Fear and loathing on the campaign trail, May 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

In May 2008, the candidates of the United States presidential election campaigned and faced questions on as wide ranging issues as assassination, Hitler and the death of one's political career. The month more clearly showed who the Democratic Party candidate would be, and potentially narrowed the field for the Vice-Presidential race in the Republican Party. A third-party candidate also emerged who could potentially change the outcome of the election.

  • Hillary Clinton won the Kentucky and West Virginia Primaries by a wide margin and narrowly won in Indiana despite calls from prominent Democrats for her to drop out of the race after heavy losses in the North Carolina and Oregon primaries.
  • Barack Obama's victories in North Carolina and Oregon propelled him to large leads in the delegate count, and he picked up new superdelegates at a higher rate than Hillary Clinton, including the endorsement of former candidate John Edwards. Members of the press including George Stephanopoulos and Tim Russert declared Obama as the Democratic candidate with Russert asserting "We now know who the Democratic nominee's going to be, and no one's going to dispute it."
  • Hillary Clinton continued her push to count the delegates from Florida and Michigan where she won, but whose votes were not being counted because of the state's breach of DNC rules by holding the primaries too early. Barack Obama was not on the ballots when these states held their primaries.
  • A series of gaffes by the candidates included Barack Obama stating that he had visited 57 states, and Hillary Clinton declaring that anything could happen in the election in June stating "We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California". The former, persuaded columnist Michelle Malkin to publish an article "Gaffe machine" that chronicled campaign gaffes made by Obama as a candidate. The latter, was perceived by some as alluding to the possibility that Obama could be assassinated as Robert Kennedy in 1968.
Potential Vice presidential candidate Bobby Jindal
  • Presumptive nominee John McCain attacked Barack Obama over his comments that compared the Soviet Union to the threat of Iran, describing the latter as a "tiny" threat. McCain stated that Obama had exhibited "inexperience and reckless judgment" in his assessment. Obama responded by stating "that the Soviet Union had the ability to destroy the world several times over, had satellites spanning the globe, had huge masses of conventional military power, all directed at destroying us." The back and forth followed a debate between President Bush and Obama over Bush's assessment that Obama's position to talk to Iran was representative of appeasement.
  • Media reports surfaced of McCain supporter and preacher John Hagee's comments from 2007 that "the force and fear of Hitler's Nazis drove the Jewish people back to the only home God ever intended for the Jews to have: Israel." McCain immediately rejected the endorsement of Hagee after hearing reports of the comments.
  • John McCain's search for a running mate continued as the senator invited three candidates to his ranch in Arizona. McCain invited former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Florida governor Charlie Crist, and the youngest governor in the nation, Indian-American Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. The invitations led to speculation that the McCain campaign had narrowed the vice-presidential nomination search to the three.
Third Parties
  • At the Libertarian Party convention, former GOP Congressman Bob Barr was nominated as the party's presidential nominee on its sixth ballot. Wayne Allyn Root was named his running mate. Barr had entered the race two weeks prior to the nomination and was considered to be a possible spoiler for the Republicans in November because of Barr's conservative positions.
  • Also at the Libertarian Party convention, former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel ended his political career after losing on the fourth ballot. He stated, "From 15 years old to now, my political career is over, and it's no big deal. I'm a writer, I'm a lecturer, I'm going to push the issues of freedom and liberty. I'm going to push those issues until the day I die."


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.