Democratic = 298
Republican = 257
Republican = 44
Democratic = 54
Independent = 2
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