The formal stages of the American election for 2008 started in Iowa in January. However, as with all American elections a great deal of work had gone into the whole election process in 2007 when potential party candidates set about promoting themselves so that their profile was increased at a national level. Another major function of this pre-2008 process was for each candidate to gauge the financial support he/she might receive for what was undoubtedly going to be a very expensive process.
By the time of the Iowa Republican and Democrat primaries, each party had what can be called their main contenders – though others did stand but had little chance of winning. For the Democrat Party, the primary in Iowa was dominated by Hilary Clinton, Senator for New York State and a former First Lady. Her main opponents were John Edwards who had campaigned for the party’s nomination in 2004 and Obama Barak, Senator for Illinois. For the Republican Party, the main contenders were seen as being John McCain who had campaigned unsuccessfully in previous party primaries; Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Rudi Guiliani, the former mayor of New York. Of these four McCain and Guiliani had the higher profile though Guiliani had made it clear that he would campaign intensively in the major states (those with the highest number of delegates) as opposed to those states that returned relatively few delegates. This was the case in Iowa.
The major issues that each candidate had to address regardless of party were health, foreign policy, the war on terror and economic issues. As the campaign in both parties progressed, each candidate had to face problems that were occurring at the time and to which they could have no pre-prepared response. The most obvious problem they had to address was America’s faltering economy. Sub-prime and prime mortgages and the serious issues surrounding both of these were topics that all candidates had to address – with a voting population having a very vested interest in listening to their answers and potential solutions. As many in America were being affected by the economic problems facing the nation, America continued to spend vast sums of money on the war on terror. Therefore, it was only natural that all the candidates had to have their own ideas as to what to do regarding terror. The very nature of this topic rolled into foreign policy – be it Iran or Iraq – and each candidate had to have an answer to what America was going to do in the world. As the environment has become a more and more sensitive issue, each candidate was expected to have ideas on how America could have a positive input into this area.
As the primaries rolled from Iowa to New Hampshire and beyond, the claim by the candidates from both parties that they would not engage in negative campaigning quickly faltered. Negative campaigning was witnessed in both parties and in some cases became personal. This was especially true against John McCain where his age was highlighted by some of his opponents. However, it was Barak Obama who had to face most negative campaigning with some making great play about his background.
By the end of the first week in March 2008, the Republicans had settled their campaign with John McCain announced the winner after Guiliani, Huckabee and Romney had all withdrawn their candidacies. All three rallied behind McCain. The failing of Guiliani to do well was a surprise to some as he had the financial backing and had made his name in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. However, when he failed to make any real inroad into Florida, he withdrew from the race. Despite his age, the party voters saw McCain as a steady hand, with a great deal of experience behind him. Should he win the November content, he would be the oldest US president ever elected.
The Democrat primaries went the full distance (to June) when Hilary Clinton conceded to Barak Obama. John Edwards, the other main contender, had pulled out earlier in the Democrat campaign. Whereas both Clinton and Obama had to focus their efforts on their own campaigns – and what the other was doing – McCain was given about a three-month window when he could campaign as the Republican nomination for presidency safe in the knowledge that both Clinton and Obama were fighting one another and looking inwardly from a party point of view. During this time he visited US troops in Afghanistan thus increasing still further his presidential credentials at an international level. McCain could also use the time to bolster his finances whereas both Clinton and Obama had to spend their money campaigning against each other.
From June 7th Obama could turn his full attention to the November election. What each man says up to the November election will be scrutinised in a manner neither is likely to have witnessed before.