2008 presidential election in the United States

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56th presidential election
November 4, 2008

Obama portrait crop.jpg
Democratic Party
Barack Obama / Joe Biden
electors 365  
be right 69,456,897  
McCain 2009 portrait crop.jpg
Republican Party
John McCain / Sarah Palin
electors 173  
be right 59,934,786  

Election results by state
Map of election results by state
  28 states + DC + NE02  
Obama / Biden
  22 states  
McCain / Palin

President of the United States
Results of the presidential election by individual counties :
  • Majority for Obama
  • Majority for McCain
  • The 56th election of the President of the United States of America took place on November 4, 2008 . This was Barack Obama , Senator from Illinois and candidate of the Democratic Party , as the winner, and thus as the 44th  President of the United States produces. For vice president was Joe Biden , senator from Delaware chosen. The opposing Republican candidates, Senator John McCain from Arizona and Governor Sarah Palin from Alaska , were clearly defeated. Other candidates did not play a significant role.

    Formally, on November 4, only the electors of the Electoral College were determined, who cast their votes for the offices of President and Vice-President on December 15. On January 8, 2009, Congress met and adopted the election results. Following the general election results, Barack Obama received 365 and John McCain 173 electoral votes. There was no “faithless elector”, that is, an elector deviating from his obligation. The election of the vice president produced the same result: 365 for Joe Biden, 173 for Sarah Palin. That was the end of the election.

    Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009. Until that day he was known as the " President-Elect " ( President-Elect ). The Vice President's swearing-in ceremony took place on the same day.

    Starting position

    Incumbent George W. Bush was not allowed to run for office after two terms according to the constitution . Vice President Dick Cheney had made it clear in the run-up to the election that he would not run for the office of president. This made the November 2008 election the first presidential election since 1928 in which neither the incumbent president nor the incumbent vice president ran for nomination as their party's candidate, and the first election since 1952 in which neither of them was a candidate for his party has been.

    The internal party primaries the Democrats and Republicans began on January 3, 2008 at the State of Iowa . The date of Super Tuesdays was February 5, 2008 for both parties.

    The party conventions for the nomination of the respective presidential candidate (party conventions) took place from August 25 to 28, 2008 in Denver , Colorado (Democrats), and from September 1 to 4, 2008 in St. Paul , Minnesota (Republicans). At these national party conferences, which traditionally take place in the summer, the delegates from the states vote on the party's presidential and vice-presidential candidates. The candidate for vice-president will be proposed to the party congress by the established presidential candidate.


    Since there are 51 individual elections that take place in parallel, there is no uniform right to vote. Each state determines which requirements must be met in order to be able to run for office.

    According to the constitution, candidates for president must have been born in the United States , be at least 35 years old, and have lived in the country for at least 14 years. However, this limitation primarily affects the Electoral College . In different states, however, candidates can stand who are not allowed to become president according to the constitution. Róger Calero ran for the Socialist Workers Party in 2004 and 2008. He was on the ballot paper in five US states, even though he is not a citizen of the United States.

    Some parties nominated their own candidate. This happened at nomination party congresses, at which a candidate was chosen from the party candidates. To select party congress delegates, the major parties held general primaries in which citizens could express their support for a candidate.

    Parties and candidates were not firmly linked to one another. Barack Obama was nominated by local parties in South Carolina and New York , while his opponent, John McCain, had the support of two regional parties in New York. Ralph Nader, who actually ran as an independent candidate, was also nominated by seven regional parties. In many states there were so-called "write-in" candidates. These are not on the ballot paper, but there is a blank space in which you can write the name of such a candidate.

    The number of candidates was correspondingly large. Most of these candidates were on the ballot paper in at most one state and therefore had no chance. Thirteen candidates were represented in several states, but there were only six candidates in total who ran in enough states to achieve a majority of the electorate. These goods

    Candidates in the 2008 presidential election
    Political party image Presidential
    Office or
    Vice presidential
    Campaign website
    Democratic Party Barack Obama Barack Obama Senator from Illinois Joe Biden barackobama.com
    Republican Party John McCain John McCain Senator from Arizona Sarah Palin johnmccain.com
    ( positions on election issues )
    Libertarian party Bob Barr Bob Barr former Republican deputy from Georgia , Lawyer Wayne Allyn Root bobbarr2008.com ( Memento from November 27, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
    independently Ralph Nader Ralph Nader Consumer advocate, multiple presidential candidate (1996 and 2000 for the Greens, independent 2004) Matt Gonzalez votenader.org
    Green party Cynthia McKinney Cynthia McKinney former Georgia Democratic MP Rosa Clemente runcynthiarun.org ( Memento from April 2, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
    Constitution Party Chuck Baldwin Chuck Baldwin Pastor, radio host and party's vice-presidential candidate in 2004 Darrell Castle chuckbaldwinlive.com ( Memento from April 30, 2008 in the Internet Archive )

    Obama and McCain were the only candidates to run in all states and the District of Columbia. Of the other candidates, Nader ran in 46 states, Barr in 45, Baldwin in 37 and McKinney in 32. Including write-in candidacies, all candidates were eligible in at least 47 states. Only in Oklahoma did none of these four candidates run.

    All other candidates, even with write-in candidacies, could only be elected in a maximum of 30 countries and thus could not achieve a majority in the Electoral College.


    In principle, the presidential election consists of 51 individual elections, but a candidate only has a realistic chance if he runs in as many countries as possible. Therefore, most parties designate nationwide candidates. These are determined by delegates from a national party congress, whose delegates are elected in the primaries.

    Democratic Party

    Result of the primaries of the Democratic Party

    The Democratic Party's primary elections dragged on for an unusually long time, as one candidate did not soon stand out from the others, as was usually the case, but until June Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were roughly on par. The rivalry between the two camps and the extraordinary situation that both represent social groups - women and African-Americans - who have never had a president before, caused a sensation both nationally and internationally.

    Clinton, who was still clearly in the lead in December 2007 according to surveys, suffered a clear defeat behind Obama in the first primary in Iowa , but was able to catch up in the second primary in New Hampshire . By the end of January, all serious candidates except Clinton and Obama had left the race. February 5th was Super Tuesday , when 22 elections were held simultaneously. Even after these elections there was still no clear winner. However, Obama then managed to win eleven straight wins, which put Clinton in dire straits. In the following months she succeeded several times in emerging from such situations with a clear primary victory. Nonetheless, Obama was always ahead of the elected delegates.

    There have also been a large number of super-delegates who have a vote at the party congress because of a public office or an office in the party. These are not tied to the pre-election decisions. As it became foreseeable that neither of the two candidates would be able to win so many delegates in the primary elections that the support of super delegates would no longer have been necessary, the race remained open for a long time. Only when Barack Obama had reached the majority of the elected delegates and more and more superdelegates assured him of their support did it become clear that Clinton had lost. She withdrew her candidacy after the last primary election.

    Barack Obama was elected at the Democratic Congress. Clinton assured him of her support. The candidate for the office of Vice President was Joe Biden .

    Republican Party

    Result of the Republican Party primaries

    For a long time, Rudy Giuliani , the former mayor of New York City , was a favorite with the Republicans . However, he relied on a risky strategy and refrained from active campaigning in the first primaries in order to concentrate entirely on the Florida primaries , in which he failed with third place. The first primaries showed that there was no candidate who could cover the entire spectrum of the party. Mike Huckabee represented the conservative wing, Mitt Romney more the economically liberal. However, the latter could not convince many Republican voters, among other things because he belongs to the Mormon religious community, which played an important role for the evangelical conservative Republican voters. On February 5th, which was also a Super Tuesday with numerous primaries for the Republicans , John McCain was finally able to prevail. As a war veteran, he addressed large parts of the Republican electorate, even if he was considered too liberal by some conservative voters.

    As a vice-presidential candidate, he named Sarah Palin , who, in turn, was very popular with Conservative voters, although some revelations from her personal life and political background tarnished her reputation in the days following the announcement.

    McCain and Palin were nominated at the Republican Convention on September 3.

    Other parties

    In the other parties, which are generally only given minimal chances, there were only a few noteworthy events.

    The Libertarian Party selected Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman, as a candidate. The candidacy of ex-Senator Mike Gravel from Alaska, who had previously unsuccessfully applied for the Democratic nomination, failed. Barr was seen as a potentially attractive alternative by conservative voters.

    At the Green Party , Cynthia McKinney , a former MP, was also successful. Here Ralph Nader caused surprises, although he ran as an independent candidate, but still received numerous votes in several primary elections.

    This election was the first since 1988 to have former third-party congressmen run.

    Independent candidates

    A number of independent candidacies were also discussed in the run-up to the November election.

    The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg , conducted a voter analysis in all 50 US states and was considered a potential non-party candidate, but at the end of February 2008 decided against running for the White House.

    On February 24, 2008, Ralph Nader announced that he would be entering the presidential campaign as an independent candidate. The consumer advocate had run for the White House in 2000 and 2004 and received 2.7% and 0.4% of the vote, respectively. Nader announced that environmental protection and safety at work would be the focus of his election campaign.

    Main election campaign

    Although John McCain was sure of his candidacy in March and was able to start the main election campaign directly, his campaign appearances received little attention because public attention was focused on the close race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Only a trip abroad that took him to Iraq , among other places , was able to briefly attract attention.

    June was still marked by the aftermath of the rivalry between Obama and Clinton. Both tried to reunite the camps in order to win the election together. Special attention was paid to an event in Unity , New Hampshire , which was considered particularly symbolic because of its name and the fact that the area code there was a tie between Obama and Clinton. Clinton there announced her support for Barack Obama in order to swear her supporters to him. Obama, in turn, asked for money to be donated to Clinton after her election campaign ran into financial difficulties towards the end. Obama presented Clinton with a check for $ 2,300, which is the maximum amount an individual can donate to a candidate.

    In the summer, Barack Obama also made a trip abroad to counter accusations that he had no experience in foreign policy. He visited Afghanistan , Iraq, Israel and Germany, among others . His speech in front of the Berlin Victory Column attracted around 200,000 people. These appearances received a lot of attention in Europe, but played only a subordinate role in the US public, as the smoldering financial crisis made it clear that domestic politics would play a central role in the further election campaign. In the polls, Obama kept a steady but narrow lead over McCain.

    On August 13, Bill Gwatney , Democratic super delegate from Arkansas and friend of the Clinton family, was shot dead. On August 16, Obama and McCain made their first joint campaign appearance.

    The hot phase of the election campaign only began with the congresses of the two major parties. In the weeks before that, there had been heavy speculation about whom Obama would appoint as his vice-presidential candidate. The final choice fell on Joe Biden, a senator with great experience in the field of foreign policy. This was interpreted in such a way that Biden should compensate for Obama's inexperience and, as a white Catholic, address the white middle class and Catholic voters.

    The Democratic Party Conference was eagerly awaited as the question remained whether disappointed Clinton supporters would vote in Obama for confidence. Hillary Clinton himself promoted Obama, and her husband Bill also gave a speech in which he spoke out clearly for Obama. Obama was acclaimed Democratic candidate at Hillary Clinton's suggestion. In a speech to 75,000 people, he accepted the candidacy.

    John McCain nominated Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a candidate for Vice President at a campaign event in Dayton, Ohio . His preferred candidate, Joe Lieberman , an independent Senator from Connecticut , had previously been blocked by the more conservative Republican wing.

    The Republican Convention from September 1-4 in Saint Paul, Minnesota was also overshadowed by Hurricane Gustav . Out of piety towards the victims and the ongoing evacuation, only the constitution of the assembly was carried out on the first day. The appearance, especially by Sarah Palin, at the nomination party conference on September 4th meant that McCain was rated 48 percent and 45 percent better in the national polls for the first time.

    Survey results

    Nationwide poll of US presidential election as of November 2, 2008.
  • > 10% Obama leadership
  • 4-10% Obama leadership
  • 1-4% Obama leadership
  • 1-4% McCain leadership
  • 4-10% McCain leadership
  • > 10% McCain leadership
  • In the election year, surveys of numerous polling institutes were held, some at daily intervals. These reflected the current course of the election campaign in the form of a national opinion. The table contains an average of the current surveys from various institutes.

    The presidential elections are 51 individual elections, in which, with few exceptions, all electors go to the candidate with the most votes. A shift in the national mean is therefore only important if it affects the majority situation in one or more states.

    For this reason, the following table also shows the outcome of the elections by electors from the beginning of the main election campaign if all states behave in accordance with the polls. However, state polls were not as frequent as national polls, especially in states considered safe for either candidate. In addition, the results in numerous countries were still within statistical uncertainty, so that a survey is not necessarily a realistic assessment of the state's voting behavior. Therefore, the data basis for the electoral calculation is significantly weaker.

    Survey media
    was standing national survey medium Electoral difference
    according to surveys
    Barack Obama Republicanlogo.svg John McCain difference
    January 1, 2008 45% 45% 0% no polls
    February 1, 2008 43.3% 44.4% McCain +1.1%
    March 1, 2008 47.5% 43.4% Obama + 4.1%
    April 1, 2008 44.2% 44.4% McCain + 0.2%
    May 1, 2008 45.8% 44.9% Obama + 0.9%
    June 1, 2008 46.0% 45.3% Obama + 0.7%
    June 11, 2008 47.2% 42.6% Obama + 4.6% Obama +6
    July 1, 2008 47.6% 41.7% Obama + 5.9% Obama +70
    July 15, 2008 47.0% 42.5% Obama + 4.5% Obama +70
    August 1, 2008 46.5% 43.9% Obama + 2.6% Obama +106
    August 15, 2008 45.2% 41.7% Obama + 3.5% Obama +70
    August 20, 2008 45.1% 43.9% Obama +1.2% McCain +10
    September 1, 2008 48.8% 44.3% Obama + 4.5% Obama +8
    September 8, 2008 45.4% 48.3% McCain + 2.9% Obama +8
    September 15, 2008 46.3% 44.7% Obama +1.6% Obama +8
    October 1, 2008 48.9% 43.6% Obama + 5.3% Obama +168
    October 4, 2008 49.3% 43.4% Obama + 5.9% Obama +168
    October 11, 2008 49.9% 42.3% Obama + 7.6% Obama +168
    October 15, 2008 50.1% 42.1% Obama + 8% Obama +190
    October 18, 2008 49.6% 43.1% Obama + 6.5% Obama +190
    October 25, 2008 50.4% 42.4% Obama + 8% Obama +212
    October 28, 2008 50.5% 43.8% Obama + 6.7% Obama +212
    October 29, 2008 49.9% 43.9% Obama + 6% Obama +212
    October 30, 2008 49.7% 43.8% Obama + 5.9% Obama +190
    October 31, 2008 50.0% 43.5% Obama + 6.5% Obama +168
    November 1, 2008 50.4% 43.6% Obama + 6.8% Obama +168
    November 2, 2008 50.7% 44.3% Obama + 6.4% Obama +168
    November 3, 2008 51.6% 44.3% Obama + 7.3% Obama +138
    November 4, 2008 52.1% 44.5% Obama + 7.6% Obama +138
    Election result 52.92% 45.67% Obama + 7.3% Obama +192

    Bottom line

    Presidential candidate electors Votes percent
    Barack Obama 365 69,456,897 52.92
    John McCain 173 59,934,814 45.66
    Ralph Nader 0 738.475 0.56
    Bob Barr 0 523.686 0.40
    Chuck Baldwin 0 199.314 0.15
    Cynthia McKinney 0 161,603 0.12
    Other candidates 0 242,539 0.19
    Bottom line 538 131.257.328

    With over 131 million votes cast, more people took part in an American presidential election than ever before.

    Source: FEC

    Campaign Funding

    The head of the US federal electoral authority FEC, Michael E. Toner , assumed that the 2008 presidential election would be the most expensive in US history. Toner said that the total spending to more than one billion US dollars will amount. He also took the view that a candidate should have at least $ 100 million in campaign funds by the end of 2007 to be taken seriously and to have nationwide opportunities.

    Campaign donations from January 2007 to November 2008

    Each American citizen is allowed to donate a maximum of $ 4,600 to each candidate during a presidential campaign, with a maximum of $ 2,300 in the primary and main campaign.

    Lobby groups, so-called Political Action Committees , are also allowed to donate amounts up to a specified upper limit. Some candidates also use part of their own wealth.

    Individual donations from citizens represent the largest source of income for all candidates. Barack Obama is the only candidate who has explicitly foregone other sources of income.

    candidate source Donation income
    in US dollars
    Election campaign expenses
    in US dollars
    Cash on hand
    in US dollars
    in US dollars
    Barack Obama - D Q 770.469.843 740.557.859 29,911,984 594.765
    John McCain - R Q 239.614.935 231,609,656 8.005.279 155,692
    Campaign donations to the retired candidates (January 2007 to April 2008)
    candidate source Donation income
    in US dollars
    Election campaign expenses
    in US dollars
    Cash on hand
    in US dollars
    in US dollars
    Hillary Clinton - D Q 000000221704583.0000000000221,704,583 000000192038129.0000000000192.038.129 000000029666454.000000000029,666,454 000000019480893.000000000019,480,893
    Mitt Romney - R Q 000000111115777.0000000000111.115.777 000000111069181.0000000000111.069.181 000000000060421.000000000060,421 000000044300000.000000000044,300,000
    Rudy Giuliani - R. Q 000000065531287.000000000065,531,287 000000065336729.000000000065,336,729 000000000194558.0000000000194,558 000000003628117.00000000003,628,117
    John Edwards - D Q 000000056627724.000000000056,627,724 000000055821961.000000000055.821.961 000000000805763.0000000000805.763 000000000014923.000000000014,923
    Ron Paul - R Q 000000034920537.000000000034,920,537 000000030207868.000000000030,207,868 000000004715092.00000000004,715,092 000000000000000.00000000000
    Bill Richardson - D Q 000000024319862.000000000024,319,862 000000024319203.000000000024,319,203 000000000000659.0000000000659 000000000317494.0000000000317.494
    Fred Thompson - R Q 000000024102904.000000000024,102,904 000000023723349.000000000023,723,349 000000000379555.0000000000379,555 000000000107905.0000000000107.905
    Mike Huckabee - R Q 000000016365788.000000000016,365,788 000000016331311.000000000016,331,311 000000000034477.000000000034,477 000000000074449.000000000074,449


    The book Game Change and the film based on it Game Change - The Sarah Palin Effect deal with the election campaign for this election, whereby the film only deals with Sarah Palin's candidacy.

    See also


    • Jan Philipp Burgard: Learning to win from Obama or "Yes, we yawn!" ?. The election campaign of the century and the lessons for political communication in Germany . 2nd expanded edition, Nomos, Baden-Baden 2012, ISBN 978-3-8329-7970-6 .
    • Matthias Maass (Ed.): The World Views of the US Presidential Election: 2008 . Palgrave Macmillan, New York City 2009, ISBN 978-0-230-61868-8
    • Costas Panagopoulos (Ed.): Strategy, Money and Technology in the 2008 Presidential Election . Routledge, Oxon 2012, ISBN 978-0-415-66942-9

    Web links

    Commons : 2008 United States Presidential Election  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files

    Individual evidence

    1. 2008 election results
    2. ^ Presidential Primaries ( Memento June 12, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) on nass.org
    3. ^ Denver lands Democratic convention
    4. Thomas Klau, Alaska instead of Irak ( Memento from September 5, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Financial Times Deutschland from September 4, 2008.
    5. HANDELSBLATT The Third Man builds before Thursday, January 10, 2008, 4:36 pm
    6. ↑ Billionaire Bloomberg doesn't want to go into the White House
    7. Ralph Nader wants to be president of Welt Online again
    8. Der Spiegel - US election campaign
    9. ^ Spiegel Online - Obama's speech in Berlin
    10. USA: Super delegate of the Democrats shot. In: Zeit Online. August 14, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2012 .
    11. ^ Spiegel Online - US election campaign
    12. domradio.de ( Memento from February 10, 2013 in the web archive archive.today )
    13. tagesschau.de, 'Obama is my candidate', August 27, 2008 (tagesschau.de archive)
    14. sueddeutsche.de, 'Obama is the man for the job', August 28, 2008 ( Memento of February 25, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
    15. tagesschau.de, "Obama officially accepts candidacy", August 29, 2008 ( Memento of August 29, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
    16. Marc Pitzke, The problem that came from the cold , Spiegel-Online from November 5, 2008
    17. tagesschau.de, "Gustav" sweeps up the party conference program , September 1, 2008 ( Memento from September 1, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
    18. John McCain and the Incalculable Palin Factor , Welt.de, September 8, 2008
    19. The colors of the states refer to the mean of at least the last three survey results . Washington DC is usually very democratic.
    20. RealClearPolitics.com
    21. 2008 OFFICIAL PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS ( English , PDF) transition.fec.gov. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
    22. ^ New York Daily News: Next presidential election is likely to cost $ 1 billion , Jan. 16, 2007
    23. Opensecrets.org: Overview of campaign donations , May 22, 2008