John McCain 2008 Presidential Campaign

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For more information on the details of the Presidential race between McCain and Obama see United States Presidential Election, 2008.

Arizona Senator John McCain formally announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on April 25, 2007, and became the GOP nominee in September 3, 2008, after the longest primary season in history.

While his campaign's success was once considered unlikely, McCain won several early primaries and went on to win enough delegates to secure the nomination. McCain had gained national prominence during his surprisingly strong presidential campaign in 2000. He eventually lost out to now-President George W. Bush.

McCain ran as the outsider, the maverick who went his own ways and opposed corruption and the same-old-politics. He electrified the nation and solidified his base among conservatives by naming Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. One of his TV commercials summed it up:

"The original mavericks. He fights pork barrel spending. She stopped the Bridge to Nowhere. He took on the drug industry. She took on big oil. He battled Republicans and reformed Washington. She battled Republicans and reformed Alaska. They'll make history. They'll change Washington. McCain. Palin. Real change."[1]

He lost the election to his opponent, the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama.

Campaign development

Based on his longevity in the Senate and his previous race in 2000, McCain already had name recognition coming up to the 2008 election. He informally stated he would be a candidate for the 2008 Presidential Election on the Late Show with David Letterman on February 28, 2007, and officially announced his candidacy in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, two months later. A few weeks prior to making his announcement on Letterman, he was beginning to trail behind former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani in the polls. McCain supported the 2007 proposal by President George W. Bush for a "surge", an increase in the number of U.S. troops deployed in the Iraq War, which thankfully for McCain was a success. He started a series of campaign events entitled the "No Surrender Tour." His campaign became far more prominent with his wins in the New Hampshire primary and on Super Tuesday, and since Mitt Romney endorsed him was considered a virtual certainty to win the nomination. He finally reached the 1,191 delegates to win the nomination on the Super Tuesday II contests on March 4.

Fund raising issues

McCain's fund raising results and campaign financials were poor. After first-quarter 2007 fundraising totals were released in early April 2007, totals showed McCain's $13.6 million lagging behind rivals in the race. During the second quarter he did worse, raising $11.2 million. In early July 2007, the McCain campaign let go fifty to a hundred staffers and forced others to accept pay cuts or switch to no pay.

McCain accepted nearly $70,000 for his presidential campaign from the top donors to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and their family. The SBVT were condemned at the time by McCain when they ran ads questioning John Kerry's military service and his reception of the Purple Heart. The money raised was four times the amount McCain raised from those donors in the 14 years prior to launching his campaign.[2]

In June 2008, McCain had his best fundraising month to date, bringing in $21 million in donations for his campaign. In the same month, though, Senator Barack Obama's campaign reported bringing in $52 million.

Senator McCain announced that he would accept public financing for the general election. After his party's nominating convention, the Federal Elections Commission provided him with a check for $85 million. His opponent, Senator Obama, chose to opt-out of the general election financing, the first major candidate to do so since the inception of federal funding. Obama's campaign stated that they had expected to bring in more than the $85 million provided by the FEC and therefore do not want to abide by the spending limits incurred by accepting federal funding. To balance out the expected fundraising advantage Senator Obama had, Senator McCain relied on the Republican National Committee to help with the campaign through advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts. The RNC had a distinct fundraising advantage over its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic National Committee. The lack of funds, though, hurt down-ticket Republicans who were not able to fall back on RNC fundraising, but instead had to rely on their own efforts as well as that of the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee which have lagged compared to their Democratic counterparts, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Campaign Issues


McCain stated his plans to balance the budget by 2013, via spending cuts by ending earmarks and proposing a one-year pause in discretionary spending, in addition to tax cuts.[3] Economic experts, though, were skeptical that the ideas proposed by Senator McCain would create a balanced budget. According to Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group, "It would be very difficult to achieve in the best of circumstances, and even more difficult under the policies that Senator McCain has proposed." [4]

Senator McCain proposed to hold the increase in federal spending to 2%, while it had grown at an average of 6% over the past five years. In addition, he planned to slow the growth of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid but never gave details of how he plans to do so.

As a comparison on earmarks, if President Bush were to end all earmarks in 2008, it would cut $17 billion out of a $2.9 trillion budget, a relatively minor amount.

In addition, McCain sees the ends of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as an opportunity to help reduce the deficit. "The McCain administration would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing the deficit. Since all their costs were financed with deficit spending, all their savings must go to deficit reduction.” [5]

View on Tax rebate and Recession

In January, McCain stated, "As far as putting additional money in taxpayers pocket, that's fine, because a lot of it is psychological. Because I agree the fundamentals of our economy is still strong."[6] In April, he stated, "I’m very concerned about it, Neil. And obviously the way it’s been going up is just terrible. But I think psychologically — and a lot of our problems today, as you know, are psychological — the confidence, trust, the uncertainty about our economic future, ability to keep our own home. This might give them a little psychological boost. Let’s have some straight talk, it’s not a huge amount of money."[7]


In a Paris Hilton video released on, she states "We could do limited offshore drilling with strict environmental oversight while creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars. That way the offshore drilling carries us until the new technologies kick in, which would then create new jobs and energy independence. Energy crisis solved." [8] In response, the McCain campaign said "In reality, Paris Hilton may have a more substantive energy policy than Barack Obama."

Pennsylvania lawsuit

In August 2008, McCain supporters in the Pennsylvania GOP filed a lawsuit to remove Libertarian candidate Bob Barr from the ballot in Pennsylvania.[9] Barr is a staunch conservative and could draw votes away from McCain in a state where McCain could ill afford it. The suit says Libertarians waited too long to substitute Barr's name for the stand-in candidate whose name had appeared on petitions. Barr denies the accusation.

Missed votes in Senate

Although John McCain has a long record of being present in the Senate for voting, during the current Congress, McCain has missed 64.1% of the votes while running for President - the highest in this Senate this session. Obama is third with 46.3% in this, his only term in the Senate. Four of the top five people who have missed the most votes are all candidates who ran for President.[10]

Age Concern

There was concern among some that McCain, at the age of 72, may have had health risks as President.[11] He dismissed concerns about his age and past health concerns (malignant melanoma in 2000), stating in 2005 that his health was "excellent."

Confrontation with Bill Cunningham

On February 27, 2008, Bill Cunningham introduced McCain at a campaign rally.[12] During the introduction, Bill Cunningham targeted the media, who McCain had long been friendly with, and Cunningham also used the middle name of Barack Obama, "Hussein". For this, McCain repudiated Cunningham, stating in a press conference that "I have repeatedly stated my respect for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, that I will treat them with respect. I will call them ‘Senator.’ We will have a respectful debate, as I have said on hundreds of occasions. I regret any comments that may have been made about these two individuals who are honorable Americans."[13]

The issue became a public debacle for both, with Cunningham renouncing McCain publicly, and the Liberal media keeping the issue in the news for days.[14][15]

Russia connections

Wall Street Journal correspondents Glenn Simpson and Mary Jacoby reported a consultant to McCain hired a public-relations firm to improve the American image of a Ukrainian political party backed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, according to documents filed with the Justice Department. The lobbying firm of Davis Manafort Inc. arranged through an affiliate for the public-relations firm's work in the spring of 2008, at the same time Davis Manafort was being paid by McCain's presidential campaign. The firm is co-owned by lobbyist Rick Davis, manager of Sen. McCain's presidential campaign, and Republican strategist Paul Manafort.

During the 2008 campaign, the Davis Manafort firm disclosed through its U.S. partner Daniel J. Edelman Inc., that it was working for the political party in Ukraine supporting Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by Putin.

"Davis Manafort International LLC is directed by a foreign political party, the Ukraine Parties of Regions, to consult on the political campaign in Ukraine," the January 2008 Foreign Agent Registration Act filing showed.

Manafort was first questioned by the FBI about his Russian and Ukrainian ties in 2014, two years before he became Trump’s campaign manager, and agents probed him on how he first came to work for Oleg Deripaska through McCain’s top political adviser, Davis.[16]


McCain would also become the first President of the United States to be born in a U.S. territory (the Panama Canal Zone) outside of the current 50 states. Although McCain was not born within a state of the United States, his US citizenship (and future eligibility to be elected to the presidency) was assured at birth both by jus sanguinis, since both of his parents were U.S. citizens, and jus soli, as the Canal Zone was at that time a United States possession.

Democratic Campaign

2008 circular by Democratic opponents, Vietnam Veterans Against McCain.

The Democratic campaign has tried to undercut McCain's image as a maverick and his popularity among independents and Democrats by charging that he votes with President Bush 90% of the time (actually, Bush does not vote in the Senate.) By comparison, Obama votes with the Democratic party 97% of the time.

A Democratic group, Vietnam Veterans Against McCain, alleged McCain was a traitor for giving up classified national security information to earn better treatment and conditions while in captivity as a POW during the Vietnam War.


John McCain had been frequently criticized by conservatives for his position on Campaign finance reform, Immigration and for not initially supporting the Bush tax cuts. Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) claimed that McCain was erratic in his positions and did not serve the best interests of conservatives. He was also criticized by the fiscal conservative political action committee (PAC) Club for Growth. Saying that, "While Senator McCain’s economic record contains a number of pro-growth positions, such as his support for school choice and free trade, and his steadfast opposition to wasteful government spending, his overall record is tainted by a marked antipathy towards the free market and individual freedom."

Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson criticized McCain's opposition to passing a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage.

McCain discussed with the press that he is computer illiterate, a position that some criticized.[17][18]

According to close McCain advisers, the nominee had been seriously considering a pro-choice running mate, with Senator Joe Lieberman and former Pennsylvania governor and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge most often mentioned.[19] This brought serious criticism from conservative voices such as Rush Limbaugh, who stated: "He’s not going to help himself any additional way, he’s going to hurt himself by putting a liberal or a liberal Republican on this ticket, particularly pro-choice."[20] In addition, Laura Ingraham weighed in during an on-air interview with Senator McCain, asking "How could you consider selecting someone who opposed the federal partial birth abortion ban and was one of the eleven original cosponsors of the radical Freedom of Choice Act as your vice president given your pro-life stance?"[21]

In the end, after McCain had won the Republican nomination, conservatives rallied around him. By election day, all of the people who had concerns about McCain above were supporting him.

Criticism for losing

Much talk has centered on how McCain lost the race. Immediately following the race, it was apparent that money was a key factor and in McCains case lack-there-of. Others blame the McCain campaign leadership. Obviously, they were stung by a Vice-president nominee with star power, driving the campaign into disarray. Leaks of infighting and decisions by campaign aides led to Sarah Palin rebuking those involved of accusations. It took one-year after Palin had been targeted before John McCain issued a statement to his aides telling them not to rebut her.[22] Another McCain aide came out and quickly called for the Republicans to accept the gay agenda.

There is no single reason why McCain lost. The Obama for President coalition of liberal media, questionable money sources, ACORN, platitudes and outright lies combined with a hate Bush agenda, Democrats drove the contest victory.

Notable Endorsements


See also

External links