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Barack Obama presidential campaign, 2008

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Barack Obama presidential campaign, 2008

Obama for America

2008 Obama–Biden campaign logo
Campaign U.S. presidential election, 2008
Candidate Barack Obama
U.S. Senator (2005–2008)
Joe Biden
U.S. Senator (1973-2009)
Affiliation Democratic Party
Status Announced:February 10, 2007
Presumptive nominee: June 3, 2008
Nominated: August 28, 2008
Won election: November 4, 2008
Headquarters 233 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Key people David Plouffe (Manager)
Penny Pritzker (Finance)
David Axelrod (Media)
Robert Gibbs (Communications)
Bill Burton (Spokesman)
Henry De Sio (Chief Operating Officer)
Claire McCaskill (Co-Chair)
Tim Kaine (Co-Chair)
Paul Hodes (Co-Chair)
Receipts US$670.7 million (November 24, 2008)
Chant Yes We Can
This article is part of a series about
Barack Obama

President of the United States

First Term

  • Campaign for the Presidency

Second Term

This article is part of a series about
Joe Biden
  • Obama–Biden Campaigns

  • Incumbent

    • 1973–2009
  • Campaigns for the Presidency

Joe Biden

The 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama, then junior United States Senator from Illinois, was announced at an event on February 10, 2007 in Springfield, Illinois.[1] After winning a majority of delegates in the Democratic primaries of 2008, on August 23, leading up to the convention, the campaign announced that Senator Joe Biden of Delaware would be the Vice Presidential nominee.[2] At the 2008 Democratic National Convention on August 27, Barack Obama was formally selected as the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States in 2008.[3] He was the first African American in history to be nominated on a major party ticket.[4]

On November 4, 2008, Obama defeated the Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, making him the President-elect and the first African American elected President.[5][6] He was the third sitting U.S. Senator, after Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy, to be elected President. Upon the vote of the Electoral College on December 15, 2008, and the subsequent certification thereof by a Joint Session of the United States Congress on January 8, 2009, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States and Joe Biden Vice President of the United States, with 365 of 538 electors.[7][8]

End of the primaries

On June 3, 2008, after the Montana and South Dakota primaries, Barack Obama secured enough delegates to clinch the nomination of the Democratic party for President of the United States.[4] His opponent in the general election, Republican John McCain, passed the delegate threshold to become the presumptive nominee of his party on March 4.[9] On June 7, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama's remaining opponent in the quest for the Democratic nomination, conceded defeat at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado and urged her supporters to back Obama.[10] After a June 26 dinner at which Obama encouraged his fundraisers to donate to Clinton's debt-saddled campaign,[11] Obama and Clinton ran their first post-primary event together in Unity, New Hampshire on June 27.[12] Over the first two weeks of July, the campaign ran a heavier schedule of fundraising events, drawing from former donors to Clinton's campaign.[13] Obama strategically had pictures made with financial experts Warren Buffett and Paul Volcker so the public would perceive him as having inside knowledge of Wall Street.[14]

Middle Eastern and European tour

In July 2008 Obama traveled to Kuwait, Afghanistan,[15] Iraq,[16] Jordan,[17] the West Bank,[18] Israel, Germany, France, and Britain. During the course of this trip he met with assorted international leaders, including President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan,[19] Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France,[20] and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, as well as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Conservative opposition leader David Cameron.[21]

On July 24, 2008 he gave a speech at the Victory Column in Berlin before a crowd of estimated 200,000 to 240,000 people.[22][23][24]

Saddleback Civil Forum

The Civil Forum on the Presidency was the venue of back-to-back interviews of U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama by pastor Rick Warren on August 16, 2008, at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

Vice Presidential selection

Joe Biden and Barack Obama after the presentation of Biden as the vice presidential running mate in Springfield, Illinois

Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate had been a subject of speculation since the end of the primaries. As of August 2008, some of the most popular choices for VP included, but were not limited to, Clinton, Biden, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, retired General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and retired General Wesley Clark.

On August 21, 2008, Obama announced that he had made a selection for the VP spot, but would not reveal until August 23 who it was.[25] Obama's campaign encouraged supporters to sign up for a text messaging system that would alert them the moment he announced his choice. On August 22, KMBC News of Kansas City spotted bumper stickers of an Obama/Bayh '08 ticket that were being printed in Lenexa, Kansas. Three sources close to a local printing plant reported that such material was being produced.[26] The image of the bumper sticker circulated on the internet. However, NBC News later quoted sources stating that Bayh had been informed by Obama's campaign that he was not the pick.[27] According to an Associated Press report that same evening, Joe Biden was selected as Obama's candidate.[28] The Associated Press report was confirmed several hours later, on August 23, on Barack Obama's official campaign website and by a mass text message to supporters.[2] Obama selected Biden to be vice president for three reasons: he could relate to blue-collar Americans (i.e. he is originally from Pennsylvania—arguably a blue-collar state); he has a multitude of connections on Capitol Hill; and he has more personal connections in foreign policy than Obama.[29]

Opinion polling

Statewide opinion polling for the 2008 United States presidential election up to November 3, 2008.[30]
  >10% Obama lead
  4%–10% Obama lead
  1%–4% Obama lead
  1%–4% McCain lead
  4%–10% McCain lead
  >10% McCain lead

The day after Obama's acceptance speech at the Gallup poll of likely voters, the McCain/Palin ticket gained a 10-point lead.[32] The erosion of support for the Obama/Biden ticket was especially pronounced among white women who had previous shown strong support for Hillary Clinton.[33] However, Obama regained and maintained the national poll average after September 19.[34]

A RealClearPolitics average of 14 national polls taken between October 29 and November 2 showed an average 7.3% lead for Obama over McCain. Obama's highest support in the polling average was 8.2% on October 14. Among individual polls tracked by RealClearPolitics, Obama's highest support was recorded in a Newsweek poll conducted between June 18 and June 19 and a Pew Research poll conducted between October 23 and October 26 showing a 15% lead.[34]

Gallup conducted weekly polls of registered voters to measure support among the candidates. The final poll conducted between October 27 and November 2 showed 24% of pure Independents supporting Obama, trailing the 32% who favored McCain. Obama's Independent support peaked at 33% the week of October 6–12.[35]

A RealClearPolitics average of four national polls measuring favorable/unfavorable opinions taken between October 28 and November 2 showed an average 55.5% favorable rating and 39.8% unfavorable rating. Obama's highest ratings in the polling average were 61.2% favorable and 32.5% unfavorable on July 8.[36]

As of November 3, 2008, one day before the election, the RealClearPolitics electoral map excluding toss up states showed 278 electoral votes for Obama/Biden, an electoral majority, and 132 electoral votes for opponents McCain/Palin.[37] Including toss up states, the Obama/Biden ticket led with 338 votes.[38]

Political positions

Obama has taken positions on many national, political, economic and social issues, either through public comments or his senatorial voting record. Since announcing his presidential campaign in February 2007, Obama emphasized withdrawing American troops from Iraq, increasing energy independence (that includes New Energy For America plan[39]), decreasing the influence of lobbyists, and promoting universal health care as top national priorities.


Obama (far right) participates in a bipartisan meeting with President Bush and Senator McCain, and House and Senate party leaders regarding the economy, September 25, 2008

Barack Obama's fundraising broke previous records for presidential primary and general campaigns, and has changed expectations for future presidential elections. The campaign avoided using public campaign funds, raising all of its money privately from individual donors. By the general election the campaign committee raised more than $650 million for itself, and coordinated with both the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and at least 18 state-level Democratic committees to create a joint-fundraising committee to raise and split tens of millions of dollars more.[40][41][42]

Post-election fundraising continued for the separate transition administration, called the Obama-Biden Transition Project, and also the separate inaugural ceremonies and celebrations committee.[40]


According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Obama's campaign raised more money in the first quarter of 2008 ($133,549,000)[43] than it had raised in all of 2007 ($103,802,537). The campaign had a relatively small total of $21.9 million in May, but went on to raise $52 million in June, after Obama had secured the nomination.[44]

On June 19, Obama was the first major-party presidential candidate to turn down public financing for a general election campaign since the system was created in the aftermath of Watergate.[45][46] Obama was expected to raise $265 million between the time of the announcement and election day.[47] By rejecting the funds in favor of private donations, the campaign was in a position to outspend John McCain prior to the election. Had he signed on to the plan, the campaign would only have been able to spend $84.1 million between the party convention in August and the general election in November.[48]

Obama explained his decision to opt out of the public financing system, saying, "public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system."[46] Critics of the decision argued that the decision contradicted earlier statements that he would attempt to reach agreement with McCain to obtain public financing,[47][49] and asserted that Obama's campaign was receiving as much support from unregulated 527 groups as McCain's.[50]

On September 4, 2008, the Obama campaign announced they raised $10 million in the 24-hour period after Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin's acceptance speech. The RNC reported raising $1 million in the same period.[51]

On October 19, 2008, Obama's campaign announced a record fundraising total of $150 million for September 2008. This exceeded the campaign's single-month record ($66 million) for August 2008.[52]

The campaign raised much of its cash in small donations over the internet, with about half of its intake coming in increments of less than $200.[53] Both major party campaigns screened regularly for patterns of abuse and returned or rejected donations in excess of legal limits, from overseas, from untraceable addresses, or from fraudulent names.[54] After some criticism of the Obama campaign on conservative blogs, the Republican National Committee asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate the Obama campaign's screening practices.[55]

Media campaign


Obama campaign office, Arlington, VA
An Obama 08 campaign office in Arlington, VA, photographed November 1, 2008.

Barack Obama was particularly noted for his use of the Internet to rally supporters and make his policies known.

"The integration of technology into the process of field organizing … is the success of the Obama campaign," says [56]

Obama’s use of the Internet targeted 18- to 29-year-olds, the age group most reliant on new media for political information about the election. Numbers have shown that presidential candidates have increased their presence and activity online. Obama’s campaign managers understood that the reason younger voters tended to ignore politicians was because politicians tended to ignore issues which most concerned them, which is why Obama received such a positive reaction from America’s youth.

Through forums and social websites such as MySpace and Facebook, Obama built relationships with his supporters, and would-be supporters. He developed an upfront, personable and face-to-face quality that gave his supporters a sense of security and trust, which inspired them to rally others in their local communities. The supporters of Obama themselves formed a nation-wide community. The Internet provided useful and effective tools, such as the Neighbor-to-Neighbor tool on (, allowing them to reach a large number of people in a short time in their own community, which in turn led to campaign rallying for more Obama support. Online communication led to Obama supporters engaging in social activities such as signmaking and door-to-door petitioning for Obama support, as well as simply discussing their opinions about policies and issues they supported along with Obama.[57][58] As described by campaign adviser Steve Spinner, the campaign grew "from zero to 700 employees in a year and raised $200 million. That’s a super-high-growth, fast-charging operation."

The Obama web campaign used consumer marketing to target individuals with customized information to their predicted interests. Political communication to viewers was based on data collected about them. This data was collected by volunteers, surveys on the website and records of consumption habits. Website surveys took a short amount of time to fill out[59] and the company used [59] The campaign team then targeted and encouraged activists in contested, winnable areas, such as through the website program Neighbor-to-neighbor.

All of his policies were made available online, and updates were sent to the subscribers of his political party via email and text message, ultimately making him the most technologically savvy candidate to date, increasing his popularity among youth voters.

An unprecedented communication strategy was the "online call tool". Over one million calls were made from residential, personal laptops and desktops.[29]

Obama’s campaign was further strengthened by his opponent [56]

In October 2008, Obama was voted Advertising Age magazine's "Marketer of the Year" by members of the Association of National Advertisers for the campaign, surpassing Apple and[62] In a post-election analysis of the campaign, the magazine lauded its "understanding of ground-level marketing strategies and tactics, everything from audience segmentation and database management to the creation and maintenance of online communities."[63]

obama campaign sign
A campaign sign in a window in Arlington, VA.

Obama's campaign is notable for its extensive use of a logo. The logo, consisting of a circle, with the center suggesting a sun rising over fields in the colors of the American flag, was designed by a team at Chicago design firm Sender LLC. "We were looking at the "o" of his name and had the idea of a rising sun and a new day," according to Sol Sender, now a strategist at VSA Partners. "The sun rising over the horizon intended to evoked a new sense of hope."[64]


Obama's campaign used the slogan "Change we can believe in" and the chant "Yes We Can". The latter slogan is shared with the United Farm Workers and associated with its founder César Chávez and is well known amongst Latinos in its Spanish form Sí se puede. The "Change we can believe in" has been used in parodies both during and since the campaign. John McCain attempted to criticize Obama by enumerating various controversial policy positions he allegedly took and proclaiming "that's not change we can believe in" alongside a banner proclaiming McCain as "a leader we can believe in".[65] Since the campaign it has been used to parody campaigns against incumbents as being "change you can't believe in" such as by British blog LeftFootForward against David Cameron[66] or by the Economist against the People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan.[67]

Hope poster

The Barack Obama "hope" poster was an iconic image of Barack Obama designed by artist Shepard Fairey.[68] It consisted of a stylized stencil portrait of Obama in solid red, white (actually beige) and (pastel and dark) blue. Either the words "progress", "hope", or "change" were under the image of Obama (in some versions other words were used). It was created and distributed widely—as a digital image, on posters and other paraphernalia—during the 2008 election season. Initially it was distributed independently but with the approval of the official Obama campaign. The image became one of the most widely recognized symbols of Obama's campaign message, spawning many variations and imitations, including some commissioned by the campaign itself. In January 2009, after Obama had won the election, Fairey's mixed-media stenciled portrait version of the image was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution for its National Portrait Gallery.


The signature campaign typeface was Gotham, typically using capital letters with occasional use of the script Snell Roundhand. Gotham was designed in 2000 by Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, originally for GQ' magazine. Prior to Gotham, the campaign used the typeface Gill Sans in upper case and lower case.[69] Another Hoefler and Frere-Jones font, Requiem, was used for the campaign logo.[70]

Television advertisements

Soon after becoming the presumptive nominee, Obama began a biographical commercial campaign emphasizing his patriotism.[71] The advertisements ran in 18 states, including traditionally Republican Alaska and North Carolina.[72] Between June 6 and July 26, Obama's campaign spent $27 million on advertisements, against McCain and Republican National Committee's combined total of $24.6 million.[73]

In a September 15, 2008 interview with Good Morning America, Obama stated, "If we're going to ask questions about, you know, who has been promulgating negative ads that are completely unrelated to the issues at hand, I think I win that contest pretty handily." What he apparently meant was that McCain had put out more negative ads.[74]

On October 29 at 8:00 pm EDT, the Obama campaign's 30-minute infomercial "American Stories, American Solutions" was simulcast on NBC, CBS, Fox, Univision, MSNBC, BET and TV One, focusing on a wide range of issues including health care and taxation. The infomercial then showed an Obama speech live from Florida.[75] Fox asked for the second part of Game Five of the 2008 World Series to be delayed by 15 minutes in order to show the commercial, and that request was granted.[76] ABC was the only major US network not to show the ad after being indecisive during the initial approach and the Obama campaign later declined the offer. The Obama ad got 30.1 million viewers across networks compared to ABC's Pushing Daisies which garnered 6.3 million viewers.[77] Prior to this, the last presidential candidate to purchase a half-hour ad was H. Ross Perot, who ran as an independent candidate in 1992.[78] The Obama campaign also bought a channel on Dish Network to screen Obama ads 24/7.[79] Wyatt Andrews reported on a "Reality Check" on the CBS Evening News the next day with doubts over the factual accuracy of some of the promises Obama made in the advertisement, given the government's enormous financial deficit.[80]

Campaign songs

U2's "City of Blinding Lights" was often played in anticipation of Obama's speeches during campaign events.[81] Bruce Springsteen's The Rising was also played heavily during his campaign rallies.[82] Barack Obama personally asked Joss Stone in August to write and record his presidential campaign song, reportedly due to the fact that she appeals across racial boundaries.[83] Ben Harper's "Better Way" was also played at a few events throughout the campaign.[84] Furthermore Obama's candidacy inspired artists to create more unsolicited music and music videos than any other candidate in American political history. Examples include "Yes We Can" by, of the band The Black Eyed Peas; Make it to the Sun[85] by Ruwanga Samath and Maxwell D; "Barack Obama" by JFC; and "Unite the Nation" by the Greek-American hip hop group Misa/Misa.[86]

"Fight the Smears" website

Obama's birth certificate

On June 12, 2008, the Obama campaign launched a website to counter what the campaign described as smears by his opponents.[87] The site provided responses to issues brought up about the candidate,[88] such as:

"Israel for Obama" Campaign

Originally started by American-Israelis in late May, the "Israel for Obama" campaign aimed to refute the allegations made against Obama concerning Israel and the Jewish community. This was done by gaining endorsements from Israel.[93] When the Illinois Senator Barack Obama took a Middle East trip from Afghanistan to Iraq, Jordan and finally to Israel, they organized a small "Israel for Obama" rally for him.[94][95][96]

Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council stated that "The Democratic operation in the Jewish community was more extensive than I've seen in 35 years,"[97] The chairman of the campaign in Israel, Yeshiyah Amariel,[98][99][100] and others such as the Jewish Alliance for Change and the Jewish Council for Education & Research used YouTube to release video endorsements from officials and normal people in Israel for Obama and his positions (such as "Israelis for Obama"[101] and "right man for the job.")[102] In the closing weeks of the election the campaign used support from Israelis to fight the smears spread online by bloggers. Its success caused the polls of Jewish support for Obama to increase so that by the time of the Nov 4 election, according to exit polls, 77% of the voting American Jewish community voted for Barack Obama over the 23% that were for John McCain.[103][104]

Email campaign

Barack Obama speaks at a rally featuring Bruce Springsteen in Cleveland, Ohio on November 2, 2008

The National Shooting Sports Foundation alleged that Barack Obama's presidential campaign unlawfully obtained a copy of the NSSF's proprietary SHOT Show media email contact list, which Obama used to send out a press release concerning "National Hunting and Fishing Day."[105][106]

Victory speech

Proposed joint-appearances and presidential debates

On June 4, John McCain proposed a series of ten joint town hall meetings with Obama, at which the two could engage each other.[107] Obama first agreed in principle to the notion,[108] but later rejected McCain's proposal, offering instead one town-hall event on the Independence Day holiday and four traditional debate-style joint appearances.[109][110] Hank Paulson, President Bush's Treasury Secretary, said Obama's comprehension of the financial crisis compared to McCain’s was as broad as "night and day". McCain’s confidence vastly lowered when Obama questioned his ideas on the financial crisis in a meeting on September 25 at the White House with Bush and other congressmen. McCain did not have suggestions regarding what he would do to fix the economy, particularly Henry Paulson’s $700 billion three-page bank recovery plan (TARP). Neither McCain nor Bush had read it. Obama’s confidence escalated from that point. This was the turning point of the campaign.[29]

Presidential debates

There were three presidential debates between Obama and McCain. No third party candidates or Independent candidates were offered an invitation to join in any of the debates,[111] as Obama and McCain were the only candidates on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Commission on Presidential Debates proposed, and the candidates agreed, that two of three 90-minute debates would be in an informal, seated, talk show format, while the third would be in a town hall format that allowed both candidates to walk around.[112]

Eve of the election

After campaigning in Manassas, Virginia on November 3, 2008, Obama told his chief strategist David Axelrod, "I think we’re going to win, but if we don’t I’ll be at peace. We’ve run as good a campaign as you could run, and if it isn’t there, it isn’t there."[29]

Election day

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama became the first [29]

Joe Biden also made history by becoming the first Roman Catholic to be elected Vice President. In addition, he is the longest-serving Senator to become Vice President, having served in the United States Senate for the 36 years prior to the election. Biden also won reelection to the Senate, but served only briefly in the 111th Congress before resigning to take his place as vice president.

Certification of the electoral votes

On January 8, 2009, the joint session of the U.S. Congress, chaired by Vice President Cheney as President of the Senate and Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, announced and certified the votes of the Electoral College for the 2008 presidential election. From the electoral votes of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Vice President Cheney declared 365 electoral votes for both Barack Obama of the state of Illinois and Joseph Biden of the state of Delaware and 173 electoral votes for both John McCain of the state of Arizona and Sarah Palin of the state of Alaska. Based on the results of the electoral vote count, Vice President Cheney declared officially that Obama was elected as President of the United States and Biden was elected as Vice President of the United States.[7]

Over 25% of the electorate was of a race besides Caucasian, a first for America.[29]

See also


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  16. ^ Liz Sly, "Obama arrives in Baghdad," Chicago Tribune, July 21, 2008. Retrieved July 31, 2008.
  17. ^ Mike Dorning, "Obama has press wondering what his real motives are," Chicago Tribune, July 22, 2008. Retrieved July 31, 2008.
  18. ^ Mike Dorning, "'Friend of Israel' also woos Palestinians," Chicago Tribune, July 24, 2008. Retrieved July 31, 2008.
  19. ^ Kim Barker, "Obama, Karzai keep talk 'positive'," Chicago Tribune, July 21, 2008. Retrieved July 31, 2008.
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  45. ^ Jonathan D. Salant, "Obama Won't Accept Public Money in Election Campaign," Bloomberg, June 19, 2008. Retrieved June 19, 2008.
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External links

  • Official campaign website
  • Barack Obama presidential campaign, 2008 at DMOZ
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