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United States presidential election, 2008
Flag of the United States.svg
2004 ←
November 4, 2008
→ 2012

All 538 electoral votes of the Electoral College
270 electoral votes needed to win
Turnout 59.6%
John McCain Senate portrait (2005) Barack Obama Senate portrait (2005)
Nominee John McCain Barack Obama
Party Republican Democratic
Home state Arizona Illinois
Running mate Tim Pawlenty Joe Biden
Electoral vote 281 257
States carried 28 22 + D.C.
Popular vote 62,060,361 60,700,473
Percentage 50.2% 49.1%

US Electoral College 2008 SIADD

Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by
McCain/Pawlenty (28), Blue denotes Obama/Biden (22 + D.C.).

President before election

George W. Bush
Republican

Elected President

John McCain
Republican

The United States presidential election of 2008 was held on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. It was the 56th consecutive quadrennial United States presidential election. Republican John McCain, the then senior United States Senator from Arizona, won in a close contest, defeating Democratic Party nominee, Barack Obama, the junior United States Senator from Illinois. Incumbent Republican President George W. Bush's policies and actions and the American public's desire for change were key issues throughout the campaign, and during the general election campaign, both candidates ran on a platform of change and reform in Washington. Domestic policy and the economy eventually emerged as the main themes in the last few months of the election campaign, particularly after the onset of the 2008 economic crisis.

Five states changed allegiance from the 2004 election. Four had voted for the Republican nominee in 2004 and one had voted for the Democratic nominee in 2004. The selected electors from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia voted for President and Vice President of the United States on December 15, 2008. Those votes were tallied before a joint session of Congress on January 8, 2009, thus making the projected electoral votes official. McCain received 281 electoral votes, and Obama 257.

There were several unique aspects about the 2008 election. This election was the first time in U.S. history that an African American was a major parties nominee. It was also the first time two sitting senators ran against each other. It was the first election in 56 years that neither an incumbent president (Bush was barred from seeking a third term by the Twenty-second Amendment) nor vice president ran. Also, voter turnout for the 2008 election was the highest in at least 40 years.

Background

In 2004, President George W. Bush narrowly won reelection. After Republican pickups in the House and Senate in the 2004 elections, Republicans held their control of both 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 9/11, and they were barely 50% after his reelection. Although Bush was reelected with a larger Electoral College margin than in 2000 and an absolute majority (50.7%) of the popular vote, 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 ratings were below 40%, and the Democratic party appeared to have a clear advantage in the upcoming Congressional elections. Additionally, Democrats pulled out several surprise victories in Congress and gained the majority in both houses. Bush's approval ratings continued to drop steadily throughout the rest of his term.

Nominations

Democratic Nomination

Democratic Candidates

  • Senator Joe Biden of Delaware
  • Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York
  • Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut
  • Former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina
  • Former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska
  • Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio
  • Senator Barack Obama of Illinois
  • Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico
  • Former Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa

Before the Primaries

"Front-runner" status is dependent on the news agency reporting, and by October 2007, the consensus listed about three candidates as leading the pack after several debate performances. For example, CNN listed Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama as the Democratic front runners. 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.

Two candidates, Clinton and Obama, raised over $20 million in the first three months of 2007. Edwards raised over $12 million and Richardson raised over $6 million. Hillary Clinton set the Democratic record for largest single day fund raising in a primary on June 30, 2007 while Barack Obama set the record for monthly fundraising during a primary with $55 million in February of 2008.

Early primaries/caucuses

At the start of the year, support for Barack Obama began rising in the polls, passing Clinton for first place in Iowa; Obama ended up winning the caucus, with John Edwards coming in second and Clinton a close third. Iowa is viewed as the state that jump-started Obama's campaign and set him on track to win the nomination and the presidency.

Obama was the new front-runner in New Hampshire, and the Clinton campaign was struggling after a bad loss in Iowa and no real strategy in place for after the early primaries and caucuses. However, in a turning point for her campaign, Clinton's voice wavered with emotion in a public interview broadcast live on TV. By the end of that day, Clinton won the primary by 2% of the vote, contrary to the predictions of pollsters who had her as much as twelve points behind on the day of the primary itself.

Super Tuesday

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. Obama trailed in the California polling by an average of 6.0%; he ended up losing the state by 8.3%. Some analysts cited a large Latino turnout that voted for Clinton as the deciding factor. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver, endorsed Obama.

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

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

Ohio and Texas

On March 4, Hillary Clinton carried Ohio and Rhode Island in the Democratic primaries; some considered these wins, especially Ohio, a surprise upset, 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. Hillary Clinton won the primary by 9.2%, with approximately 54.6% of the vote.

Indiana and North Carolina

On May 6, North Carolina and Indiana held their Democratic presidential primaries. Clinton and Obama campaigned aggressively in both states before the voting took place; both candidates acknowledged the importance of these primaries and said they were turning point states. Polling had shown Obama a few points ahead in North Carolina and Clinton similarly leading in Indiana. However, 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 1.4% in Indiana. After these primaries, it became very improbable, if not virtually impossible, for Clinton to win the nomination; Indiana had 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.

Florida and Michigan

During late 2007, both 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; however, 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 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

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. However, 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, but because of Democratic state delegate contests being decided by a form of proportional representation and close popular vote numbers between Clinton and Obama, the contest for the nomination continued into June 2008. By May, Clinton had claimed a lead in the popular vote, but the Associated Press found her numbers accurate only in one very close scenario.

In June, after the last of the primaries had taken place, Obama, with the help of multiple super delegate endorsements, had finally gotten enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination for President, becoming the first African American to win the nomination of a major political party in the United States. However, Clinton refused to concede the race for several days, although she did signal that her presidential campaign was ending in a post-primary speech on June 3 in her home state. She finally conceded the nomination to Obama on June 7 and pledged her full support to the presumptive nominee, vowing to do everything she could to help him get elected.

Republican nomination

In addition, 2008 was the first election since 1952 that neither the incumbent president nor the incumbent vice president was a candidate in the general election. It was the first time since the 1928 election that neither sought his party's nomination for president. These distinctions are moot, since term limits absolutely prevented Bush from seeking the nomination and being a candidate. The unique aspect was vice-president Cheney's not seeking the presidential nomination.

Republican Candidates

Before the primaries

Immediately after the 2006 midterm elections, media pundits began speculating, like 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) fund raisers 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, after winning in Iowa, had little money but hoped for a good third-place finish in New Hampshire. John McCain eventually displaced Rudy Giuliani and Romney as the front-runners 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, 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 in Florida soon afterward.

Super Tuesday

In February, before Super Tuesday, the California primary took place after John McCain was endorsed by Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani (who had dropped out of the race following the Florida primary). This gave him a significant boost in the state.[44]

A few days later, Mitt Romney suspended his presidential campaign and endorsed McCain, leaving Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul as the only major challengers of McCain in the remaining Republican primaries. Louisiana, Washington, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Washington held primaries in February after Super Tuesday, with McCain picking up wins in these states. 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 hadn't 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 active opponent.

General election campaign

Notable characteristics

The 2008 election campaign brought several firsts in United States presidential election history. It was the first presidential election since 1952 in which neither the incumbent president nor the incumbent vice president was a candidate in the general election. In addition, John McCain became the oldest first-time presidential nominee in history when the Republicans nominated him in September 2008. Barack Obama and McCain are nearly 25 years apart in age. This is the largest age disparity between the two major party presidential candidates in history, surpassing Bill Clinton and Bob Dole (23 years apart in age), who ran against each other in 1996. The election would mark the first time that candidates from both major parties were born outside the continental United States with Barack Obama born in Hawaii and John McCain who was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Yet another first was that, for the first time in history, both major party nominees were sitting United States Senators.

One of the most talked about firsts in this 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. Obama's nomination acceptance speech drew one of the largest attendances of any nomination acceptance speech, attracting at least 84,000 people.

Issues

Main issues of the McCain Campaign

The McCain campaign focused on many issues. These issues included national security, education reform, energy independence, and tax cuts to stimulate the economy.

In terms of national security, the McCain campaign stressed that national security could not be achieved through "passive" measures, and held a firm stance on Iran and North Korea regarding their nuclear weapons programs. The campaign also stressed the need for more cooperation with allies, and in particular NATO and the EU. He also called for nuclear disarmament and expressed his support for a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

McCain also supported the troop 'surge' employed by General David Petraeus in Iraq, which was one of several factors credited with improving the security situation in Iraq. Likewise, he also expressed his strong support for U.S. and ISAF presence in Afghanistan, and promised a similar troop surge there to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

In terms of energy policy, he connected energy independence with national security, climate change, and the environment. McCain called the U.S. dependence on foreign oil "a major strategic vulnerability, a serious threat to our security, our economy and the well being of our planet", and proposed cap-and-trade bill designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions, as well as increased use of nuclear energy and reduce renewable sources to produce electricity. He has promoted the expanded use of nuclear power.

Iraq

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, whereas Obama (who opposed the surge) argued that his opposition to the invasion that preceded the surge showed his. However, Obama was quick to remind voters that there would have been no need for a "surge" had there been no war at all, which he then used to question McCain's judgment as well.

Bush's Unpopularity

Entering 2008, George W. Bush was unpopular. Polls consistently showed that only twenty to thirty percent of the American public approved of his job performance. In March 2008, Bush endorsed McCain at the White House,[100] but Bush did not make a single appearance for McCain during the campaign. 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

Before the Democratic primaries had even begun, 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.

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. Nonetheless, she excited much of the conservative base of the GOP with her speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, a group that was initially lukewarm toward McCain's candidacy. 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 addition, because of Palin's conservative views, there was also concern that, while she would bring conservatives to McCain, she would also alienate independents and moderates, two groups that pundits observed McCain would need to win the election.

The economy

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.

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, most pundits and analysts agree that the actual financial crisis and economic conditions caused McCain's large drop in support in mid-September and severely damaged his campaign. However, McCain would in October regain the momentum after he changed the campaign strategy.

Debates

Four debates were announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates:

McCain Obama presidential debate 2008

McCain and Obama at the first presidential debate at the University of Mississippi on September 26, 2008.

  • September 26: The first presidential debate took place at the University of Mississippi. The central issues debated were foreign policy and national security. The debate was formatted into nine nine-minute segments, and the moderator (Jim Lehrer) 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 a number of 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.

McCain's comeback

McCain campaign rally 2008 Pottsville, Pennsylvania

McCain address a campaign rally inside the gymnasium at Pottsville Middle School in Pottsville, Pennsylvania on October 27, 2008.

On October 6, the McCain Campaign announced that they would change their campaign strategy. Seeing that the negative advertisements against Obama had not presented any positive results, and was still trailing Obama, he would once again assume his familiar position as a political underdog, riding the Straight Talk Express and taking advantage of free media such as debates and sponsored events. He would visit the battleground states of Indiana, Ohio, Pensylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire, where he attended town hall meetings. Like he barred using the Jeremiah Wright controversy in ads against Obama, he announced that he would as well barr the use of the purported relationship with Bill Ayers. He announced that he would instead focus on his own policies on national security, education reform, energy independence, the economy as well as tax cuts and cut in federal and pork barrel spending. He would also focus on counter attacks of being to close to the unpopular President Bush by presenting his bipartisan positions in the Senate, saying he would work closely with both Republicans and Democrats while in office.

McCain campaign rally 2008 in Hersey, Pennsylvania (SIADD)

McCain address a campaign rally in Hersey, Pennsylvania on October 27, 2008.

While certain Republicans begged McCain to go on the offensive against Obama, McCain would renounce this, saying that "The American people deserves that we debate the issues, and not turn to personal attacks". On October 19, 2008, former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell announced that he would not endorse neither Barack Obama or John McCain during a Meet the Press interview, citing that "while Obama is a worthy candidate due to his ability to inspire, the inclusive nature of his campaign, and because he is reaching out all across America, I have deep respect and admiration for my long time friend John McCain, who has shown to refrain from using personal attacks but instead present his political agenda. But I am afraid the approach of the Republican Party has become narrower and narrower".

Obama campaign rally 2008 Cleveland, Ohio

Obama address a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio on November 2, 2008.

By October 20, 2008, McCain was rising on the polls while Obama's support steadily declined throughout the last weeks of the campaign. As a result, the Obama campaign made a negative turn and launched series of advertisements blasting McCain and Pawlenty. By November 1, the polls showed that McCain and Obama were dead even in the polls in battleground states of Indiana, Ohio, Pensylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire.

At the same time, McCain launched a final series of campaign stops in Pennsylvania (October 27-28), Ohio (October 29-30), Virginia (October 31-November 1), New Hapshire (November 2) and Florida (November 3). Similarily, Obama launched campaign stops in the same battleground states, focusing on regaining the momentum in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Election Results

Election Day

McCain presidential election victory speech 2008 (SIADD)

McCain delivers his presidential election victory speech in Phoenix, Arizona on November 4, 2008.

November 4, 2008 was Election Day in 49 states and the District of Columbia; it was the last of 21 consecutive election days in Oregon, which abolished the voting booth in 1998. 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 their state's slate of Electoral College members.

Obama amassed wins in some of the Northeastern states, New Mexico, and Iowa by 9:20 PM. McCain carried the Southern states by comfortable margins. The election came down to a close race in the final states of Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, and it was in particular Florida (27 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes) and Ohio (20 electoral votes), however, that the news media focused their attention on. Mathematically, either one of these state's electoral votes would be the key to an election win for either candidate.

After several hours of vote counting, McCain surprisingly won all of the six states, and all American networks called the election in favor of John McCain at 10:00 PM Eastern Standard Time as the polls closed in a handfull of western states, with the Electoral College totals being updated to 274 for McCain and 180 for Obama (270 are needed to win). Senator Obama gave a concession speech half an hour later. President-elect John McCain appeared at 11:30 Eastern time, November 4, in Phoenix, Arizona in front of a roaring crowd to deliver his acceptance speech, saying "We did it".

Turnout

The voter turnout for this election was broadly predicted to be high by American standards, and although on election day a lower number of votes were cast than expected, the turnout had been high. The final tally of total votes counted was 124.2 million, compared to 122.3 million in 2004 (which also boasted the highest record since 1968, after which the voting age was lowered to 18). Expressed as a percentage of eligible voters, 124.2 million votes could reflect a turnout as high as 59.6% of eligible voters, which would be the highest since 1960. This 59.6% turnout rate is based on an estimated eligible voter population of 208,323,000. Another estimate puts the eligible voter population at 212,720,027, resulting in a turnout rate of 58.4%. Although smaller turnout than in 2004, it was still relatively high.

Nationwide results

Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote Electoral
vote
Running mate Running mate's
home state
Count Pct
John McCain Republican Arizona 62,060,361 50.2% 281 Tim Pawlenty Minnesota
Barack Obama Democratic Illinois 60,700,473 49.1% 257 Joe Biden Delaware
Ralph Nader Connecticut 692,306 0.56% 0 Matt Gonzalez California
Bob Barr Libertarian Georgia 432,691 0.35% 0 Wayne Allyn Root Nevada
Chuck Baldwin Constitution Florida 173,076 0.14% 0 Darrell Castle Tennessee
Cynthia McKinney Green California 148,351 0.12% 0 Rosa Clemente North Carolina
Total 124,207,258 100% 538  
Needed to win 270  

Results by state

Main article: United States presidential election of 2008 - Results by state
Media reports McCain victory00:37

Media reports McCain victory

McCain-Pawlenty 2008 Campaign Logo

The logo of the McCain-Pawlenty campaign.

Obama-Biden Campaign Logo

The logo of the Obama-Biden campaign.

# State Winner Delegates
1 Washington Obama / Biden 11
2 Oregon Obama / Biden 7
3 California Obama / Biden 55
4 Arizona McCain / Pawlenty 8
5 Nevada Obama / Biden 5
6 New Mexico Obama / Biden 5
7 Colorado Obama / Biden 8
8 Utah McCain / Pawlenty 5
9 Idaho McCain / Pawlenty 4
10 Montana McCain / Pawlenty 3
11 Wyoming McCain / Pawlenty 3
12 North Dakota McCain / Pawlenty 3
13 South Dakota McCain / Pawlenty 3
14 Nebraska McCain / Pawlenty 4
15 Kansas McCain / Pawlenty 6
16 Oklahoma McCain / Pawlenty 7
17 Texas McCain / Pawlenty 34
18 Louisiana McCain / Pawlenty 9
19 Arkansas McCain / Pawlenty 6
20 Mississippi McCain / Pawlenty 6
21 Alabama McCain / Pawlenty 9
22 Georgia McCain / Pawlenty 15
23 Florida McCain / Pawlenty 27
24 South Carolina McCain / Pawlenty 8
25 North Carolina McCain / Pawlenty 15
26 Virginia McCain / Pawlenty 13
27 Tennessee McCain / Pawlenty 11
28 Kentucky McCain / Pawlenty 8
29 West Virginia McCain / Pawlenty 5
30 Ohio McCain / Pawlenty 20
31 Indiana McCain / Pawlenty 11
32 Illinois Obama / Biden 21
33 Michigan Obama / Biden 18
34 Wisconsin Obama / Biden 10
35 Minnesota Obama / Biden 10
36 Iowa Obama / Biden 7
37 Maine Obama / Biden 4
38 Vermont Obama / Biden 3
39 New Hampshire Obama / Biden 4
40 Massachusetts Obama / Biden 12
41 Rhode Island Obama / Biden 4
42 Connecticut Obama / Biden 7
43 New York Obama / Biden 31
44 Pennsylvania McCain / Pawlenty 21
45 New Jersey Obama / Biden 15
46 Delaware Obama / Biden 3
47 Maryland Obama / Biden 10
48 Missouri McCain / Pawlenty 11
49 Alaska McCain / Pawlenty 3
50 Hawaii Obama / Biden 4
51 Washington D.C. Obama / Biden 3

Closest States

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

States/districts where the margin of victory was under 10%:

See also


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