United States presidential election of 2008 was the 56th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. Democratic Party nominee Senator Barack Obama and running mate Senator Joe Biden defeated Republican Party nominee Senator John McCain and running mate Governor Sarah Palin.
Obama would go on to win a decisive victory over McCain, winning both the popular vote and the electoral college, with 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173; he received the largest percentage of the popular vote for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Obama’s successes in obtaining a major party’s nomination and winning the general election were both firsts for an African American.
Although Hillary Clinton did not win the Democratic nomination, she was the first woman to win a major American party’s presidential primary for the purposes of delegate selection when she won the primary in New Hampshire on January 8. She also was the first woman to be an American presidential candidate in every primary and caucus in every state.
Each major party hosts candidates who go through a nomination process to determine the presidential nominee for that party. The nomination process consists of primaries and caucuses, held by the 50 states, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
The winner of each of these primary elections usually receives delegates proportional to the percentage of the popular vote that candidate received in each states. In many Republican primaries, all the state’s delegates are awarded to the winning candidate. In the Democratic Party, high-ranking party members known as super delegates each receive one vote in the convention.
Obama became the new front runner in New Hampshire when his poll numbers skyrocketed after his victory in Iowa. The Clinton campaign was struggling after a bad loss in Iowa and no strategy beyond the early primaries and caucuses.
According to The Vancouver Sun, “Campaign strategists had mapped a victory scenario that envisioned the former first lady wrapping up the Democratic presidential nomination by Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.”
In what is considered a turning point for her campaign, Clinton had a strong performance at the Saint Anselm College, ABC and Facebook debates several days before the New Hampshire primary as well as an emotional interview in a public broadcast live on TV. Clinton won that primary by 2% of the vote, contrary to the predictions of pollsters who consistently had her trailing Obama for a few days up to the primary date.
Clinton’s win was the first time a woman had ever won a major American party’s presidential primary for the purposes of delegate selection. (Shirley Chisholm’s prior “win” in New Jersey in 1972 was in a no-delegate-awarding, presidential preference ballot that the major candidates were not listed in and that the only other candidate who was listed had already withdrawn from; the actual delegate selection vote went to George McGovern.
On January 30, 2008, after placing in third in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, Edwards announced that he was suspending his campaign for the presidency, but he did not initially endorse any remaining candidate.
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.