Recent Elections

The 2008 Presidential Election

The 2008 U.S. presidential election possessed many unique attributes and was won in a historic landslide victory by Democrat Barack Obama.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the key components of Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential election

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The 2008 presidential election featured many firsts, including the widespread use of the Internet in campaigning and the first African American elected to the presidency.
  • The Obama victory can be attributed to a number of factors, including the Obama campaign ‘s abilities to both distance itself from the unpopular Bush administration and to emphasize the change and experience it would bring the White House.
  • The 2008 presidential election was characterized by high levels of participation, aided by the widespread use of the Internet.
  • Obama’s win set the record for the most amount of votes cast for a U.S. presidential candidate.

Key Terms

  • swing states: States in which no single candidate or party has overwhelming support in securing the state’s electoral college votes

The 2008 Presidential Election

The 2008 U.S. presidential election was the 56th quadrennial presidential election. Barack Obama, the junior U.S. senator from Illinois, was nominated as the Democratic candidate while John McCain, the senior U.S. senator from Arizona, was nominated as the Republican candidate. Joe Biden, U.S. senator from Delaware, was later chosen as Obama’s running mate. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, was chosen as McCain’s running mate. Barack Obama won the election by a historic majority vote.

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Obama Taking Oath of Office: After winning the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama was sworn into office on January 20, 2009.

Unique Attributes

The 2008 presidential election was exceptional in many ways. It was the first U.S. presidential election in which an African American was elected president, having also been the first African American to be nominated by a major party. Obama also received the highest number of votes in the history of U.S. presidential elections. In addition, the 2008 presidential election was the first time that both major party candidates were sitting U.S. senators. The election was also characterized by high levels of public interest and engagement. Social media sites joined traditional forms of campaign activity to generate increased election interest.

Stances and Campaign Strategy

Obama’s overwhelming presidential win can be attributed to many factors. His strong opposition to the war in Iraq was a view embraced by many Americans. Meanwhile, McCain supported the war; his statement that the U.S. could be in Iraq for the next 50 to 100 years proved costly, even though it was intended as a peacetime presence. Obama was more successful than McCain in separating himself from the unpopular George W. Bush administration. The downturn in the economy provided an additional boost to the Obama campaign after McCain made comments that portrayed him as out of touch with the average American and the economic plight of the nation. The use of social media websites was another factor better handled by the Obama campaign, and one that appealed to many young voters.

In general, the Obama campaign was much more adept at emphasizing the change and experience Obama would bring to the presidency, and distancing itself from the Bush administration, than was the McCain campaign. The Obama campaign also emphasized the experience Hillary Clinton would carry as Secretary of State. Meanwhile the McCain campaign introduced Sarah Palin as the vice presidential candidate hoping to balance McCain’s more extensive experience with the potential of a relatively unknown politician. However, Palin was often painted by the media as lacking knowledge on key issues. Although Palin appealed to the conservative base of the GOP, there remained the fear that her conservative views would alienate moderates and independents.

Electoral Vote

The 2008 U.S. presidential election took place on November 4, 2008. While John McCain won the majority vote in traditionally Republican states and in his home state of Arizona, Barack Obama’s wins in his home state of Illinois, the Northeast, and the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania precluded a McCain victory. Obama also won some of the southern states and the contested states of Iowa and New Mexico. The projected electoral vote count came to 365 for Obama and 173 for McCain.

The 2010 Elections

The 2010 midterm elections, for national, state, and local governments, resulted in an overwhelming victory for the Republican Party.

Learning Objectives

Explain the political forces that contributed to the Republicans success in the 2010 elections

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • During the 2010 midterm elections 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 37 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, 38 State and territorial governorships, 46 state legislatures, 4 territorial legislatures, and numerous state and local government positions were filled.
  • In spite of the large number of government seats to be filled, voter turnout was much lower than it had been during the 2008 presidential election.
  • The Republican Party gained several government seats and recaptured a majority in the Congress that led to a divided government.
  • Factors contributing to the Republican victories included a continuing high unemployment rate, Congressional scandals, dissatisfaction with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the mobilizing ability of the Tea Party movement,, and heightened debate over immigration regulation.

Key Terms

  • house of representatives: The name of the lower house in the bicameral legislatures of several countries, also used of some singular legislative bodies in unicameral systems.
  • senate: The United States Senate, “the Senate”.
  • Congress: The two legislative bodies of the United States: the House of Representatives, and the Senate.
  • midterm election: a type of staggered election where the members take office at the middle of the term of another set of members, or of the executive

The 2010 midterm elections on November 2, 2010 filled 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 37 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate. In addition, 38 state and territorial governorships, 46 state legislatures, and 4 territorial legislatures were filled. Numerous state and local races also took place during this time.

Voter turnout dropped steeply from the previous 2008 presidential election in spite of the large number of political positions to be filled. Approximately 82.5 million people voted, about one-third fewer than those who voted in 2008. However, voter turnout was still slightly higher than the last midterm elections in 2006 and more states gained than lost voters.

The Democratic Party suffered massive defeats in most national and state elections, with many seats switching over to Republican Party control. Indeed, the Republicans gained 63 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to recapture the majority and expanded its minority in the U.S. Senate by gaining 6 seats. This caused a divided government with Democrat President Obama in office and a Republican majority in the Congress. The Republican Party additionally broke the previous majority record of 628 seats in the state legislatures, set by the Democrats in the post-Watergate elections of 1974, by gaining 680 seats in the state legislative races. The Republicans also gained control of 29 of the 50 state governorships.

The Republican victories during the 2010 midterm elections can be attributed to a number of factors. First, unemployment was over 9% during the elections and had not declined significantly since Obama had entered the White House. Secondly, public trust in Congress had diminished with a series of scandals in which Democratic Representatives Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters, along with Republican Senator John Ensign, were accused of unethical and/or illegal conduct prior to the midterm elections. Furthermore, passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act led to low approval ratings of Congress. Indeed, many Republicans ran on a promise to repeal the act and beat incumbent Democrats who had voted for it. A fourth factor that contributed to the Republican victories was the mobilizing ability of the Tea Party movement in favor of Republican candidates. Meanwhile, the controversial Arizona Senate Bill 1070 ignited a national debate over immigration that led many in support of stronger immigration regulations to vote for the Republican Party.

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Tea Party Gathering: The Tea Party movement’s ability to mobilize voters in favor of the Republican Party was one of the factors that contributed to many Republican victories during the 2010 elections.

The 2012 Presidential Election

Barack Hussein Obama was re-elected President of the United States on November 6th, 2012, serving a second term as the nation’s first black president.

Learning Objectives

Describe the key issues and the electoral landscape that led to Obama’s reelection

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The 2012 U.S. presidential election was between Democratic candidate President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Requiring 270 electoral votes to win the election, Obama received 303 electoral votes, while Romney earned 206.
  • The major policy issues at stake in the 2012 election included: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care reform; the ongoing economic crisis; tax reform; women’s rights; and American foreign policy.
  • Changes to the Electoral College apportionment of votes affected the the 2012 presidential election, likely in favor of the Republican party.
  • In his second term, President Obama faced a divided political climate, negotiating between a Democratic Senate and a Republican House, often resulting in stalemate in the Congress.

Key Terms

  • incumbent: Being the current holder of an office or a title.
  • electoral college: A body of electors empowered to elect someone to a particular office
  • Barack Obama: Barack Hussein Obama II (born August 4, 1961) is the 44th and current President of the United States. On November 6th, 2012, he was re-elected for a second term.
  • Mitt Romney: Willard Mitt Romney (born March 12, 1947) is an American businessman and was the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2012 election. From 2003 to 2007, he served as the 70th Governor of Massachusetts.

Barack Hussein Obama was re-elected President of the United States on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012. He served a second term as the nation’s first black president.

The 2012 presidential election was the 57th quadrennial election in the United States. The Democratic Party Candidate, President Barack Obama, sought re-election for his second and final term as president. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney ran as the Republican candidate.

Requiring 270 electoral votes to win the election, Obama received 303 electoral votes, while Romney earned 206. His victory was much narrower than his electoral victory in the 2008 Presidential Election against Senator John McCain. Obama carried Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Wisconsin, many of the often decisive battleground states in presidential elections. Obama also carried a small advantage in Florida.

In his second term, President Obama will continue to face a divided political climate, with a Democratic Senate and a Republican House, often leading to stalemate in the Congress. Obama tackled many of the large issues he campaigned about before the 2008 Presidential Election, including immigration reform. The economic crisis, the growing deficit, and America’s longest undeclared war were the biggest obstacles to Obama’s re-election. Days prior to the 2012 Presidential Election, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, devastating many states in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions.

Mitt Romney was highly criticized during his campaign due to his personal wealth. While he lost the popular vote by a slight margin, a much greater margin in the electoral college necessitated his loss.

The two other presidential candidates included Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian Party nominee, New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. While unlikely, both possessed the ballot access to mathematically win the majority of the Electoral College and, accordingly, the election.

The major policy issues at stake in the 2012 election were: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care reform; the ongoing economic crisis; tax reform; women’s rights; and American foreign policy.

Nominations

The Democratic nomination was uncontested with the incumbent, President Barack Obama, running for reelection. The Republican primaries were more complex, with many different candidates winning different contests. Romney won New Hampshire, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania won in Iowa, and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, won South Carolina by a surprising margin. Santorum suspended his campaign in April, leaving Romney as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Romney was officially declared as the Republican Party’s nominee at the Republican National Convention on August 30, 2012.

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Mitt Romney: Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts was the Republican candidate for the 2012 presidential election.

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Barack Obama: Incumbent President Barack Obama was the Democratic candidate for the 2012 presidential election. On November 6th, 2012, Obama was re-elected President for a second term.

Electoral College Changes and Controversies

Population changes indicated by the 2010 U.S. Census changed the apportionment of votes in the Electoral College, potentially changing the allocation of votes among swing states. Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington gained votes. Conversely, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania lost votes. The change in electoral allotment shifts the allocation of votes across the Democratic-Republican divide, as pundits predicted that the Democratic Party would lose electoral votes in states previously won in the past three presidential elections, and the Republican Party would gain votes in states won by Republican candidates in the last three elections.

Some states enacted new electoral laws in 2011. For example, Florida and Iowa banned felons from voting, and various states shortened their voting periods, eliminating the option of early voting. These measures were criticized as strategies to impede voter blocs, including college students, African Americans, and Latino Americas.