Fear and loathing on the campaign trail, August 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

August 2008 in the United States presidential election saw the emergence of two politicians selected to serve as their party's vice presidential nominees. The month was full of speculation as pundits argued on the merits of who they felt were the possible "choices" for the candidates. The Democratic National Convention was held and campaign activities increased until a looming storm caused Republicans to delay and reshuffle their convention.

  • The McCain campaign took advantage of a fresh new series of ads that cast Barack Obama as a "celebrity." The candidate increased his position in the polls coming close to matching Barack Obama's lead.
  • McCain participated in the first joint-forum of the campaign with Barack Obama. At the Saddleback forum moderated by pastor Rick Warren. McCain discussed his past as a POW in Vietnam and recounted his failed first marriage. He listed General David Petraeus, former e-Bay CEO Meg Whitman, and Congressman John Lewis, as the three wisest people he would consult as president. This statement raised speculation that one of the three could be chosen as McCain's running mate.
  • Comments made by McCain that he didn't know how many houses he had and a joke at the Saddleback Forum that an annual income of $5 million is the line drawn to be considered rich, led to a line of attacks against McCain by Obama and Democrats. They attempted to cast McCain as elitist and out of touch and continued this rhetoric until the end of their convention.
  • McCain had announced that he would unveil his running mate on Aug. 29, the day following the Democratic convention. Following this announcement, most speculation about the pick surrounded former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. and former Pennsylvania governor and the first Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. Word leaked early on the morning of Aug. 29 that Romney and Pawlenty would not be the choice. After hearing that a plane had landed in Ohio (where McCain would make his announcement) from Alaska, it was speculated that McCain would make a surprise choice and selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Before the announcement at noon, it was leaked and confirmed that Palin was indeed McCain's choice as a running mate.
  • The Palin selection was hailed by conservatives who pointed to the candidate's pro-life record, executive experience and record of "fighting corruption." But the pick also set off a firestorm of attacks from the Obama campaign who remarked that she was merely the mayor of a city with 9,000 people. However his campaign stopped short of attacking Palin when it was revealed that her 17-year-old daughter was 5 months pregnant.
  • As Hurricane Gustav approached the Gulf coast, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney decided not to attend the GOP convention in St. Paul. On the eve of the convention's start McCain announced that most events for the next day would be suspended.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden
  • Obama participated in the Saddleback Forum with McCain and talked about his faith and vision for America. Taking a more philosophical approach to the questions, Obama remarked that the question of when life began was "above [his] paygrade. He reflected on the toughest decision he made in his life: his choice to oppose the war in Iraq in 2002, and discussed his past drug use as a mistake in his youth.
  • A book criticizing Obama and his life entitled The Obama Nation became a New York Times best seller. Written by WorldNetDaily editor Jerome Corsi, the book looks into Obama's past associations with Reverend Wright and William Ayers, and examines his youth in Indonesia. Corsi was attacked by the media for his publication, they reminded the public that Corsi had co-authored Unfit for Command during the 2004 election. However he supports Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin for the presidency.
  • As Russia invaded Georgia, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware made a trip to the nation to assess the situation and talk to the nation's president. After being viewed as Obama's most likely pick as a running mate, the trip only raised speculation that Biden would be selected.
  • Obama stated that when he was ready to announce his running mate pick he would send a text message to supporters and individuals who signed up on his campaign website. On Aug. 22 the public waited and the media speculated all night about the announcement. Joe Biden was mentioned as the frontrunner, and also discussed were Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Virginia governor Tim Kaine, Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius and longshot Senator Hillary Clinton of New York. As the day went on reports confirmed that Congressman Chet Edwards of Texas was another member of Obama's shortlist. Late in the night it was confirmed that Kaine and Bayh had been eliminated and Biden looked to be the nominee. At about 1 a.m. CDT, the Obama campaign sent out the message confirming that Joe Biden had been selected.
  • The Democratic National Convention was held in Denver amidst protests. Hillary and Bill Clinton each lent their full-hearted support to Obama in addresses to the delegates. Senators Obama and Biden each accepted the nominations for president and vice president, respectively. Obama's acceptance speech on the last night of the convention at INVESCO Field in front of 84,000 was the highlight of the convention and both applauded and criticized.
Third Parties


Editor's Note

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail... is a monthly article about the campaign events during the past month. The title is based on the series of articles written by journalist Hunter S. Thompson and compiled into a publication entitled Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.