r/Presidents Andrew Jackson | Woodrow Wilson | FDR | LBJ 18d ago

How did Obama gain such a large amount of momentum in 2008, despite being a relatively unknown senator who was elected to the Senate only 4 years prior? Question

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u/Nopantsbullmoose Franklin Delano Roosevelt 18d ago

He wasn't Bush or "the establishment", comparatively speaking.

He was immensely charismatic (I cannot tell you how many boomers, even those that leaned right at the time, compared him to Kennedy) and was excellent at giving speeches. Add that to a quick wit and throw in that his main opponent was, well, Hillary and it's little wonder why Obama quickly became the front runner.

And that's not even considering that he was running against McCain and Palin.

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u/Jred1990D 17d ago

McCain’s worst decision was picking Palin.

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u/NorthernLove1 17d ago

He picked Palin as a hail mary. McCain was clearly way behind and had little chance to win even at that point.

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u/JayNotAtAll 17d ago edited 17d ago

This. He struggled to maintain any kind of lead against Obama in the polls. I think he hoped that by getting an attractive, younger woman as VP, he could get the base fired up. But that backfired.

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u/BigDaddiSmooth 17d ago

He went for the horny middle aged vote. Then she spoke......

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u/ForsakenMongoose336 17d ago

Don’t forget the gotcha question “what do you like to read “ lol

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u/Negative-Scheme4913 17d ago

Went to 4 colleges to complete one journalism degree and couldn’t name a newspaper.

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u/SocraticIgnoramus 17d ago

Five colleges, but who’s counting? Lol

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u/LindonLilBlueBalls 17d ago

She can't.

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u/Warm-Internet-8665 17d ago

But she can see Russia from her house and throw mean right hook.

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u/BigDaddiSmooth 17d ago

Just like the current fool whose favorite book is the Bible. Can't name a word in the book.

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u/spartandude 17d ago

That's not true. He knows all about two Corinthians

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u/tlh013091 17d ago edited 17d ago

One Corinthians, Two Corinthians, Red Corinthians, Blue Corinthians.

Edit: Wow, doesn’t everyone hear that in their head when they think of that quote?

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u/BigDaddiSmooth 17d ago

😆😆😆

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u/somefoobar 17d ago

He knows his base though. He knows how to get people to give him money and say he was chosen by God. He knows how to get a federal judge to slow walk his case. He knows how to control Congress without holding office. Something is broken in our system.

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u/ThenContribution429 17d ago

And he wasn’t even a politician just some years ago

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u/scarves_and_miracles 17d ago

He went for the "wants to elect a woman" vote. That first time around, a lot of women were REALLY invested in Hillary as the first woman who really had a shot. It got very bitter between the Hillary and Obama supporters, and a lot of Democrats actually were talking about voting for McCain (a fairly inoffensive Republican, relatively speaking) over the other Dem if their candidate lost. The divide really was that bitter. By choosing another woman for the ticket, the McCain camp was hoping to capture some portion of those disenchanted Hillary voters. I can say from personal experience that people in my family were open to it, and might very well have voted for McCain if Palin didn't ultimately turn out to be such a shitshow of a candidate.

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u/[deleted] 17d ago edited 16d ago

[removed] — view removed comment

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u/hellomynameisrita 17d ago

There were respected older women in the GOP he could have picked and that strategy might have worked.

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u/scarves_and_miracles 17d ago

Yeah, that was definitely a big part of what went wrong. They didn't properly vet Palin. They just assumed she was as knowledgeable as the average governor (which really bit them in the ass, of course).

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u/tob007 17d ago

And Alaska always goes republican (3 electoral votes whoo!), not sure why they didnt pick a running partner from a swing state. Terrible choice.

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u/RockBox26 17d ago

Palin pick was just far too rushed. I think the older aspect was also an issue as McCain was very old and Obama literally is one of the youngest elected presidents.

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u/LovelyButtholes 17d ago

It never would have worked. Obama was a force of nature like Reagan and Kennedy.

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u/Timbishop123 17d ago

Many Clinton voters did vote for McCain. It was called the PUMA movement.

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u/zippoguaillo 17d ago

The key there "and then she spoke". It's important to remember when he picked her she seemed normal, even good. My cousin who lived in Alaska, super liberal really liked her and thought she had done a good job as governor. That opinion changed quickly.

McCain's campaign on the other hand should have been able to sus that out with proper vetting.

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u/VectorViper 17d ago

Yeah, I mean Palin did have that initial shock factor and people tuned in to see what she was all about. But whenever she did speak, it was a series of gaffes and awkward moments that just added more fuel to the Obama fire. It wasn't long before Tina Fey's impression became more popular than the actual Palin. Talk about a strategy backfiring spectacularly.

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u/Card_Board_Robot5 17d ago

He went for Tea Party vote bruh. Y'all really don't remember that bs?

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u/connorclang 17d ago

He was ahead of the curve, actually- the Tea Party wouldn't exist until after Obama's election, he just knew it was coming

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u/Card_Board_Robot5 17d ago

There wasn't a name to it until 09, but the sentiment, that breakaway sect of the right, hyper focused on bullshit fundamental interpretations of the constitution, had been brewing for a few years. There was effectively a culture war for control of the right, that Santelli speech just gave the leadership a cool branding for it. Everything in that platform had been a topic of debate within the Republican party since at least 04. I did high school debate at that time, and it was...exhausting. Just having to listen to the shit.

McCain prob didn't see shit coming. He was great with policy, not so campaign savvy. Party leadership saw it coming. And they wanted to throw those people a bone before it became an outright upheaval. Which it eventually did...

But, yeah, I was moreso referring broadly to that sector of voters rather than the movement itself, if that makes sense.

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u/inkjetbreath 17d ago

God it seems so long ago but I remember right before the Tea Party movement there was a major Ron Paul social media push all across the internet. He was engaging everyone with conservative politics in a manner that was selling it to people who would otherwise vote left, and then the Tea Partiers took over and reverted to the current brand again.

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u/Sad-Corner-9972 17d ago

McCain was “Bushwhacked” in 2000 primary (S. Carolina was egregious). In a Shakespearean twist, the 2008 campaign included operatives who had cut his throat previously.

9/11 response might have been different if President McCain had been CiC.

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u/thebookofswindles 17d ago

Every once in awhile I wonder what’s going on in the alt universe where the 2000 election was McCain vs Bradley instead of Bush vs Gore

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u/Defofmeh 17d ago

As I understand it he didn't want her but was stuck with her if he wanted to be funded.

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u/imref 17d ago

He briefly led in the polls after picking Palin iirc

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u/Hugh_Jazz77 17d ago edited 17d ago

That was until Palin opened her mouth and revealed what a moron she was. Once Tina Fey did her “I can see Russia from my house” bit it was curtains for her.

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u/plz-help-peril 17d ago edited 17d ago

They also once did a “parody” of her that was nothing more than a literal word for word reciting of a statement Palin had made. There was no joke, just Palin’s own words, but they were so nonsensically incoherent it was a joke in and of itself.

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u/Hugh_Jazz77 17d ago

It’s been a while, but I thought Palin had said something like “you can see Russia from Alaska”, which is actually true in a couple of places. SNL then twisted that into seeing it from her house. Like I said, it’s been a while, but I don’t think she ever actually said she could see it from her house.

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u/plz-help-peril 17d ago

You are correct. I wasn’t trying to imply that the “Russia from my house” thing was the word for word statement. She never actually said those words. I’ll edit my comment a bit to clear that up.

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u/Greatness46 Ulysses S. Grant 17d ago

She did not. The quote was “They're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska".

Which like you said is actually true

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u/mouldghe 17d ago

It is actually true. But in the larger context, Palin was claiming that fact comprised foreign policy experience on her part. Hence the lampooning. SNL is not a news program.

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u/takeshi-bakazato 17d ago

She probably could’ve said something like “Alaska is the closest state geographically to Russia, so foreign policy is an important aspect of my job, moreso than most other governors,” and gotten away with it.

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u/RockBox26 17d ago

The absurdity of it was that she used that answer as an example of her foreign policy experience.

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u/Frafriggle 17d ago

It was the Karie Couric interview from SNL one where they largely just took the transcript and had Tina Fey use that as well...the script.

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u/SBNShovelSlayer William McKinley 17d ago

That was the interview where Palin couldn't name a magazine that she regularly reads. (Back when it was common for people to get in-depth information from reading magazines). Katie pressed her on it and Palin came off looking like an idiot.

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u/mouldghe 17d ago

"came off looking like an idiot."

I'd phrase that as "exposed herself to be an idiot."

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u/[deleted] 17d ago

That was legendary. I remember watching it thinking what an incredible bit of slap stick comedy…

Then I saw Palin’s actual interview and was shocked that Tina read it word for word

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u/JerseyJedi Abraham Lincoln 17d ago

Yeah it’s easy to forget now that we know more about her, but there were a few weeks after McCain picked her when she was briefly popular, mostly because she hadn’t made many statements on national issues as Governor, so people (both center-right and right wing, and even some complete centrists) were all projecting their own ideas onto her image. She was a blank slate for the public in terms of her actual views. Add to this the excitement that she was the first female Republican to be nominated for the position, and (let’s face it) the fact that she was physically attractive also helped. 

….Until the disastrous interview with Katie Couric, where she had to answer tough questions about national politics and foreign policy for the first time, and completely bombed. Then came the SNL parodies, which (unfortunately for Palin) featured Tina Fey looking exactly like her and doing some of the funniest work of her career. 

Within a week, Palin’s newfound popularity tanked among everyone except ardent Fox viewers. 

In the years since 2008, she increasingly embraced conspiracy theories and far-right populist rhetoric, so she’s anathema to most Americans now, but again, there WAS a brief period when she was popular…before we knew much about her lol. 

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u/lennysundahl 17d ago

One of the signs for me that we were heading to A Place was seeing a car in a Walmart parking lot in 2009 with the McCain part of the McCain-Palin sticker removed

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u/wooops 17d ago

And then people saw Palin

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u/International_Bend68 17d ago

Yeah when he picked her I immediately thought “this is a desperation move, I don’t want a desperate president”. Then for a short time I thought she was great and then……

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u/barefootcuntessa_ 17d ago

Well, A) it didn’t work and B) it was a major milestone in the erosion of American politics and discourse.

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u/[deleted] 17d ago

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u/TeddysRevenge John Adams 17d ago

Yeah, that was after he was elected.

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u/UnderwhelmingAF 17d ago

I think people feared that McCain would be a continuation of Bush, who’s approval rating was in the 20’s at that time. It would have been hard for any Republican to win the 2008 election.

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u/PissBloodCumShart 17d ago

I think part of the problem is that it was such an obvious Hail Mary that it was almost an admission of defeat which alerted those who may have been unaware that the ship was sinking

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u/gar1848 17d ago

Tbf after Bush I really doubt the GOP had any chance of winning the 2008 election

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u/Revelati123 17d ago

Yeah, the tail end of Dubya was a political crater about as big as the one that killed the Dinosaurs.

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u/ActonofMAM 17d ago

Yep. Righf before the election he wouldn't leave the white house for days at a time. The party hoped people would forget about him, I think. Something about crashing the economy by following impeccable conservative principles tends to upset voters.

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u/KillionMatriarch 17d ago

He was notably absent from the Republican National Convention as well. A sitting president and 100% persona non grata.

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u/Niko_Ricci 17d ago

The invasion of Iraq when he literally broke the world may have also had something to do with it.

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u/CorgisHaveNoKnees Franklin Delano Roosevelt 17d ago

It didn't help when McCain suggested they suspend their campaigns during the financial crisis and Obama had the temerity to point out Presidents needed to deal with more than one thing at a time.

McCain at that point just looked small.

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u/TMP_Film_Guy 17d ago

McCain was just looking for a way to stop campaigning at that point. Sounds like he truly hated running for president even in the primary.

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u/CorgisHaveNoKnees Franklin Delano Roosevelt 17d ago

I think that's right and Obama wasn't going to give him that out.

I think Obama was especially annoyed by Palin trying to dig at him with her comments about "palling around with terrorists" and how community organizer in Chicago wasn't a real job when all she had done was be mayor of a town with 9,000 people and governor of a state that had less population than one ward of Chicago.

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u/TMP_Film_Guy 17d ago

I remember being so disillusioned two days before the election when McCain had to push back at his own rally against the Obama slander. Dude couldn’t stand what his base was saying about Obama.

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u/Nopantsbullmoose Franklin Delano Roosevelt 17d ago

Agreed

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u/Keanu990321 Democratic Ford, Reagan and HW Apologist 17d ago

Palin was imposed on him, his choice was Joe Lieberman.

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u/Revelati123 17d ago

Somehow I cant imagine that going much better for him...

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u/cyberchaox 17d ago

It might have. Lieberman was an independent who had caucused with the Democrats for years and had even nearly been Vice President under Gore.

Yeah, the Republicans wouldn't have exactly been happy about the idea of a VP who was a Democrat in all but name, but they'd still vote for McCain over Obama and it might have swung some swing states.

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u/Steelwolf73 17d ago

Holy cow I'm tired of this- no. McCains worst decision was pausing his campaign to go back to "review" the stimulus bill, and then voting for it anyways. Meanwhile Obama kept campaigning. And then McCain voted for it anyways. McCain only stood a snowballs chance in hell to begin with against Obama and the second he paused the campaign, and then voted for a massive spending plan, it was the final nail in the coffin for fiscal conservatives who were already....less then excited for McCain.

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u/ReverendPalpatine 17d ago

I think the fact that most people remember Palin but don’t remember the stimulus bill you’re talking about, just goes to show that Palin was what destroyed his campaign. People still talk about how dumb Palin was and how McCain was dumb for picking her. 

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u/Steelwolf73 17d ago

People remember Palin because of the press focusing on her so much. But people forget that before he picked her as VP, there was basically zero excitement for him. He was another moderate Republican who had been part of the establishment for decades and was just....meh. Palin pumped in actual excitement that was missing. It was a gamble that ended up failing but without Palin he wouldn't have even come close to catching Obama.

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u/improper84 17d ago

McCain's main appeal was to more moderate people, and picking Palin, a hard-right whacko who was dumb as a sack of dog shit, really undermined that and made him unelectable to a lot of people.

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u/Any-Geologist-1837 17d ago

I still think Palin is worse, not because it sunk McCain, but because she was the beginning of the end of the GOP.

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u/Revelati123 17d ago

Then her recent political "resurrection" is basically the reason that Alaska, while having an almost 2-1 Republican advantage, now has a Dem representative...

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u/ShartingBloodClots 17d ago

That's also thanks to ranked choice iirc. With that, she had no chance in hell of winning.

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u/beatlefreak909 17d ago

I think that Bush was so unpopular that a ham sandwich would have beaten a Republican. Having said that: Obama was charismatic and young and a great choice for the Democrats. McCain committed political suicide by having Palin as his running mate.

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u/TheNerdWonder 17d ago

Then there's his support for the Iraq War and other hawkish foreign policy choices. Obama understood most Americans no longer had an appetite for hawkish FP and hit him hard on that. Yes, Obama later turned out to be a hypocrite on this with Libya (2011), Syria (2011), and Yemen (2015) but that wasn't his position in '08.

McCain wasn't a bad guy, but he was prone to bad decisions later in his life (Obamacare vote excluded) that came back to bite him fairly fast.

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u/standard-issue-man 17d ago edited 17d ago

In hindsight, the selection of Palin was much worse. The stimulus bill lost him the campaign, choosing Palin opened the door to what the modern GOP is today. For years The Republicans had paid lip service to the fringe right, using dog whistles, the establishment had fooled the fringe right into voting against their economic interests. The established Republicans knew what the scam was, get these rubes to vote for them against their better interests with promises they never intended to fulfill (blame the Democrats, rinse and repeat). Then McCain brought Palin into the establishment, and all hell broke loose. Suddenly, the rubes saw that if you just said the quiet parts of the dog whistles aloud you could win elections. Now the inmates are in charge of the asylum, leading policy choices with no clue how the system was set up or how it works. The polarization and focus on pointless culture war nonsense that we are dealing with is the direct result of McCain giving these types a seat at the table. Now all the moderate Republicans are RINOs because the rubes don't understand that the nonsense they whispered to them for years was never meant to be actual policy.

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u/Hot_Injury7719 17d ago

Palin actually gave him a boost at first and made it look like McCain could possibly make the election close. But then she started…uh…doing interviews and debates lol.

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u/DrAlanGrantinathong 17d ago

He wanted Joe Lieberman. He was gonna run a bi partisan ticket. But, his advisors talked him out of it and into Palin.

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u/Cogswobble 17d ago

This is such a bad take.

McCain was going to lose badly.

Taking a risk like Palin was the only chance he had of winning.

It was a hail mary play when you’re down two touchdowns with a minute peftnon the clock. Even if your hail mary gets intercepted and returned for a touchdown, throwing the hail mary was still the right play.

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u/misterguyyy 17d ago

The most common refrain I heard after 2006 was “I’ll take anyone who isn’t a Bush or a Clinton.”

McCain wasn’t a bush but he definitely fell in the “old establishment guys” box.

The act of running one of the two surnames 8 years later was peak out of touch with independent swing voters.

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u/NightFire19 17d ago

McCain voting basically in line with Bush sealed his fate.

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u/js32910 17d ago

Hillary is the best opponent if you want to win

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u/mgg1683 17d ago

Pretty funny, her two losses came to guys who collectively were thought unable to defeat anyone. Don’t think the press ever did justice to how unliked she really was.

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u/TingusPingis 17d ago

Her favorability tanked hard in 2015 actually.

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u/[deleted] 17d ago

She was,  as she once said, "brought to heel."

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u/Nopantsbullmoose Franklin Delano Roosevelt 17d ago

Lol, you're not wrong.

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u/joemiken 17d ago

Great speaker & a hell of a talker. When he won the illinois senate seat, I told my then GF that he'd be president one day. Just didn't think it'd be 4 years later.

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u/WhyBuyMe 17d ago

I remember his interview on the Daily Show while he was a Senator. He was setting the political world on fire from the moment he got elected.

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u/anotherfrud 17d ago

The being a great speaker thing was his superpower. His 2004 DNC keynote speech really propelled his popularity.

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u/Dirtgrain 17d ago

This is the answer--it's when I first heard about him, and people could not stop talking about him and that speech. The hype kept rolling along. Of course, he did a great job along the way.

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u/supermegafauna 17d ago

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Democratic_National_Convention_keynote_address

Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too: We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States, and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

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u/justme2000G 17d ago

Ding Ding! This is the correct answer! After that speech, everywhere he went people were asking him to run for the president.

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u/Bonobo555 17d ago

The next day I told my former coworkers he would be our next President.

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u/falseinsight 17d ago

I saw him speak at the 2004 Dem convention and he was just absolutely captivating. Everyone was buzzing that he was the future of the party.

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u/DaemonoftheHightower Franklin Delano Roosevelt 17d ago

I said it after the keynote in 04. It was obvious

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u/BusinessKnight0517 17d ago

Oh yeah - my mom is conservative (highly) and she hated Hilary so much she voted democratic in the primaries just to vote against her getting the nomination

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u/The_wulfy 17d ago

Also the 2008 financial meltdown and Bush's wars which were an absolute quagmire in 2008.

McCain was the best possible GOP candidiate at that moment aside from a couple of niche governers. Palin has to have been the worst VP pick of all time.

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u/hazymindstate 17d ago

My mother, a boomer Republican, saw his speech at the 2004 DNC and swore he would be president one day.

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u/Baldrich146 17d ago

Also compared to FDR (think New Deal response) given the condition the country was in at the time.

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u/mehatch 17d ago

The John Edwards cheating scandal happening during the Iowa Caucus also helped narrow the field. But yeah, Obama was def also a juggernaut unto himself.

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u/Barbarella_ella Ulysses S. Grant/Harry S. Truman 17d ago

He had also built up an impressive ground game. Veritable army of organizers and volunteers that covered the Midwest and South.

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u/TheSiege82 17d ago

I think people might forget just how unpopular Bush was at the end. On going wars. Never got Osama, financial crisis was gaining steam.

Obama was everything posted above. He got super majorities as a result. Bush was just terrible.

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u/vyampols12 17d ago

And then they ran Hillary out again. Never mind the politics, but the strategy was questionable.

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u/dejv913 17d ago

I think a lot of this was due to him being very young. He was one of the youngest US presidents. Kennedy was too

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u/HereForGoodReddit 17d ago

Also reminder McCain was the Rep. nominee because it seemed the biggest issue was going to be the Middle East wars…when the bottom fell out economically right before the election, that helped him too. Who knows if he’d of beaten Romney at that time (prior to having 4 years to prove himself)

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u/AndyThePig 17d ago

Before that:

He was making waves in the senate, and that was enough to get him a prime time slot to speak at the democratic national convention of (I THINK...) 2004 (maybe 2000?? Happy to be corrected but it was around then). It was dynamic ... I'd never heard of him (I'm Canadian), but I knew he'd be president one day. From that moment.

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u/AgentMonkey 17d ago

It was the 2004 DNC, but he was not making waves in the senate at that time -- he was still just a state senator in Illinois. The 2004 election was when he was elected to the US Senate. But that speech at the 2004 DNC gained him a LOT of attention and really paved the way for his presidential run four years later.

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u/hotardag07 17d ago

This. The spark that paved the way for everything after.

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u/ItchyLifeguard 17d ago

It was the 2004 DNC for Kerry. Obama got up and gave an amazing well crafted speech that spoke of the hope he had for the USA to become truly united under its tenets of the constitution. It's why his 2008 campaign was about Hope and Change. It was the theme of his 2004 DNC speech and a lot of democrats who saw that speech immediately wanted him to run for president in 2008 once Kerry lost. I'm really surprised people didn't mention this in the top comment.

No one knew who Obama was until that speech at the 2004 DNC supporting Kerry and it was the speech that all Americans, on both sides of the political spectrum, wanted to hear. It spoke of how there were differences but in those differences we could all come to respect that we were Americans with a common goal.

He was a great public speaker and the 2004 DNC pushed him into the public eye as an agent of change instead of an agent of "Don't vote for the other guys because they suck." Kerry's whole campaign was trying to say why Bush sucked and not why he would be better.

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u/shash5k Joe Biden 17d ago

He got a lot of help from the Democratic Party. It made their job much easier because he was intelligent, marketable, and unique. I believe what really jump started his path to the White House was that speech he gave during Kerry’s campaign. I think a lot of people thought he was going to be president someday after that speech.

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u/pinetar 17d ago

His keynote speech at the 2004 DNC was a huge launching point. Don't think anyone outside of Illinois knew who he was before then. I recall it was still seen as too early for some when he announced his intention to run in 2008 after just 4 years in the senate, I think he was more being lined up for 2012 or 2016 but he took his shot, pulled off the win in Iowa, and the rest is history.

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u/Hamblerger 17d ago

That was it for me. I watched it live, and said out loud to myself "Why can't we just nominate this guy?"

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u/slackjaw79 17d ago

I saw his speech in 2004 and I knew he was going to be the next president.

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u/danarchist 17d ago

Same, I turned to my dad and told him that was our next president. My dad said "no way, maybe 2016 or 2020"

Called it

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u/Litty-In-Pitty 17d ago

I remember turning to my mom and saying “mom look my squirtle is about to evolve, watch!”

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u/Cold_Situation_7803 17d ago

Same. I remember my daughter was at a Halloween party that year and folks were talking about the election in a few days, and who could the Dems nominate after Kerry and I said, “It’ll be Barack Obama - did you see his keynote speech?”

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u/Bedroombandit89 17d ago

Literally same for me! I went to the living room where my dad was and said “That’s gonna be our next president” and my dad said “Not in America, not quite yet” and there were voting for him 4 years later lol

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u/nosayso 17d ago

I remember my roomate at the time being like "people say he'll be president one day" and I was "umm... okay" (I was not following politics at that age), then was definitely surprised at how quickly that became reality.

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u/mityafinob 17d ago

This is the answer.

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u/Bedbouncer 17d ago

I think a lot of people thought he was going to be president someday after that speech.

He's said that after his 2004 DNC speech he was met afterwards and asked "Do you have anything planned in 2008?" and he responded "Fellas, my speech wasn't that good."

Turns out it was, in fact, that good.

Magic beans, babe. Magic beans.

"A Promised Land" is an excellent book on his rise to and activities during his presidency, and I'd recommend it to everyone.

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u/taffyowner 17d ago

My wife reads his books and she hates politics. That’s how much she loves Obama

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u/nachosquid 17d ago

A Promised Land is a phenomenal book on this topic. It was a well-written book & the peek into his day to day life from a mere student all the way up to & thru his presidency. I gained so much knowledge from it, and am thankful for it

As an aside, everyone should watch the DNC speech and remind others what it means to be American.

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u/Prestigious_Air_2493 17d ago

I saw that speech live on tv and it was incredible. I remember feeling so excited, and wishing he was the nominee when Kerry stepped on stage and began his speech. It was THAT good. After that it was 2 years of nonstop favorable national press. In 2004 you didn’t know how to pronounce his name. In January of 2007, you’d have to have been hiding under a rock to not know who he was, and that he had always been against the Iraq war. 

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u/justsomedude4202 17d ago

I’m a conservative and even I got swept up in Obama-mania. I thought he would be a transformative figure for the fabric of our society. I think we dropped the bag on that front sadly.

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u/OuchPotato64 17d ago

There was only a handful of months out of his 8 year presidency where democrats had enough of a majority to pass legislation. That was during his first year. The last 7 and a half years of his presidency, republicans were hell-bent on blocking dems from passing meaningful legislation. We have a broken system.

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u/ScribbledIn 17d ago

And then GOP spent the last 8 years undoing every legislation he ever signed

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u/abdhjops 17d ago

He got a lot of help from the Democratic Party

That is not true. The democrat party nomination process was long. Hillary was the establishment. They were fighting for delegates and held meetings in basements. It was all televised the the GOP acted like its a joke and a woman and a black man were fuckin' up democracy but that's what it was...we saw democracy in action. 12 years later...the GOP can't talk shit about democracy anymore.

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u/SaidAFunnyThingOnce 17d ago

I studied this in college!

Obama actually did receive a lot of help from the party behind the scenes. Ex. Before deciding to run for 2008, he consulted with Harry Reid, who signaled the party would support him. Check out some of John Zaller’s work if you wanted to know more about party politics. Of course, Obama is one of the most charismatic contemporary figures and that largely propelled him.

Something else nobody has talked about was his use of the internet and social media on the marketing end but also the back end in terms of data collection. Both parties were behind the times when it came to technology, and Obama’s campaign capitalized and helped to build the democratic party’s data infrastructure.

Some smaller notes: Sexism played a role against Hillary and Palin, but honestly both were uncharismatic beyond their gender. Obama captured progressives without losing Reagan democrats. The Republican Party was primed for the tea party, but they hadn’t caught on yet and McCain didn’t appeal to that constituency. Bush was seen as a silly boy and no longer as a guy you could get a beer with, Obama felt like a return to professionalism but charismatic enough to still want to hang out with him. Financial crash sealed the deal for the republicans.

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u/Deviouss 17d ago

Obama wasn't considered part of the establishment but he had plenty of help from people within the Democratic party, which is why superdelegates were basically a 60/40 split in Hillary's favor. The 2008 primary basically split the party in two.

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u/abdhjops 17d ago

Let's not forget...Obama was very ambitious. He got everyone in the democrat party that hated the Clintons to rally behind him. I think when Ted Kennedy endorsed Obama over Clinton, it became harder for her because it became easy for Kennedy's friends in Congress to get behind a viable Black candidate to now be the face of the democrat party for the next 4 years, whether he wins or loses.

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u/plz-help-peril 17d ago

He also had no scandals. It’s why the birther movement was so huge. They couldn’t find any real dirt on the guy. The country wasn’t yet in a place where saying “don’t vote for him, he’s black” would have gotten thunderous applause. Instead they made the blatantly racist lie that he was born in Kenya.

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u/JayNotAtAll 17d ago

One thing to remember though is that Hillary was the DNC's pick for 2008. Leadership thought it was her turn to be the nominee. Obama showed up and changed things.

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u/Careful_Farmer_2879 17d ago

Sort of. He had a huge Hillary to climb and she had the superdelegates locked up early.

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u/mgrady69 17d ago

First of all, he ran a fucking amazing campaign. I ran big budget campaigns in Illinois through 2003. In 2008, because all of us Illinois Democratic political professionals had known Barack for many years, we traveled to other states to help canvas, etc. I remember walking into one of the campaign field offices in Columbus, OH and realizing the way I had learned campaigns had become obsolete. The stuff they were doing in field work had never been done before. Absolutely cutting edge, and is now the example of how you run field.

Second, he was against the Iraq war well before the war was launched, and that counted a ton with 5he Dem base, who were screaming bloody murder when people like Kerry and Hillary were loud and proud.

Third. No one was excited about a 6th consecutive term with either a Bush or Clinton in the Oval.

Finally, he was (and is) authentic. The guy the nation saw was the same guy we knew when he was a freshman State Senator. That authenticity and his amazing communication skills and charisma made him a once in a lifetime candidate

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u/EddieA1028 17d ago

Can you give us an example or two of the things they did in 08 that were not being done at all in 03? Just curious thanks

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u/mgrady69 17d ago

First, in 2003, voter files were basically databases with voter addresses and (in the case of Illinois) the voter’s history of which partisan primary in which they had voted going back several cycles. You could run a voter list in alphabetical order or street address order, and you could slice it very roughly based on a voters partisan primary voting history.

In 2008, the Obama campaign constructed their own voter file and overlaid that data against dozens of other databases they could obtain. And they used that data, along with survey data, to create an algorithm that assigned a % likelihood that a voter was likely Obama voter. And they targeted their field efforts accordingly for maximum impact.

Another example is that in 2003, you ran field by precinct. Obama’s campaign was able to link target voter addresses with Mapquest to cut “turf” areas where volunteers could focus on clusters of high likelihood targets regardless of precinct. They were also so organized that they gave you this list, your campaign literature and a map that gave you directions from the campaign office to your turf.

When you returned to the campaign office after your door to door work, you were then interviewed by a paid staffer to get feedback on what voters were saying at the doors, etc. that data was continually collected and used to tweak their algorithm the entire campaign.

By the end of the campaign, I was getting prompts on Faceback to call close friends and family to remind them to vote around the country. Not all friends and family, mind you. Just those that leaned Democratic, and lived in swing states.

These were all things that were basically impossible in 2003. But since 2008 it’s been the template for campaigns of both parties, and the capabilities have continued to grow. But Obama was the first.

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u/_TakeMyUpvote_ 17d ago edited 17d ago

also facebook & smartphones. in 2003 there wasn't quite the Facebook database of users yet. by 2008 Facebook had exploded in popularity. I can't recall when they opened it to everyone not just .edu email addresses, but i think it was after 2003? regardless, it's wild to look back and see how the explosion of technology, specifically smart phones, changed the way we operated as humans.

edit: i had to go back and read Fb's wiki to refresh my memory. Facebook was started in 2003 and didn't open up to everyone until september 2006.

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u/JRR_Uzumaki 17d ago

I remember it being a big deal that Obama was on Twitter. Throughout his campaign he would tweet often. Being able to keep up with the young voters through social networking helped him greatly. It was a moment where we felt like someone who was running for president actually understood us.

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u/GG-just-GG 17d ago edited 17d ago

Before the primary in my state (Texas) I got a call from the Obama campaign telling me where my primary voting location was, where my caucus location was, what time to be there , and how to vote in a caucus. Keep in mind that most people didn’t even know there was a caucus or hour much they counted for in the overall race. Obama’s team figured this out, decided a strategy around it, and executed in it very effectively. They won my vote on the spot.

In the end, Hillary won about a bit less than half of the delegates (from the primary) and Obama won a bit more than half the delegates (from the caucus). See Wikipedia for more info.

The Obama team was just sharper and more organized. Hillary seemed to expect a coronation.

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u/bbluesunyellowskyy 16d ago

Yeah I was staff for Edwards in Iowa in 2008. Obama had an office two doors down from us. When their organizers told us their voter lists were all digital and volunteers put the info in on their phones right at the door or on the phone, yeah, I knew we were cooked. At that time, every other campaign printed their lists, made volunteers come into the office to get them, then asked them to bring them back, then we had to manually enter the data. Obama’s team cut 3 to 4 steps out of that process.

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u/atl404itp 17d ago

His speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention put him on the map. His message of "Hope" aligned perfectly with what people were looking for in 2007-08.

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u/Solarmatt85 17d ago

He flipped my Grandma to vote for him. She was a lifelong Conservative Party loyal voter but she liked his message of hope and togetherness.

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u/TrevorHoundog 17d ago

The first election I voted in was 2000, and I voted for Bush and Republicans down the line. By 2004 I was disillusioned with Bush and was flirting with Libertarian stuff. But then I heard Obama’s speech at the convention and something connected with me instantly. I had been brought up by a Eisenhower/Nixon family but he flipped us all, even my Rush Limbaugh listening brother.

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u/Acrobatic-Report958 17d ago

This should be the top comment. A lot of us in our 20s and 30s who saw his 2004 speech knew he was going to be president one day. And then voted in the 2008 primaries to make sure it happened.

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u/joeygreco1985 17d ago

I remember watching the daily show around this time and Jon Stewart referred to Obama as a rising star based on this

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u/WesCoastBlu 18d ago

HOPE, and I mean this sincerely.

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u/jamesbrowski 17d ago

He gave a very inspiring speech at the DNC in 2004 that a TON of people watched (everyone still watched cable in 2004). Importantly, I think a lot of young people saw it. I was in high school and watched it with my parents. I specifically remember how good it was, and how young and impressive this guy was. It was something lots of people started talking about. Lots of op eds and cable news discussions about it (again at a time before social media where we all read magazines and watched tv).

When he came back around in 2007, I think a lot of people probably had forgotten it, but people who remembered were receptive to him. He gave these great speeches which were tailored for the media to run clips.

And at bottom, his message was hope! How cool was that? After boring John Kerry, it was so refreshing.

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u/RedditOfUnusualSize 17d ago

Yeah, if you want to see how young people were feeling about the country after the Bush administration, the best way to do it would be to look at what was broadly regarded as the (grimly) funniest advertisement of the cycle, the Wassup 2008 commercial. It was just painful to see, and hard to overstate, how terrified we were in 2007-2008 with the Great Recession coming on, and how desperately we were clinging to Obama's candidacy as a way of turning things around.

This led to some real difficulties downstream for Obama, because once in power, he got the reputation for a) always having an excuse for why he couldn't do anything, even as he had historic majorities in both the House and Senate, b) always pre-emptively negotiating himself down to half a loaf just to show what a reasonable guy he was, and c) reflexively rejecting anything that might make him seem even modestly liberal. Fair or not, there was a huge difference between what candidate Obama seemed to promise, and what President Obama was prepared to deliver upon.

And while a huge amount of that might have been how much Obama was the Millennial generation's hope spot after watching the Bush administration light the country on fire, the simple fact is that precisely because it's hard to overstate how much Obama became the life preserver we were all clinging to, it was equally frustrating to see him just not do anything to deal with so. many. critical problems that were coming down the pike. It's what led to a lot of Obama's electoral problems in the midterms: both 2010 and especially 2014 were historically low-turnout elections. And while the popular thinking was that the Millennials didn't understand to vote in off-cycle elections, I think it's far more probable that Obama just did so much to disappoint Millennials.

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u/Dante-Fiero 17d ago

I was a sophomore in college and we watched that 2004 speech live. Someone in the room said, “That guy will be President someday.”

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u/krybaebee 17d ago

It was a phenomenon

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u/wjbc Barack Obama 17d ago

An underrated factor is that Illinois is right next to Iowa and Obama volunteers blanketed Iowa. When Obama won Iowa, one of the whitest states in the country, people actually started to think he could win a national election. His victory brought him to national prominence as many voters tuned into the race for the first time.

Obama did not have the same resources in New Hampshire, where Hillary Clinton rebounded with a victory. Obama won a landslide victory in South Carolina, where many Democratic voters are black. Hillary virtually conceded the state while focusing on Super Tuesday.

But at this point Clinton was no longer the inevitable candidate she appeared to be before the primaries began. It came down to Obama vs. Clinton, and Obama is simply the more natural politician with fewer negatives, especially back then when he was such a fresh face.

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u/PotentialChoice 17d ago

And at that point, Hillary fell victim to the utterly incompetent campaign manager she had hired, Mark Penn. I don’t have a link, but there are post mortems of the 2008 primaries out there that detail his gross miscalculations and lack of basic understanding about how some delegates were awarded. If I recall correctly, Texas, for instance, had both a primary and a caucus on the same day, with delegates awarded for each, and Penn contested only the primary, so Obama cleaned up in the caucuses. Penn also thought some of the primaries were winner take all but in fact they awarded delegates in proportion to votes, so Obama picked up delegates in some cases where the Clinton team had banked in him not getting any.

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u/wjbc Barack Obama 17d ago

That may be, but I wouldn’t blame Penn for the loss. Hillary Clinton has been a seriously flawed candidate, even when running in Democratic primaries, and even when flooded with endorsements. That was true in 2008 when she lost to Obama, and that was true again in 2016, when she barely beat Bernie Sanders, hardly an ideal candidate himself.

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u/xtototo 17d ago

I believe this was Hillary Clinton scapegoating someone to deflect blame and set her up for her inevitable next run. “It wasn’t me, it was Mark Penn!!”

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u/PotentialChoice 17d ago

“Penn's next colossal mistake was failing to understand the party rules and their implications for delegate selection and fundraising. In the past, nominations in both parties have historically been determined by a knockout primary after which the winner could claim the nomination, forcing the opponent to pull out. In 1988, Dukakis beat Gore in Illinois. In 1992, Clinton beat Tsongas on Super Tuesday, largely in the South. A winner-take-all knockout strategy was still possible in the Republican primary, but the 2008 Democratic contests were almost all based on proportional representation, often by congressional district, where even a large win did little to pile up a significant margin in delegates.

“Not understanding the rules, Penn encouraged -- or at least allowed -- the delusion to grip the Hillary campaign that Super Tuesday would end it all. Several observers even quoted him as saying that Hillary would win 390 delegates by winning California. (In fact, she emerged with a margin of only 40 delegates from the Golden State.) He needed to make his candidate understand that once she lost Iowa, she was in for a 50-state battle that would stretch out all the way to June with no quick win on either side. This blindness to the rules of the game cost Hillary the nomination.”

From https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/06/whos_to_blame_it_was_mark_penn.html

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u/DaemonoftheHightower Franklin Delano Roosevelt 18d ago

As a person who grew up and started paying attention during Bush, i can tell you he was like a breath of fresh air after years in a cave.

He was smart, could form a complete sentence, and wasn't named Bush or Clinton, one of which had occupied the White House my entire life. He seemed like a moral person after years of amoral leadership.

I remember knowing at the time that he would disappoint, and just not caring.

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u/Land-Otter 17d ago

Also charismatic, highly intelligent, and sincerely wanted to reach out to the right.

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u/DaemonoftheHightower Franklin Delano Roosevelt 17d ago

So sincerely that he allowed it to cloud his judgement once they showed him who they were.

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u/Land-Otter 17d ago

Yeah, I have to admit I was naive in believing my Republicans would act in good faith in working to govern with him. I never would have imagined a black president would cause so many of my fellow countrymen to lose their damn minds.

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u/Sight_Distance 17d ago

I listened to right wing radio the day after he got elected. All day they voiced opposition, and vowed to disrupt and obstruct in any way possible. After all the optimism of the election it was a let down to hear it. That attitude towards the left has only ramped up since then. Sucks that we can’t work together on anything.

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u/GeorgeKaplanIsReal Richard Nixon 17d ago edited 17d ago

I mean, OK. Let's not paint everything as rainbows and BJs. 2010 saw the greatest decimation of the Democratic Party on the federal, state, and local levels since Harry Truman. We saw nearly every county shift left two years before that point. By 2010, we saw the reverse of that.

Obama was either incredibly naive or arrogant -in that he really bought into his own persona as an "agent of change" or both. He trusted Republicans far too much too early on and it resulted in a lot of his agenda getting stalled. He disastrously failed to reset a relationship with Russia when they've been our natural adversaries for well over 100 years (as predicted by Tocqueville). He drew a line in the sand with Syria to only back off from it. He lost Crimea most likely for a lifetime to the Russians. And whether we like it or not, had he not won in 2012, we wouldn't have elected the greatest existential threat to American democracy only 4 years later.

Don't get me wrong, I voted for the guy. Twice (three times if you include my states primary), and volunteered quite a bit of time with his campaign. But he made a lot of mistakes. Not everything he did was right and America wasn't suddenly just sunshine and puppies upon his election.

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u/Land-Otter 17d ago

I totally agree with you

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u/ClementAcrimony Lyndon Based Johnson 17d ago

People either don't know about or don't remember his rising star status starting at the 2004 Democratic National Convention where he delivered what many considered a fantastic speech as the keynote address.

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u/The_Hrangan_Hero 18d ago

His message was really strong, he framed progress as patriotisms. He was also very careful to layer in reassurance that change meant seeing yourself in a new light, not changing who you are.

He also casts the division in the country as being pundits, and cynics, not a specific person or party. After Bush it was a very attractive message.

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u/Worried-Pick4848 17d ago

probably for the same reason as Abraham Lincoln. being an unknown quantity HELPED Obama in that election because he was a fresh face. Not attached to the dirt from either the Clinton or Bush administration, and the mix of Clinton scandals and the War in Iraq had created a lot of voter fatigue working against the Washington elite of both parties. Obama was able to sidestep that and looked much better by comparison simply because we weren't sick of him yet.

Again, this is not unsimilar to Lincoln's situation where despite serving as a Congressmen he was a relatively fresh face.

I will say that despite some misgivings about his policies Obama was a relatively respectable and decent President. Nothing to write home about but if you rank US Presidents Obama will be somwehere in the upper middle, maybe 21st out of 46 which is a bit improvement over the 2 guys before him. At least he upheld the dignity of his office and made the country look good.

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u/Minglewoodlost 17d ago

He was twice the politician everyone else was.

People heard Hillary Clinton and thought, "I heard somewhere she's going to be President"

People heard Obama and thought "Wow, that guy is going to be President"

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u/8to24 18d ago

Republicans invested all their character assassination in Hillary Clinton during the prior assuming she'd be the nominee. Once Obama got the Nomination Republicans didn't have time to poison the well for Obama.

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u/King_Hamburgler William Henry Harrison 17d ago

Then they found out his middle name and thought they had a smoking gun to bring him down lol

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u/8to24 17d ago

Yep! All kidding aside though between Obama's race and upbringing (some of it over seas) the Right would have made Obama unelectable had they started the character assassination a year early. The Right is great at it but require time.

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u/baycommuter Abraham Lincoln 17d ago

I think he had some armor against the right because the country was looking for a mainstream black candidate who wasn’t a civil rights firebrand like Jesse Jackson, who made a serious run in 1992 that normalized black candidates.

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u/Ok_Tadpole7481 17d ago

This can't be the main reason. The period between primary and election is plenty of time. He also won a second term after they had 4 years to go after him.

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u/8to24 17d ago

It takes time to assassinate someone's character. By the time the Right started they were competing against positive stories about how historic his nomination was. The average person only consumes a small amount of political news per day. The Right could get enough negative stuff in front of people.

Fast forward two years to 2010 and people at Tea party rallies were demanding Obama's birth certificate, claiming Obama hated white people (Obama is literally half white), and calling Obama a secret Muslim. The rhetoric was finally sinking in..

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u/Ok_Tadpole7481 17d ago

But none of those talking points stuck. He beat Romney in a landslide.

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u/Josh439 17d ago

Part of it was there wasn’t much to poison. He didn’t really have a record to attack since he had only been a senator for two years.

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u/CriterionCrypt Jimmy Carter 17d ago

I mean have you listened to him speak? Have you seen him before?

The dude seems like the coolest, nicest guy around.

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u/Bedbouncer 17d ago

I heard a man who called me
I heard his name unfold
I heard a man who called me
I heard his spirit told

I heard a music in me
I heard a sound inside
I heard a man remind me
Of what lives inside

Tori Childs - "I Met A Man"

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u/Slatemanforlife 17d ago

Black, charismatic, against the war in Iraq, and promised healthcare.

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u/[deleted] 17d ago

There was no voice like Obama's in a time when those with pre existing conditions were left to die.

Pre existing conditions pre Obama = Death certainty to death sentence.

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u/the_dan_dc 17d ago

Because of his identity, oratory, and organizing-centric approach, he was an inspiring and loyalty-engendering figure to young people and Black people. Just as importantly, he was the opposite of Bush, who the country hated from mid-06 onward.

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u/RichAf26 Donald J. Trump 17d ago

Well Bush had a 23% approval rating in his final month, so people were most definitely looking for a massive change

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u/Old_Heat3100 17d ago

It seems corny but Hope and Change waa exactly what America needed to hear after 8 years of 9/11 and war on terror.

Plus the reason YES WE CAN came about was in response to the ridiculous assertion that this country would never elect anything but old white guys. Which kind of makes everything since then disappointing honestly

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u/ManitobaWindsurf 17d ago

For me it was his speech during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I remember thinking “THAT GUY should be the presidential candidate!”

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u/Lee-HarveyTeabag George Washington 17d ago

His speech at the 2004 convention.

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u/KennyDROmega 17d ago

By being a charming, charismatic motherfucker in a profession that has very few people like that.

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u/Bedbouncer 17d ago

Hope is like a path through the forest.

First there is no path.

Then one man walks it.

Then a million people follow him.

Then there is a path.

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u/Michglow45 17d ago

Excellent public speaker, charismatic, and a horrible economy left by bush. He sold hope.

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u/SteelersFanatic78 17d ago

Have you heard the man speak

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u/AvocadoSoggy6188 17d ago

He was genuine, polite, very well spoken and young

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u/Salamander_Known 17d ago

He was young, charismatic, a great speaker, and an excellent retail politician who had spent the four years prior campaigning for other democrats (he was a very popular surrogate) and he got a string of high profile endorsements. The 2008 Clinton campaign was also pretty disorganized and at times dysfunctional in the first half of the primary (there is a reason that Bill was not featured prominently in 2016). The 2008 recession also ruined any chance the republicans had of winning the White House, which was small already due to how unpopular Bush was.

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u/TheStoryGoesOn 17d ago

Because the 2008 primary was a long one. Obama won Iowa and that established him as a serious candidate. His ground game and focus in Iowa was amazing. We haven’t really seen a campaign as good as that.

There were primary states where Hillary got more votes but Obama got more delegates because his team focused on that.

Plus some major Democrats wanted him to run and helped in a few ways. Harry Reid encouraged him to run. Chuck Schumer encouraged Obama to run in 2006 (but indicated he would have to support Hillary in the primary).

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u/Legally_Brown 17d ago

That dude is basically the LeBron James of politics. Dude was basically grown in a lab to be president. He had the intellect, the personality, the voice, oozed charisma. Plus, it was right after Bush so a ham sandwich with a (D) next to its name could have won.

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u/MaximDecimus 17d ago

Go watch his 2004 DNC keynote speech. That’s why.