Sunday, September 20, 2020

Recent Presidential Elections -- 2012 Election -- Obama's First Term: Disenfranchisement, Vilification

"No-one's ever asked to see my birth certificate," Mr Romney told a crowd of about 5,000 people at an event in a Detroit suburb.

"They know that this is the place that we were born and raised," he said, to laughter from the crowd.

The comments allude to a debunked conspiracy theory that Mr Obama, whose father was from Kenya, was not born in the US and is not eligible to be president.

Mr Romney is due to be officially appointed next week as the Republican nominee at the party's convention in Tampa, Florida (Romney’s 1-2).

Birther theories vary.

Some argue Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii. Others, such as the one outlined in Iowa, focus on the fact that Obama's father was not a U.S. citizen, supposedly rendering his son ineligible for the Oval Office.

The Romney campaign would clearly prefer to focus on the economy and banish birth certificate talk to the “fever swamps” of the Internet, as Buzzfeed's Ben Smith recently labeled the sinister corners of the Web where conspiracy theories thrive.

Instead, birtherism is creeping more and more into the domain of GOP officialdom.

In North Carolina, the state GOP convention will be headlined next week by Donald Trump, whose 2011 crusade to unearth details about Obama's origins drew global attention and prompted the White House to release the president's long-form birth certificate.

The Romney campaign has since leveraged Trump as a campaign surrogate and fund-raiser (Hamby 1-2).

Voter Disenfranchisement

Between January 2011 and October 2012, governors signed into law twenty-three bills that imposed constraints on voting. Many of these measures mandated the presentation of a state-issued photo identification such as a driver’s license. In June 2012, the Republican majority in the Pennsylvania legislature took up the issue of voter identification cards, a topic of great interest to Republican-controlled legislatures in other states as well. The purported impetus for voter IDs was the prevalence of fraud—of voters presenting themselves at more than one polling station or of assuming someone else’s identity.

Typically, the poll worker at the voting location asks the voter his or her address and then the voter signs a document verifying his or her identity. Although the evidence for fraud in this system is only anecdotal – a study by the New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice calculated the incidence of individual voter fraud to be literally equivalent to the incidence of individual Americans getting struck by lightning—several states raced to address the “problem” before the 2012 presidential election.

The real motivation, however, was to suppress the minority (mainly African American and Hispanic) turnout. Some poor residents do not own a car and, therefore, have no driver’s license, and the process for obtaining a picture ID could be intimidating, inconvenient and/or expensive. The U.S. has no national identification card with a photo. Someone who does not have such a document would need to go to a government office and purchase a photo I.D., thus making it difficult for those (particularly poor) residents to arrange such a visit as well as the cost on a fixed budget. It is estimated that about 25 percent of black voters and 16 percent of Latino voters do not have a government-issued photo ID. The figure among the rest of the population is around 11 percent. Approximately 30 percent of students lack the most common government-issued ID, a driver’s license. And young people, especially those between the ages of 18 and 29 tend to vote Democratic by substantial majorities.

Voter ID laws, if allowed to stand, would have clearly suppressed the minority vote. And that was the point. Mike Turzai, the Republican majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives divulged the real reason for the legislation: “Voter ID is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Since almost all black and Hispanic voters would cast their ballots for President Obama, the statement revealed the motivation behind the move to fix alleged voter fraud.

Republicans also initiated other procedures designed to suppress minority voting. In nine states that passed voter ID laws, the government office to obtain them often kept irregular hours. For example, the Woodville, Mississippi, office opened only on the second Thursday of every month. That was more accommodating than Wisconsin’s Sauk City office, which was open only on the fifth Wednesday of every month. Eight months of the year do not have a fifth Wednesday, meaning the office was open only four days for the entire year.

Texas and Florida went further in their attack on alleged voter fraud. Both states targeted nonprofit organizations that conduct voter registration drives, such as the League of Women Voters and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The states placed new training requirements and liability burdens on the groups’ volunteers. It was estimated that roughly twice as many blacks and Latinos register through such organizations as whites.

Republicans also favored shorter polling hours, arguing that keeping the polls open too long was too expensive. This made it difficult for voters who worked early in the morning or until the late evening hours to vote. Republicans also mobilized against early voting, especially on Sundays. In 2008, in Hamilton County, Ohio (which includes Cincinnati) 42 percent of early voters were black. As for Sunday voting, conservative commentator Glenn Beck called it “an affront to God.” The real reason behind the Sunday ban movement was that black churches provided transportation to the polls following Sunday services. Ohio and Florida eliminated Sunday voting for the 2012 presidential election. Both were swing states.

Doug Preisse, a Republican official from Columbus, Ohio, explained, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban (read African American) voter-turnout machine.” When courts struck down Ohio’s assault on early voting, billboards appeared in black neighborhoods in Cleveland with a picture of a judge’s gavel and the words: “VOTER FRAUD IS A FELONY: UP TO 3½ YEARS & $10,000 FINE.” The billboards’ owner is part of the Bain Capital Group, which Mitt Romney headed in the 1990s.

Federal courts struck down or stayed most of these attempts at voter suppression. The major impact of these measures was to spur minority voting. African Americans were especially incensed at these veiled attempts to deny their right to vote, attempts that were reminiscent of the Jim Crow era when subterfuges such as literacy tests and poll taxes effectively reduced African American voting (Goldfields 5-8).


Barack Obama may, or may not, deserve reelection. But no man with as much decency as Obama exhibits in both his private and public life deserves the contempt that has been dumped on him by arch-conservative ideologues, talk show ranters and Internet goons.

From Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Donald Trump to all the anonymous creators of the wild fabrications that churn out of websites and go viral in emails, the relentless vilification of Obama has been unprecedented. Sure, every president suffers unfair criticism. Many of our most effective presidents, from Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, have been slandered and hounded by critics. But Obama’s detractors have plumbed new and revolting depths of mendacity.

Obama’s birthplace, his paternity, his religion, his academic attainments, his citizenship and his loyalty to the country have all been called into question by people who feel no moral qualms about spreading fabrications and untruths. Any unfair tactic, any lie is justified in order to “take back America” from someone they refuse to accept as a legitimate president, despite the indisputable reality that he was elected by a majority of American voters in a near-landslide of electoral votes.

It is a false equivalence to say the left has been guilty of similar smears during the administrations of Republican presidents. In those past instances, all but a few Democratic elected officials shunned such slanders. The same was true for all but the most rabid liberal commentators. But most of today’s Republican leaders stay silent in the face of the lies and many eagerly repeat them, while leading conservative pundits give the endless falsehoods credence, not an honest critique.

The right wing’s eagerness to engage in deceit has distorted credible conservatism and corrupted political discourse. It has turned the Grand Old Party into a rigid and narrow ideological club that tries to purge any Republican who displays even a hint of moderation or willingness to compromise (Horsey 1).

Today on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that he got a phone call during a break that revealed Barack Obama had the “lowest grades ever in Harvard, never went to class.” This, of course, is a complete lie.

It’s quite well known that Obama graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School in 1991, a designation based soley upon grades which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only is it impossible for Obama to have had the “lowest grades that any Harvard graduate ever got,” but also that Obama was one of the top students at Harvard Law School.

Limbaugh’s attacks on Obama are more than just intellectual jealousy and ignorance about higher education. It’s hard not to see racism when a white dropout accuses a black man with academic honors of receiving preferential treatment based on race, despite clear proof of the contrary. … Limbaugh has repeatedly made racist comments about Obama. When Limbaugh declares that Obama got fake grades at Harvard and dismisses him as a beneficiary of affirmative action, he’s not just lying; Limbaugh is also trying to provoke racist feelings among his audience (Wilson “Rush” 1-2).

Six times on his show today, Rush “accidentally” referred to Obama as “Osama.” And Limbaugh reached his lowest point by claiming that Obama only went after Bin Laden for political opportunism. At a moment when America was united by relief at Bin Laden finally being found, Limbaugh turned it into an opportunity for sleazy partisanship to smear his political enemies (Wilson “Limbaugh” 2-3).

Michelle Obama was not spared.

The internet was buzzing Tuesday night with video of First Lady Michelle Obama apparently showing extreme disrespect to the American flag at a ceremony in honor of the victims of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. As police and firefighters fold the flag to the sound of marching bagpipers, a skeptical looking Mrs. Obama leans to her husband and appears to say, “all this just for a flag.” She then purses her lips and shakes her head slightly as Mr. Obama nods.

Fox's Juan Williams claimed that Michelle Obama's instinct is to “blame America. ”Fox News contributor Juan Williams baselessly attacked Michelle Obama, claiming that “her instinct is to start with this 'blame America' ... stuff.” Williams asserted that Michelle Obama's “instinct” is to “blame America” or be “the victim.”

Fox's [Laura] Ingraham directed GOP To oppose Michelle Obama's efforts To fight childhood obesity.

Andrew Breitbart's website published a cartoon of an overweight Michelle Obama saying “Shut up And pass the bacon!” Taking a cue from Rush Limbaugh's nickname for the first lady -- “Michelle, My Butt” -- one of Andrew Breitbart's websites posted a cartoon of an overweight Michelle Obama eating a plate-full of hamburgers and saying: “Shut up and pass the bacon!”

Limbaugh Told Michelle Obama …:“If you're gonna tell everybody to eat twigs and berries ... you had better look like an Ethiopian” [and] President Obama's limousine “weighs eight tons without Michelle in it” (Krepel and Rosenberg 1-4).

Four days before Barack Obama was sworn into office, a prominent radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, told his conservative listeners that a major American publication had asked him to write 400 words on his hopes for the Obama presidency.

I…don’t need 400 words,” he said, “I need four: I hope he fails” (Debusmann 1).

Works cited:

Debusmann, Bernd, “The Lucrative Business of Obama-Bashing.” Reuters, October 22, 2009. Web.

Goldfields, David, “What We Can Learn about America from the 2012 Presidential Election.” American Studies Journal, 58 (2014). Web. June 9, 2020.

Hamby, Peter, “Despite a Frustrated GOP, Anti-Obama 'Birthers' Still Persist.” CNN, May 23, 2012. Web.

Horsey, David, “Romney Victory Would Vindicate Right-Wing Smears of Obama.” Los Angeles Times, October 30, 2012. Web.

Krepel, Terry, and Rosenberg, Leslie, “Michelle Obama Derangement Syndrome: Four Years, 40 Smears.” Media Matters, September 4, 2012. Web.

Romney's 'Birther' Jibe Upsets Obama Campaign.” BBC News, August 24, 2012. Web.

Wilson, John K., “Limbaugh Smears “Osama” 6 Times.” Daily Kos, May 2, 2011. Web.

Wilson, John K., “Rush Limbaugh’s False Smears about Obama’s Harvard Record.” Academe Blog, August 2, 2012. Web. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Recent Presidential Elections -- 2012 Election -- Results


2012 Election Results



Electoral Votes

Popular Votes

Barack H. Obama (I)




W. Mitt Romney




Gary Johnson




2012 Election Facts

Issues of the Day: 

Role of government, Spending & tax rates, Nuclear Iran, Arab Spring, Global warming, Campaign finance

Obama only the 2nd president (Wilson, 1916) to be elected to a second term with fewer electoral votes than earned when winning first term

Few Battlegrounds: Despite a fairly competitive race overall, only four states were decided by less than a 5% popular vote margin

Electoral Vote changes for 2012 based on 2010 Census: [+4 TX], [+2: FL], [+1: AZ, GA, NV, SC, UT, WA],[-1: IA, IL, LA, MA, MI, MO, NJ, PA], [-2: NY, 

More Census: First time that CA hasn't gained an electoral vote in reapportionment; 7th consecutive time NY has lost 2 or more; TX gain of 4 most since CA gained 7 after 1990 count

Margin of Victory Map

This map is shaded by how large the popular vote difference was between the two nominees. It is a way to view the relative competitiveness of each state.

The 2012 United States presidential election was the 57th quadrennial American presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. The Democratic nominee, President Barack Obama, and his running mate, Vice President Joe Biden, were elected to a second term. They defeated the Republican ticket of former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

As the incumbent president, Obama secured the Democratic nomination with no serious opposition. The Republicans experienced a competitive primary. Romney was consistently competitive in the polls and won the support of many party leaders, but he faced challenges.from a number of more conservative contenders. Romney clinched his party's nomination in May, defeating Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and several other candidates.

The campaigns focused heavily on domestic issues, and debate centered largely around sound responses to the Great Recession. Other issues included long-term federal budget issues, the future of social insurance programs, and the Affordable Care Act, Obama's marquee legislative program. Foreign policy was also discussed, including the phase-out of the Iraq War, military spending, the Iranian nuclear program, and appropriate counteractions to terrorism. The campaign was marked by a sharp rise in fundraising, including from nominally independent Super PACs.

Obama defeated Romney, winning a majority of both the popular vote and the Electoral College. Obama won 51.1% of the popular vote compared to Romney's 47.2%. Obama was the first incumbent since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 to win reelection with fewer electoral votes and a lower popular vote percentage than had been won in the previous election, and was also the first two-term president since Ronald Reagan to win both his presidential bids with a majority of the nationwide popular vote (2012 1-2).

As with previous presidential elections, the contest hung on the swing states—those states where the pre-election polls indicated a race too close to call. Depending on the media outlet, those states numbered anywhere from six to nine. This is where the election took place. The other states were so solidly behind one or the other candidate that the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Not so the swing states.

Most of the parties’ face-to-face campaigning and political advertising concentrated in the swing states. The candidates made occasional forays into states such as California and New York (both solidly Democratic) or Texas (solidly Republican) only for fund-raising not for on-the-ground campaigning. The election-day surprise was that Barack Obama lost only one swing state—North Carolina—and that by a margin of less than one percent. In fact, the president lost only two states he won in 2008: Indiana and North Carolina. This was a remarkable feat considering the pundits’ predictions of a very close election.

The second surprise was the remarkable turnout of the African American electorate. Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the registration of black voters has grown to be equal to that of white registrants: slightly better than two-thirds of the eligible electorate. However, turnout among black voters has historically been less than the turnout among whites. Turnout is often a function of class: poor people vote less often than more affluent voters. Turnout is also a function of opportunity: the ease of accessing polling places, the time to wait in lines, and the weather. Poorer people, tied to jobs, family care issues, and the daily grind of survival may have priorities that take precedence over casting a ballot on a given day.

In recent years, however, changes in the voting process have enabled less affluent voters to vote on a more flexible schedule. Many states have installed early voting procedures that allow registrants to cast ballots as much as three weeks prior to the election day (the first Tuesday in November). Also, the registration process has become easier, with more venues open to enroll voters. Finally, particularly in those states and counties (mostly in the South), the 1965 Voting Rights Act has required any change in the electoral process to be pre-cleared by Washington for its impact on minority voting rights. (The U.S. Supreme Court struck down this pre-clearance provision of the Act in an Alabama case, Shelby County v. Holder, on June 25, 2013.)

Still, many of these features were in place during the 2008 presidential election, including, and most important, the presence of a black candidate at the head of a major party ticket. Yet, the turnout among white voters was higher than that of black voters in the 2008 contest. What motivated African Americans in 2012, was not only the possibility of re-electing Barack Obama, but also the assault on their voting rights by various Republican-led state legislatures.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, 66.2 percent of eligible blacks voted in the 2012 election, compared with 64.1 percent of eligible non-Hispanic whites. The national turnout rate for all voters was 61.8 percent. Marvin Randolph, the NAACP’s senior vice president for campaigns explained, “We are accustomed to people trying to deny us things, and I think sometimes you wake the sleeping giant, and that’s what happened here.”

Such motivation made an impact, particularly in the swing states. In Ohio—and no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio—the African American vote increased from 11 percent of the total vote in 2008 to 15 percent of the total vote in 2012.


Overall, a record 71 percent of Hispanic voters supported the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama in 2012. This is astounding considering that Republican President George W. Bush received 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004 (“US Elections”; Lizza 50).

The major reason for the shift toward the Democrats was Republican hostility to immigration reform, or at least to a reform that would address the status of 11 million undocumented immigrants (the vast majority of whom are Hispanic), and particularly their children, in a compassionate manner.

In addition, Republican legislatures in Arizona and Alabama passed highly restrictive immigration laws allowing, among other provisions, law enforcement authorities to stop anyone and ask for documentation that the individual was in the U.S. legally. This is racial profiling. During the Republican primary, candidate Mitt Romney advocated “self deportation” as a strategy for undocumented immigrants, an awkward phrase that further alienated Hispanic voters.

The Republicans’ position also alienated other immigrant groups, especially Asian immigrants. In 1992, Republican President George H.W. Bush received 57 percent of the Asian vote. Twenty years later, Barack Obama received 73 percent of the Asian vote. Although accounting for only 3 percent of the total voter turnout, Asians will increase their numbers in the coming years, as will Hispanics. The electoral influence of both groups exceeds their raw numbers since many immigrants are concentrated in swing states such as Colorado, Ohio, and Florida.

Another demographic trend is also disadvantageous to the fortunes of the Republican Party: the declining percentage of non-Hispanic whites in the electorate. Though the Republicans achieved 59 percent of the non-Hispanic white vote, accounting for 72 percent of the total turnout, their numbers continue to fall vis-à-vis other ethnic and racial groups. In 1992, non-Hispanic whites accounted for 87 percent of the voters; that figure has declined by at least three percentage points in every ensuing presidential election. And even though Republican candidate Mitt Romney received robust support from whites, some of this strength came from parts of the country, particularly in the Deep South and the Plains, where state populations and hence electoral votes are relatively small.

While the Republicans were losing the new ethnic vote, they were also bucking age, family status, gender, and religious trends. President Obama won the youngest age cohort (18-29 years) with 60 percent of the vote, and the next youngest age cohort (30-44) with 52 percent of the vote. Together, these age cohorts comprised 45 percent of the total turnout. Romney was most competitive in the 60 and older category, winning 54 percent of that vote. However, it is not necessary to consult actuarial tables to know that it is not a winning strategy to depend upon an increasingly aging cohort for political support. Plus, political scientists argue that a person’s first vote for a political party is a strong indication of future voting for that party. The youngest age cohort was especially important in the swing states of Ohio, Florida, and Virginia where the Obama campaign targeted these voters in particular.

The U.S. Census has chronicled the changing nature of the American family, particularly the growth in the number of unmarried individuals, of working and single mothers with children under the age of 18, and of the numbers of gay households. Gays and unmarried women in particular viewed the Republican Party as hostile to their interests. Barack Obama received 76 percent of the gay vote, 62 percent of the vote of unmarried voters, and 62 percent of working mothers with children under the age of 18. Mitt Romney captured 60 percent of the married vote. Unmarried voters accounted for 41 percent of the total electorate.

Although the gender gap was not nearly as large as it was in 2008, President Obama received 55 percent of women’s votes and 47 percent of the men’s. Since women voted at higher rates than men—53 percent to 47 percent—the Democrats’ advantage is magnified in that demographic as well (“Gender Gap”).

Religion has always played an important role in American politics, and the 2012 election was no exception. While the Tea Party portion of the Republican Party stressed that its members stand for much more than opposition to abortion and gay rights, the religious right has found a comfortable home in the Republican Party. But a Pew Research survey indicated that nearly one out of five Americans claims no religious affiliation at all, a record high. Plus, opposition to gay marriage is becoming an increasingly minority position in the nation. Mitt Romney’s greatest strength came from white Protestants—at one time the majority of the nation’s electorate. Today, they account for 39 percent of the turnout. Romney won a commanding 69 percent of that vote.

President Obama continued to receive strong support outside the white Protestant group. Jewish voters gave Obama 69 percent of their votes. Obama won 50 percent of the Catholic vote, reflecting his strong support in the Hispanic community. And black Protestants voted overwhelmingly (better than 95 percent) for the president. Together, Catholic and Jewish voters comprised 27 percent of the turnout in 2012, and they provided key votes in the swing states of Ohio and, especially, Florida (“How the Faithful Voted”).

The Democrats did better than the Republicans in the big cities—69 to 29 percent—and they split the suburban vote, but lost overwhelmingly to Mitt Romney in small towns and rural areas. The difficulty for Republicans is that there are many more votes in cities and suburbs (69 percent) than in small towns and rural areas (31 percent). A look at the 2012 electoral map reinforces this perspective. Mitt Romney won nearly half of the states (twenty-four), but was swamped in the Electoral College.

American political parties are coalitions. Based on the 2008 presidential election and reinforced by the 2012 vote, the Democratic Party is a party that attracts younger voters, women, especially unmarried women, multi-racial constituents, those who live in cities, especially in the coastal states, and secular voters, Jews, and Catholics.

Republican voters tend to be older, male, married, and mostly white. They live in rural areas, small towns, and are especially numerous in the heartland states. They are likely to be regular churchgoers, mainly Protestant and particularly evangelical Protestant (Goldfields 2-3, 8-10).

Works cited:

2012 Presidential Election.” 270 to Win. Web.

Goldfields, David, “What We Can Learn about America from the 2012 Presidential Election.” American Studies Journal, 58 (2014). Web. June 9, 2020.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Recent Presidential Elections
2008 Election
The Debates, Why Obama Won

Looking toward November, both McCain and Obama [had] set their sights on a fast-growing segment of the U.S. electorate: the Hispanic vote that was increasingly crucial in battleground states such as Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico as well as California and other Western states such as Arizona.

Both candidates touted their records on immigration reform, a key issue for many Hispanics, and questioned the other's commitment to it.

McCain believed he could compete for Hispanic voters, who traditionally aligned with Democrats. But he would have to overcome his own party's label, which had become toxic with many Hispanics after the anger expressed over illegal immigration in the recent GOP primaries and the continual anti-"amnesty" rhetoric from conservative talk radio.

After all the abuse that McCain took from his own party for twice pushing comprehensive immigration reform bills in the Senate, he was forced to defend his pivot from the previous year, in which he said he would support reforms such as a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants only after the border was secured.

"That's a tactical difference — that's not a change in his position," Charlie Black, a senior McCain adviser, told The Republic.

To supporters of comprehensive immigration reform, it was more than a tactical shift. The idea behind a single piece of legislation that would balance border security with a guest-worker program, a pathway to citizenship and other reforms was that it was the only way to ensure passage for all the measures. Once the borders were secured, they feared, most Republicans would abandon the benefits that the immigrant community sought.

McCain also got no points with Hispanics for largely ignoring Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's controversial neighborhood crime sweeps, which had started to make national news. Though it was not explicitly stated, it was clear Arpaio's deputies were targeting immigrants in the sweeps.

Despite McCain's aggressive courting of the Hispanic vote, there was always a sense that it was futile given the political atmosphere (Nowicki 16-17).

The last four weeks of this election will be about whether the American people are willing to turn our economy and national security over to Barack Obama, a man with little record, questionable judgment, and ties to radical figures like unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said (Egan 2).

The first presidential debate in Mississippi went off as planned. And it was there that McCain truly may have lost the election.

It wasn't because of McCain's performance, which was solid if a little stiff and abrasive at times. Except for some discussion of the economic crisis, the debate focused on national security and foreign policy, two issues in McCain's comfort zone. Some observers said McCain may have won the debate on points, some said Obama won outright, while still others said it was probably no worse for McCain than a draw.

The problem for McCain was that a draw was all Obama needed, so that effectively made him the winner. Given the economic anxiety and Obama's lack of seasoning, the McCain campaign's last hope was that Americans might not want to risk the presidency on someone so untested. McCain needed Obama to fumble.

Instead, Obama held his own against McCain and delivered a calm and collected performance that put to rest worries about his light experience.

"I think they pretty much did equally well in what they said," Paul Levinson, a Fordham University communications professor and expert on presidential debates, told The Republic after the event. "On the non-verbal level, Barack Obama was much better. He looked relaxed. He smiled at times. He seemed confident."

McCain and Obama would share the stage two more times, in Nashville and Long Island, N.Y., though neither debate would move the needle.

Obama was seen as the winner of the second debate. In the third, McCain seemed most comfortable and was at his best. Still, he wasn't able to do much damage to Obama, despite bringing up Obama's ties to William Ayers, a former leader of the violent Weather Underground Organization, and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which was under fire at the time in a voter-registration controversy.

The third debate, held Oct. 15 at New York's Hofstra University, is perhaps best remembered for McCain making "Joe the Plumber" a short-lived household name.

The plumber in question, Joe Wurzelbacher, had questioned Obama on the campaign trail near Toledo, Ohio. He told Obama he wanted to buy a plumbing business that could make as much as $280,000, which would put him over Obama's $250,000 limit for tax protection and relief for small businesses. "When you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," Obama told Wurzelbacher.

"Joe, I want to tell you, I'll not only help you buy that business that you worked your whole life for and I'll keep your taxes low and I'll provide available and affordable health care for you and your employees," McCain promised from the debate stage. To Obama, he said: "And what you want to do to Joe the Plumber and millions more like him is have their taxes increased and not be able to realize the American dream of owning their own business."

By the second half of October, though, it seemed as if McCain's fate was sealed. He still struggled to connect with voters on the economy, the most important issue of the day. Undecided voters seemed to break for Obama.

"I feel like we got a righteous wind at our backs here," Obama said while campaigning in Virginia.

No matter how bleak the outlook, McCain did not give up, campaigning hard to the very last minute. The day before the election, McCain stumped in no fewer than seven states before concluding with a midnight rally at the steps of the Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott. He cast his vote in Phoenix before campaigning some more in Colorado and New Mexico (Nowicki 6-10).

Election night inspired gracious oratory by both candidates. “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible,” Obama told a cheering crowd of supporters, “who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.” Conceding defeat, McCain said, “This is a historic election, and I recognize the significance it has for African Americans and the special pride that must be theirs tonight. We both realize that we have come a long way from the injustices that once stained our nation's reputation” (Nelson 6).

Why Obama Won

Along with the unpopularity of President Bush and the dire condition of the U.S. economy, changes in the composition of the American electorate played a major role in Barack Obama’s decisive victory in the 2008 presidential election. The doubling of the nonwhite share of the electorate between 1992 and 2008 was critical to Obama’s election as African-American and other nonwhite voters provided him with a large enough margin to overcome a substantial deficit among white voters. In addition, voters under the age of 30 preferred Obama by a better than 2–1 margin, accounting for more than 80 percent of his popular vote margin. Despite the overall Democratic trend, the results revealed an increasingly polarized electorate. Over the past three decades the coalitions supporting the two major parties have become much more distinctive geographically, racially, and ideologically. The growth of the nonwhite electorate along with the increasing liberalism and Democratic identification of younger voters suggest that a successful Obama presidency could put the Democratic Party in a position to dominate American politics for many years (Abramowitz “Transformation” 1).
15 states accounted for almost 90% of total spending on television advertising by the Obama and McCain campaigns. These same 15 states were also heavily targeted for grassroots voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives by the campaigns. According to data compiled by Nate Silver of, as of early August, more than 80% of Obama field offices and more than 90% of McCain field offices were located in these states.

Thanks to Barack Obama’s enormous fundraising prowess, which allowed his campaign to turn down public financing, the Obama campaign enjoyed a substantial advantage in spending on TV advertising in the battleground states. Altogether, the Obama campaign and its allies spent about $258 million on television ads in these 15 states, compared with about $164 million by the McCain campaign and its allies, a better than three-to-two advantage.

Perhaps reflecting its greater emphasis on grassroots campaigning and ability to capitalize on the enthusiasm of its supporters, the Obama campaign had an even bigger advantage when it came to field organization in the battleground states. As of early August, according to Nate Silver, the Obama campaign had opened 281 field offices in these 15 states, compared with only 94 for the McCain campaign, almost a three-to-one advantage.

Evidence from the 2008 presidential election suggests that both spending on television ads and field organization affected the results of the election in the 15 battleground states. On average, the Obama campaign gained a measurable electoral benefit in these states from its huge advantages in spending and field organization. That electoral benefit may well have tipped two states, Indiana and North Carolina, to Obama.

While the findings presented here suggest that advertising spending and field organization made a difference in the battleground states, they did not alter the outcome of the presidential election. Twelve of the 14 swing states that voted for Obama probably would have ended up in his column even without any advantages in advertising spending or field offices because of their normal partisan voting tendencies and the national trend toward Obama (Abramowitz “Do” 5, 7).

The outgoing President George W. Bush, McCain's rival from the 2000 GOP primaries, had left the Republican Party in rough shape.

Polls said he was wildly unpopular, making it more likely voters would seek a change in 2008. The economy was weak and about to get a lot worse. By October, a New York Times/CBS poll would find a historic 89 percent of Americans believed the United States was on the wrong track and only 7 percent believed it was headed in the right direction.

Bush's record appeared to be an all-but-impossible albatross for any nominee from his party to overcome.

Unfortunately for McCain, his fights with Bush — over the 2000 South Carolina primary, over the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, over campaign-finance reform — seemed liked ancient history. While McCain's campaign was eager to revive his "maverick" brand, it had to do so without alienating the party's pro-Bush voters. That meant he never could really reject or truly distance himself from the Bush presidency (Nowicki “John” 6).

In retrospect, McCain certainly made mistakes — some big, some not so big — that damaged his competitiveness. His response to the economic crisis clearly backfired. Many voters saw his return to the Senate as a stunt. There's still an argument about whether his gamble on Palin as a running mate helped him enough with his base to offset how much she hurt him with independents. Perhaps he should have been more aggressive in distancing himself from the politically radioactive Bush.

And for all of McCain's effort to court the Latino vote, Obama clobbered him among that demographic, too, 67 percent to 31 percent. A Latino running mate from a swing state, rather than Palin from Alaska, might have helped, though McCain could never reflect the country's changing demographics the way Obama did.

The hopes of McCain's campaign hinged largely on Obama making rookie mistakes. Not only did Obama not make such mistakes, he ran a much-emulated, highly disciplined campaign that was able to raise unprecedented amounts of money.

The bottom line, though, is that after eight years of the Bush administration, war-fatigued voters were ready to give the Democrats a shot. It was an impulse that would be all but impossible for McCain, or any GOP candidate, to reverse.

A USA TODAY/Gallup poll gauged Bush's approval rating on Election Day 2008 at just 25 percent.

"Look, he didn't run the best campaign that we've ever seen, but no Republican could have won this year," Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 election. "You can't win with conditions this bad for the incumbent party. And that's McCain's consolation: He did reasonably well under extremely difficult conditions. It was never meant to be" (Nowicki “It” 11-13).

Republican operatives (including Karl Rove) were accused of altering voting machine tallies in Ohio in the 2004 presidential election resulting in George W. Bush receiving a plurality of votes to win the state and the national election.

The statistically anomalous [recent practice of] shifting of votes to the conservative right [via voting machine manipulation] has become so pervasive in post-HAVA [Help America Vote Act 2002] America that it now has a name of its own. Experts call it the "red shift."
Some argue that the Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008 disprove the existence of the red shift. However, this may be a misinterpretation of complex political upheavals that occurred in each of those election years.
While Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives in 2006, and the White House in 2008, postelection analyses did in fact suggest extensive red-shift rigging. But in both election cycles, these efforts simply failed to overcome eleventh-hour events so negative that they drastically undercut the projected wins for the G.O.P.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers months before the 2008 elections [overwhelmed] … John McCain's numbers. Pre-election polls showed that the American public blamed the Republicans for the imploding financial markets. "These political sea changes swamped a red shift that turned out to be under-calibrated," argues [Election Defense Alliance Director] Jonathan Simon, who speculates that Barack Obama actually won by a historic landslide, driven by an overwhelming backlash against the policies of the Bush Administration (Collier 11, 12).


There are copious anti-Obama texts from the earliest days of his campaign. In the book I am writing on this subject, there’s a chapter on patriotism. These allegations are among the earliest texts with fauxtography “proving” that Obama wouldn’t sing the national anthem or salute the flag, had an American flag removed from the exterior of his campaign plane, wouldn’t wear a flag pin, and dissed the Boy Scouts of America. There was a rumor that he lowered the White House flag to half-staff after the death of Whitney Houston but not after the death of Nancy Reagan. There’s a chapter on the beliefs that Obama was a Muslim. Chronologically, these surface much sooner than the birther beliefs, a cluster of notions claiming that circumstances surrounding his birth made him ineligible to be president of the United States. There are the beliefs that he started the Ebola epidemic so that whites could be killed off and the United States populated with Muslims, or that he’s gay and had arranged for numerous lovers who referred to him as “Bathhouse Barry” to be killed so that they couldn’t out him. And there are almost as many rumors about Michelle Obama as there are about Barack. It has been claimed that she hired far more assistants than any prior First Lady, that her senior thesis reflected an anti-white agenda, that she wanted a picture of herself wearing a royal crown on a US postage stamp, and (drumroll, please) that she was born a man and had a sex-change operation. Since Obama left office, the rumors have continued: that he left roaches in the White House; that after he moved out, a stash of illegal drugs was discovered in his living quarters; more ominously, that he and “deep state” operatives are sabotaging the current administration. Lest you think the rumors are subsiding, there’s a photo circulating with a caption that says “President Obama gave Presidential Medal of Freedom to Harvey Weinstein,” and a doctored photo “proves” the case (Turner 422).

Works cited:

Abramowitz, Alan I., “Do Presidential Campaigns Matter? Evidence from the 2008 Election.” UVA/Center for Politics, August 2, 2012. Web.

Abramowitz, Adam I., “Transformation and Polarization: The 2008 Presidential Election and the New American Electorate.” Science Digest, April 16, 2010. Web.

Collier, Victoria, “How to Rig an Election.” Harper’s Magazine, October 6, 2012. Web.
Egan, Mark, “Obama Accuses McCain of Smear Campaign.” Reuters, October 4, 2008. Web.

Nelson, Michael, “Barack Obama: Campaigns and Elections.” UVA Miller Center. Web.

Nowicki, Dan, “'It Was Never Meant to Be' — John McCain Fails in 2nd Presidential bid.” The Republic, April 2, 2018. Web.

Nowicki, Dan, “John McCain Reaches Long-Sought Goal, Runs for President against Obama.” The Republic, April 2, 2018. Web.

Turner, Patricia A., “Respecting the Smears: Anti-Obama Folklore Anticipates Fake News.” Journal of American Folklore, Volume 131, Number 522, Fall 2018. Web.