Fear and loathing on the campaign trail, September 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

September 2008 on the campaign trail was a month full of surprise and calls for unity despite a growing negativity. The Republican national convention was held and the start of the economic crisis threatened to plague the first presidential debate.

Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin at the 2008 Republican National Convention
  • At the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, some notable moments included Michael Steele’s coining of the phrase “drill baby drill” during a convention speech not carried on the major networks. Rudy Giuliani and Joe Lieberman each gave keynote addresses that attacked Senator Obama, especially in Giuliani’s case. The most memorable moment was Governor Sarah Palin’s speech, seen by as many Americans as Obama’s during the Democratic Convention, in which she gave a critically acclaimed performance that overshadowed McCain’s speech on the final day.
  • Congressman and former Presidential candidate Ron Paul held a counter convention of his own at the Target Center in Minneapolis that drew a crowd of 12,000 people. The convention featured former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, widely speculated to make a presidential run in 2012. During the convention Ventura questioned the mainstream account of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.
  • Following the Republican Convention McCain experienced a surge in polling, which greatly reduced Obama’s slight lead and showed McCain with a lead in most polling for the first time since May 2008. The selection of Palin also increased Republican voter enthusiasm in the polls.
  • Following the stock market crash later in September and the subsequent negotiations for a bailout plan, Senator McCain suspended his campaign and returned to Washington D.C. to try to reach an agreement. He asked Senator Obama to join him and postpone the debate scheduled for later in the week but Obama responded that he could do both and that he would show up for the debate at the University of Mississippi.
  • On the day of the debate, questions swirled over whether or not McCain would show, he did and the debate was held. The debate moderated by Jim Lehrer was supposed to surround foreign policy but the economic crisis took center stage, which Obama and McCain mostly agreed upon. The differences surrounded McCain’s differences with Obama on the surge policy in Iraq and Obama’s earlier suggestion that he would meet with leaders of rogue nations without preconditions.

  • As most media attention surrounded Sarah Palin in the beginning of September, Obama-Biden fell in the polls and were not at the focus of most news stories, however on September 11, Obama and McCain called a truce and met in New York City for the seventh anniversary of 9/11.
  • Barack Obama launched an ad campaign that criticized John McCain as “out of touch” and “out of date” highlighting his computer illiteracy. Biden criticized his running mate’s ad as “terrible” and also criticized an ad by the McCain campaign from earlier in the month that suggested that Obama supports sex education for kindergarten level children.
  • Later in September Obama abandoned his earlier 50-state strategy withdrawing resources from traditional red states such as North Dakota, Montana and Georgia that Obama stated he would contest. The campaign removed staffers from some states and sent them to nearby states considered to be winnable, such as from Georgia to North Carolina.
  • Following the economic crisis, Obama’s numbers raised significantly in the polls leading McCain by as many as seven points by the end of the month. Obama asked McCain to appear with him at a press conference to restore consumer confidence. Obama also joined McCain in Washington to help with the negotiations on a bailout plan. But he rejected McCain’s call to postpone the presidential debate.
  • At the presidential debate many critics believed Obama presented himself as presidential, the task many claimed he needed to accomplish. During the debate Obama linked the financial crisis to Bush administration policies and spoke out against the lead up to the war in Iraq and the need for more troops in Afghanistan.
Third parties
  • Libertarian Party presidential nominee Bob Barr asked Congressman and 1988 Libertarian Party presidential nominee Ron Paul to run with him as his running mate. Barr’s running mate Wayne Allyn Root volunteered to step down if Paul accepted, but he declined.
  • Congressman Ron Paul appeared at a press conference with the Constitution and Green Party’s presidential nominees Chuck Baldwin and Cynthia McKinney as well as Independent candidate Ralph Nader. He announced that he was endorsing all four major third party candidates including Libertarian nominee Bob Barr.
  • After Barr admonished Paul for his endorsement of four candidates, believing the congressman should endorse his campaign, Paul removed his endorsement for Barr and decided in a statement to endorse Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin’s campaign, a candidate whom he called a “friend” and an “active supporter” of his campaign.
  • Following the presidential debate in which he was not allowed to participate in, Barr criticized both presidential candidates for their support of the bailout plan; he called it a “debate between big government and bigger government.” Barr then referred to himself as the “change” candidate.


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.