United States Presidential Election, 2008 - Primaries

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This information pertains to the Primaries and Caucuses of the 2008 Election Cycle. It is a subsection of the main article, United States Presidential Election, 2008



John McCain started out slow, being badly trounced in the first primary in Iowa, but squeaked out a win in the next primary to keep his campaign on track. It became a common theme for McCain to win by small margins, but with many Republican states being winner take all states, he took a commanding lead in delegates. Giuliani, who was an early favorite, faltered badly from the start and was out of contention quickly. Mitt Romney was the main competitor, but losing by relatively small margins was still losing and he ran out of steam. Romney had a tendency to win in the states where delegates were apportioned by on voting percentage and lose in the winner take all states. Although he won 7 states on Super Tuesday to McCain's 9, McCain picked up over 600 delegates while Romney gained only 200. Romney left the race shortly thereafter. The contest was basically over on the Republican side, although Mike Huckabee continued along until McCain had actually won enough delegates to have secured the nomination, then he backed out.


The road for Barack Obama was more difficult. Seemingly at a disadvantage to Hillary Clinton, he held on through the early contests and managed to tie her over Super Tuesday. Two early blowout wins for Clinton in Florida and Michigan didn't count because those states had broken the rules in moving up their primaries. Obama then won 11 straight primaries, a string that Clinton could never recover from. Obama was winning the overwhelming majority of the black vote, and the Democratic party was skewed much more heavily with minorities than the general population. Obama had the backing of many white voters as well, but seldom reached 40% in this category, but it didn't matter. Obama was also helped by the way delegates were proportioned by district. Even if states where he lost by a narrow margin, he would often receive slightly more delegates than Clinton. Clinton was also being consistently beaten in the caucuses, making her cause even more difficult not to mention that while she raised an incredible amount of money, Obama raised more. She couldn't keep up. By the end Clinton actually had slightly more votes, but trailed in the delegate count. Hoping to count on the super delegates, they too slowly moved for Obama. She pointed out, correctly according to the polls, that she would do better against John McCain than Obama would in the general election, but it didn't matter. She had still lost.

Primaries and Caucuses

Iowa Caucus: January 3, 2008

The first caucus in the 2008 presidential election cycle was the Iowa Caucus. The Democratic winner of the Iowa caucus was Barack Obama, who managed to beat national frontrunner Hillary Clinton and former North Carolina Senator, John Edwards. The official results were:

Dem. Iowa caucus results
candidates percentage
Barack Obama 38%
John Edwards 30%
Hillary Clinton 29%
Bill Richardson 2%
Joseph Biden 1%

Other candidates such as, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel did not gain a significant percentage. Because of the Iowa results, Barack Obama was expected now to beat Hillary Clinton in the upcoming New Hampshire primary. Also, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd both withdrew from the race because of their low showings in the Iowa caucus.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee defeated Mitt Romney by an even closer margin. The results were:

GOP Iowa caucus results
Candidate percentage
Mike Huckabee 34%
Mitt Romney 25%
Fred Thompson 13%
John McCain 13%
Ron Paul 10%
Rudy Giuliani 3%

Candidates such as Duncan Hunter, Alan Keyes and John H. Cox didn't come out with a significant percentage. Romney's loss in Iowa set him back in the upcoming primary in New Hampshire. Huckabee's win however gave him surge in New Hampshire where he had before been very low in the polls. McCain's unexpected high showing in Iowa also gave him a little boost in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Primary: January 8, 2008

The next milestone after the Iowa caucus was the New Hampshire primary. (Only the Republican Wyoming primary occurred on January 5, which was won by Romney.) On the Republican side, Mitt Romney's defeat in Iowa helped his most significant opponent, John McCain. Huckabee's victory in Iowa helped boost his campaign and gave him a higher showing than even he had expected. On the Democratic side, Obama's defeat of Clinton and Edwards led to the polls usually predicting an Obama victory in New Hampshire. The winner for the Republicans was John McCain and for the Democrats Hillary Clinton. The Democratic results were:

Dem. NH primary results
Candidate percentage
Hillary Clinton 39%
Barack Obama 36%
John Edwards 17%
Bill Richardson 5%
Dennis Kucinich 1%

Hillary Clinton's win was a setback for Obama and much-needed victory for Clinton. The polls reliability was most hurt with these results. (Mike Gravel didn't reach a significant percentage.) The Republican results were:

GOP NH primary results
Candidate percentage
John McCain 37%
Mitt Romney 31%
Mike Huckabee 11%
Rudy Giuliani 9%
Ron Paul 8%
Fred Thompson 1%
Duncan Hunter 1%

These results put the very survival of Mitt Romney on the line and intensified the upcoming Michigan primary. John McCain's victory helped boost his campaign and he predicted to go on to victory in Michigan and South Carolina. Huckabee also did well and placed an unusual third place.

Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina

Romney's second-place defeat in Iowa and New Hampshire, caused his campaign to focus all its attention on the Michigan Primary on January 15. He managed to defeat his rivals, John McCain and Mike Huckabee. Since the Democrats had ruled that Michigan could not award delegates based on this "too early" primary, all of the candidates, except Clinton, asked to have their names removed from the ballot. Clinton won easily, because she was one of the only major candidates to be even on the ballot. Romney and the Democrats turned their attention to the Nevada caucus, while Republicans John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson looked to the South Carolina primary. (The Republicans had the South Carolina primary on the same day as the Nevada caucus, January 19.) The Democratic results were:

Dem. Nevada caucus results
Candidate Percentage
Hillary Clinton 51%
Barack Obama 45%
John Edwards 4%

Hillary Clinton probably won because of her strong position on the Yucca Mountain issue, which was critical to Democratic caucus goers. Romney easily won the Republican Nevada caucus, probably because it is close to Utah, a traditionally Mormon state. Duncan Hunter had been hoping for a strong finish in Nevada and decided to leave the race, because of his poor showings.

GOP SC caucus results
Candidate percentage
John McCain 33%
Mike Huckabee 30%
Fred Thompson 16%
Mitt Romney 15%
Ron Paul 4%
Rudy Giuliani 2%

McCain’s victory in South Carolina propelled him as the national front-runner. Mike Huckabee’s 2nd place defeat forced him to cut back in expenses due to lack of funds. Fred Thompson’s defeat was irreparable and he withdrew from the race shortly afterwards

The Democrats prepared for the primary in South Carolina on January 26. Obama won the primary by a huge margin over Clinton and Edwards. This was a severe loss for Edwards since he had been born in South Carolina and was Senator for North Carolina. Obama probably won because of the state’s huge black population.

Florida Primary: January 29, 2008

Because Florida moved its date to January 29 the Democratic party stripped Florida of its delegates and the candidates agreed not to campaign there. The Democratic results were:

Dem. Florida primary results
candidates percentage
Hillary Clinton 50%
Barack Obama 33%
John Edwards 14%
Joe Biden 1%
Bill Richardson 1%
Dennis Kucinich 1%

Florida was the last early primary state and after his loss, John Edwards suspended his campaign. (Although they had withdrawn, candidates Biden, Richardson and Kucinich still received votes. Mike Gravel didn't receive a percentage.) The Republicans concentrated on Florida more than the Democrats, because the Republican party chose to remove only half of their delegates. Candidate Rudy Giuliani chose to ignore earlier primaries, hoping that a large win in Florida, with its strong transplanted New Yorkers contingent, would propel him to the nomination. Unfortunately, with earlier wins, John McCain and Mitt Romney both gained momentum and began to lead Giuliani in the polls. The Republican results were:

GOP Florida primary results
candidates percentage
John McCain 36%
Mitt Romney 31%
Rudy Giuliani 15%
Mike Huckabee 13%
Ron Paul 3%
Fred Thompson 1%

The results caused Giuliani to exit the race the next day and endorse the primary winner, John McCain. (Although Fred Thompson had withdrawn he got some support anyway.)

Super Tuesday: February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday held the largest number of presidential primary's and caucuses. Twenty-four states were held for one or both parties were held on this date.

The Democratic results were:

GOP Super Tuesday primary results

  • John McCain, 9 states won, (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma). Number of delegates won: 602.
  • Mitt Romney, 7 states won, (Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Utah). Number of delegates won: 201.
  • Mike Huckabee, 5 states won, (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia). Number of delegates won: 152.
  • Ron Paul, 0 states won. Number of delegates won: 10

February 9th Primaries

The next major primary after Super Tuesday was on February 9, 2008. The Democrats held contests in Louisiana, Nebraska & Washington. The Republicans held three other contests in Kansas, Louisiana & Washington. Governor Huckabee won Kansas and Louisiana, but lost to McCain in Washington by a close margin. Barack Obama won all three Democratic contests, and also won the Maine caucus, the next day on February 10.

Potomac Primary: February 12, 2008

The next primary-date was the Potomac primary on February 12. It is called that because the three states; District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, which all were near the Potomac River, had their primary date on the same date. John McCain won all three Republican contests, while Barack Obama won all of the Democratic contests.

Super Tuesday 2: March 4, 2008

After Obama won his 11th consecutive victory on the February 19th primaries in Wisconsin and Hawaii, Clinton was desperate to win the March 4th primaries in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island & Vermont. Huckabee also needed more victories to prevent McCain from reaching the needed 1,191 delegates for the Republican nomination.

Clinton won all of the states except for Vermont, which Obama won. McCain won all of the primaries, causing Governor Huckabee to leave the race that evening.

Pennsylvania Primary

After Clinton's victories on Super Tuesday 2, both Democrats looked ahead to the Pennsylvania primary on April 22. Obama lost some popularity after video clips were shown of his Pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, saying "G-d damn America!" during a sermon. Obama also commented about people bitterly clinging to guns and religion because they were upset with Washington policies. Clinton beat Obama by 9 percentage points, continuing the long drawn-out contest between the two. John McCain was able to easily win the primary as the Republican party's presumptive nominee.

Guam Caucus

On May 3, Guam held its Democratic caucuses. Out of more than 4,500 votes, Senator Obama won by 7 votes. The results gave Obama 2 pledged delegates and Senator Clinton 2 pledged delegates.

Indiana and North Carolina Primary

Both Indiana and North Carolina held their primaries on May 6. Heading into the primary, registered African American voters reported receiving "robocalls" telling them they were not registered to vote. The calls were traced back to an organization called "Women's Voices Women Vote". The organization included members close to the Clintons. The calls ended with an order from the state Attorney General. Senator Obama proceeded to win the primary with 56.1%.

Leading into the Indiana primary, the polls were very close, with neither candidate leading by more than the polls' margin-of-error. Senator Clinton was looking for a large win to follow up on the Pennsylvania primary, with much the same demographic as PA and Ohio. Senator Obama, though, surprised many in the news media and the Clinton campaign by losing by only a small margin, 50.56% - 49.44%. With the near-split of the delegates in Indiana, combined with his win in North Carolina, the media began to declare Senator Obama as the nominee, although he had not yet reached the necessary delegate count.

West Virginia Primary

With a strong working-class demographic, Senator Clinton was expected to win the West Virginia primary on May 13. Polls leading into the primary had her up 29 points on Senator Obama. The final vote tally exceeded the polls, with Senator Clinton winning 66.99% - 25.67%.

Oregon and Kentucky Primaries

The Oregon primary was a mail-only primary—the only such primary in the nation. Democratic voters received ballots in the mail between May 2 and May 6, and had to be received by county election officials by May 20. Polling leading up to the primary showed Senator Obama with a 10-15% lead over Senator Clinton. Obama held a rally on May 18 at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland which drew an estimated 72,000 people. It was the largest rally Obama had held, more than doubling the 35,000 that came out to see him in Pennsylvania. By the end of the vote tally, Obama had won the state primary 58.5% - 40.5%.

The Kentucky primary, held the same day, was long believed a lock for Senator Clinton. The voter demographic mirrored the West Virginia primary, with a heavy working-class population. Senator Clinton easily won the primary, 65.5% - 29.9%. The large win, though, was drowned out in the media by Senator Obama's win in Oregon, and more importantly, by the endorsement of Senator Obama by former opponent and former vice presidential candidate, John Edwards.

Puerto Rico Primary

With Clinton behind in both pledged and superdelegates at this point in the race, every primary and delegate became even more important to forestall Obama reaching the necessary number of delegate to clinch the nomination. Clinton's strategy was to win out the primaries and work to convince superdelegates to support her nomination at the party convention as the best chance to beat McCain. Thus Puerto Rico, usually an afterthought in previous elections, rated visits by both candidates before the June 1st primary. Heading into the primary, Clinton led in two polls by 13% each time. The results beat poll expectations, with Clinton winning the primary 67.7% - 31.27%.

Montana and South Dakota Democratic Primaries

The last Democratic primaries were held on June 3. Senator Obama needed to win one of the primaries, and merely come close in the other to clinch the nomination. In Montana, Obama got the win he needed, defeating Senator Clinton 56.3%-41.25%. In South Dakota, Senator Clinton won, but with a close enough margin to give Obama the final delegates necessary. The result of the primary was 55.35% - 44.65%. Senator Obama was in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the site of the Republican Nominating Convention, to accept the party's unofficial nomination.[1]

Historical Information

Withdrawn Republican Party Candidates

Potential Republican Candidates Who Declined to Run

Withdrawn Democratic Party candidates

  • Senator Joseph Biden, Delaware[8] He withdrew after a disappointing finish in the Iowa Caucus. He became Senator Obama's running mate.
  • Senator Hillary Clinton, New York Suspended her campaign after Obama reached the number of needed delegates. She endorsed him shortly afterwards.
  • Senator Chris Dodd, Connecticut[9] He withdrew after a disappointing finish in the Iowa Caucus and later endorsed Senator Barack Obama.
  • Former Senator John Edwards, North Carolina. He withdrew after losing in all of the early primary states. He later endorsed Senator Obama after Obama won the North Carolina primary.
  • Former Senator Mike Gravel, Alaska. He withdrew to seek the Libertarian party nomination (which he lost to Bob Barr.) He also endorsed Green Party Candidate, Jesse Johnson.[10]
  • Representative Dennis Kucinich, Ohio 10th[11] He withdrew to keep his seat in the House of Representatives.
  • Governor Bill Richardson, New Mexico[12] He withdrew after twin fourth-place finishes (in Iowa and New Hampshire) that showed his credentials could not compete with his rivals’ star power. He later endorsed Senator Obama.
  • Former Governor Tom Vilsack, Iowa. He dropped out early in the race and endorsed Hillary Clinton of New York

Potential Democratic Candidates Who Declined to Run

See also