Electing the President, 2008: The Insiders' View

Electing the President, 2008: The Insiders' View

Electing the President, 2008: The Insiders' View

Electing the President, 2008: The Insiders' View


Just weeks after the November 2008 election, the Annenberg Public Policy Center's Kathleen Hall Jamieson and FactCheck.org's Brooks Jackson gathered top strategists and consultants for postelection analysis. Nicolle Wallace, Ambassador Mark Wallace, Jon Carson, Steve Schmidt, Bill McInturff, and Chris Mottola from the McCain-Palin camp met with David Plouffe, David Axelrod, Joel Benenson, Jim Margolis, and Anita Dunn, their counterparts from the Obama-Biden camp to share their insights into one of the most unusual presidential elections in American history. Representatives of the Democratic and Republican National Committees and the major independent expenditure groups did the same.

In the resulting book, "Electing the President, 2008," the consultants who managed the 2008 presidential campaign retrace the decisions that shaped the historic presidential election. Like "Electing the President, 2000" and "Electing the President, 2004," this work permits readers to eavesdrop on the first cross-campaign discussion that occurred in the nation after Election Day. These political experts assess the importance of new factors ranging from campaign spending to the performance of the press corps, from the effect of the Internet on news cycles to the influence of Tina Fey. Democratic and Republican insiders explain the strategies behind the debates and advertising, reveal what their internal polls showed, and share what they did well and poorly in their efforts to elect the forty-fourth president of the United States.

In addition to insider commentary, "Electing the President, 2008" presents political communications and strategy researchers with an election timeline and polling data from the National Annenberg Election Survey. This book offers a ringside seat to what may prove to be the most pivotal political contest for a long time to come. An included DVD features selected video of the proceedings.


Kathleen Hall Jamieson

The election of 2008 was historic, consequential, and the outcome clear. The Electoral College tally showed a decisive Obama win, 365 to 173 votes. The popular vote spread was wide as well, 69,297,997 to 59,597,520. After years of hand wringing by good government advocates, 2008 produced the highest turnout in the United States in decades, up by more than a percent over 2004.

The winner would face a country barreling toward a trillion-dollar deficit, a financial crisis unlike any since the Great Depression, a stock market below 9000, two long-lived and expensive wars, the symbol of the terrorist attack on 9/11, Osama bin Laden still on the loose, and a scientific consensus that urgent action was needed to address what the Democrats called “a planet in peril.”

As voters cast their ballots in the general election of 2008, the notion, as Democratic nominee Barack Obama phrased it, that the election represented “a defining moment in history” seemed apt. At the top of each major party ticket was an individual different in important ways from past nominees. On November 4, 2008, a country in which the majority of voters were white and whose past included slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow elected a Harvard educated former community organizer who telegraphed his racial identity by saying that his father came from Kenya and mother from Kansas. Among the states Obama carried was Virginia, a fact that highlighted the distance the country had traveled since Richmond served as capital of the Confederacy with Virginia native Robert E. Lee at the head of the army of the South. The Democratic standard bearer telegraphed the symbolic significance of that change when he noted that “When I raise my hand and take that oath of office, I think that the world will look at us differently.… And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently.”

Generational politics were at play as well in 2008. Where Senator John McCain represented the Vietnam generation of Baby Boomers, Barack Obama had not been born when the first U.S. advisers entered that far . . .

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