The Constitutional Topics pages at the USConstitution.net site are presented
to delve deeper into topics than can be provided on the Glossary Page or in the FAQ
pages. This Topic Page concerns the Presidential Campaign Process. The
Constitution details how the President and Vice President are chosen are in Article 2, Section 1 and in the 12th Amendment, but the steps leading up to the
details noted there are more a matter of tradition than law.
By law, the people vote for President and Vice
President on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. As noted
on the Electoral College Page, though, the
people are not actually voting for those two individuals, but for a person from
their state pledged to vote for those two individuals. What this means is that
when the popular vote is close, the outcome may be uncertain.
The goal of a presidential candidate, then, is to ensure that they have
enough of the popular vote that the electoral vote becomes a non-issue. In
other words, if you win by 500,000 votes, you might still lose in the Electoral
College — but if you win by 5,000,000 votes, it is unlikely that the
Electoral College will provide any surprises.
To this end, the candidates for President and Vice President campaign for
themselves, jetting from one side of the nation to the other, hopping on trains
and buses, making whistle stops in small and large towns and cities through
out the country, trying to drum up votes for themselves.
But, as in most things political, there's a lot more to it than that.
Let's start at the beginning.
Declaring your Candidacy
Presidential elections are held every four years, but it almost seems that
as soon as one campaign ends, the next one begins. This is particularly true
when there is a two-term Vice President; it is the expectation that that person
will run for President in the next election, and speculation begins almost
immediately about possible challengers, both within the VP's party and the
opposition. Examples are Al Gore after the 1996 election and George Bush after
the 1988 election.
To use the election of 2000 as an example, by January 1999, almost two years
before election day, there was a strong feeling about who the front-runners
from both the Democratic and Republican parties were. On the Democratic side,
VP Al Gore and former Senator Bill Bradley were widely mentioned; on the
Republican side, Red Cross head Elizabeth Dole (wife of Senator and former
presidential candidate Bob Dole), Senator John McCain, businessman Steve
Forbes, former VP Dan Quayle, Governor George W. Bush, and several other
politicians and pundits were announcing that they were thinking of a bid. Also
in January, 1999, polls pitting the various candidates against each other were
being run by the media.
There are no set steps to becoming a presidential candidate. The joke goes
that a person announces his intention to start thinking about the possible
setup of an exploratory committee to look into the possibility of a potential
run. Federal election law does require candidates to file certain forms with
the government when they have raised a certain amount of money, and when and if
they spend certain amounts of money (the Federal
Election Commission administers federal election law); sometimes these
filings are the first official indication of a candidate's intention to
While none of these steps is required except the last, a candidate can go
through many steps. These include floating their name to party rank-and-file to
get a read for how they might fare; giving speeches and meeting party faithful
in key states like California, New Hampshire, and Iowa; forming an exploratory
committee to officially explore the possibility of a run; and forming a final
presidential committee to actually run the presidential campaign. Some or all
of this happens before the first primary, which means that the eighteen to 24
months prior to the actual election is quite a busy time in the news.
The Primaries and Caucuses
Once all the candidates have campaigns up and running, there are two
watershed events in the election process: The Iowa caucuses and the New
Hampshire primaries. By those states' laws, they must be the first caucus and
election in the nation, and by the acceptance of this tradition by the major
parties, a tradition has emerged. When other states set the dates of their
primaries and caucuses, these states set their dates. Because everyone want to
be early, the date of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary get earlier
and earlier each year. In 1996, this pushed the New Hampshire primary was held
on February 20; in 2000 it was held on February 1; in 2004 on January 27; and
in 2008 on January 9. Iowa's law requires that its caucus be the week prior to
any other selection event, so its 2008 caucus was held on January 4.
Primaries are basically elections where the members of each party in a state
decide which candidate they support. In essence, it is like a mini presidential
election, in that the voters of the state decide which candidate their
delegates to the party convention later in the year will vote for. Caucuses are
similar, but instead of elections, they are meetings where small groups agree,
via various means, to support certain candidates.
In Iowa, a series of local meetings held at the precinct level are held. In
the caucuses, members of the various parties meet to conduct party business.
The only thing that most people are concerned about, however, is the expression
of their feelings for which presidential candidate they prefer. The decisions
of the precincts affect the delegates to county conventions, which in turn
decide who will attend both district and state conventions. Ultimately, these
other gatherings will decide who Iowa will send to national party conventions.
Though the percentage of caucus votes for a candidate may not equate to a
percentage of delegates to the national convention, the votes are often held as
a good measure of how middle America feels about each candidate. Other states
that use a caucus system have similar details.
The New Hampshire primary is an example of a much more direct method for
doling out delegates to the national conventions. The percentage of votes for
any one candidate will determine the percentage of the state's delegates to the
convention. States that use a primary system assign delegates similarly.
As the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary approach and pass, candidates
will be getting a good read for their support. Doubtless, media polls held up
to this point will give a general feeling of the level of support, but these
events are the first indication of how real voters feel. Accordingly,
candidates who do not do well start to drop out of the race at an alarming rate
after the New Hampshire Primary. Generally, only a few front-runners survive
After the New Hampshire Primary, the front-runners move their campaigns to
the other states, to try to gather support in their primaries and caucuses. In
recent times, rarely has a nomination gone all the way to the last primary. In
1996, for example, the Republican New Hampshire Primary had eight major
candidates; by the end of May, only Bob Dole was left, with some candidates
holding out to ensure they had a voice at the convention, but with no serious
chance of winning the nomination.
Technically, the end of the primary campaign against members of your own
party is the party convention, normally held in August before the election.
From January to August, then, there's a race to a finish line of sorts.
Choosing a Vice President
The choosing of a Vice Presidential running mate is seen as a real art form
in today's modern political scene. Originally, the position was held by, well,
the loser. The original Constitution stated that the runner-up in the election
for President would become Vice President. It was quickly obvious that this was
unworkable. Though the Vice President is often said to have the least important
elected office in the United States, the President should have a Vice President
upon whom he can rely on and get advice from. Having a political rival be your
VP is hardly a prospect most presidents would appreciate.
Today, the President and Vice President are voted on separately in the
Electoral College (though usually not in the popular election). This almost
assures that the winner of both races will be from the same party, and ensures
the President will have his choice in the White House with him.
The choice of a running mate is a strategic decision. A presidential
candidate must look at himself to determine where his weaknesses are, and
choose a running mate who will, hopefully, flesh out the ticket and instill
confidence in the voters that the administration will be balanced.
Historically, a candidate would choose a VP from another area of the country,
to appeal to the entire nation and not just one area. John Kennedy, for
example, was from Massachusetts, and chose Lyndon Johnson, of Texas, to be his
running mate. By choosing someone from the South, Kennedy hoped to overcome any
"damn Yankee" prejudices. Kennedy also got a Protestant to counter his
Catholicism, and a member of the older generation to counter his youth.
In the 2000 election campaign, we see these same dynamics come into the
choices of the major party candidates. Republican candidate George W. Bush, son
of former President George H. Bush, had no national political experience. As a
governor, he wanted to find someone who was well-known, popular, well-versed
in national politics and in international affairs. Bush chose Richard Cheney to
be his running mate, a person who offered all of these things, and more. As a
former Congressman from Wyoming, he was firmly ensconced in the Western
electorate (though Cheney had moved to Texas, and had to move back to Wyoming
to avoid Constitutional issues). Cheney had been Secretary of Defense for
President Bush, and so had a wide range of international and military
experience. He had also been President Ford's Chief of Staff, and thus gained
national experience there, too. As a national figure during those presidencies,
Cheney acquired good name recognition, and a good reputation.
Al Gore, the Vice President running for President, had a lot of good things
going for him in 2000 — a strong economy by far being his greatest asset
going into the campaign. But Gore had a few problems of his own, not the least
of which were his ties to the Clinton White House, which was rocked by
seemingly endless scandal or suspicion of scandal, for almost eight years. Gore
himself had been the target of several inquiries. He needed a running mate that
would not only bring in new constituencies, but who would instantly bring a
moral character to the ticket. He found that moral touchstone in Senator Joe
Lieberman. Lieberman, of Connecticut, was very well respected in the Congress
by members of both parties, and is known for his denouncement of Clinton's
scandals. Lieberman was also an orthodox Jew, a fact which many thought would
counter any thoughts of a secular party, and which could bring more Jews on
board the Gore bandwagon. Gore, from Tennessee, also found someone of another
geographical area, to help balance his ticket.
In the 2008 election, relative newcomer Barack Obama wanted to balance the
Democratic ticket with a name voters were familiar with, and he chose long-time
Senator Joe Biden, as a running mate. Long-time Senator John McCain, the
Republican candidate, wanted to shake up the process by making a selection that
would draw attention and raise excitement in the party. His choice of Alaska
Governor Sarah Palin did just that. Both tickets were able to claim the
benefits of experience and the benefits that fresh blood would bring to the
Each election year, the two major parties, and many of the minor ones, hold
conventions. Conventions first began in the mid-1800's, and have been a staple
of the American Presidential election process ever since.
The purpose of political conventions is to do many things. First and
foremost, the party's candidate for President and Vice President are finalized.
Usually, in modern times, the outcome of the voting of the state delegations is
known far in advance. By the time of the convention, there is typically a
front-runner with more than enough votes in the state delegations to secure the
nomination, and often the front-runner has chosen a person to be his or her
Vice Presidential running mate.
In addition to the selection of the candidates, the convention is a chance
for the party to finalize its platform. The platform is the basic foundation of
beliefs that the party will run on in the upcoming election. The platform is
made up of planks, each plank addressing a particular topic, stating the
party's position on any of a number of issues. For example, a plank might
address the party's position on abortion, or gun control, or the family; the
planks are typically hot-button issues that are circulating through society at
the time, and let the party make public the consensus of its members on these
issues. By no means is it expected that every member of the party agrees with
every plank; the platform is a result of compromise, and as a result, no one is
ever completely happy with the result.
Conventions also give the party hierarchy a chance to have a national
audience when they give speeches, and it is typical for the timing and schedule
of speakers to be a matter of great concern, debate, and compromise. For
example, will in-party opponents of the nominee-apparent be allowed to speak?
Perhaps a candidate will pledge his delegates to one of the other candidates in
exchange for a prominent spot in the speaker list. Since political conventions
are carried on some of the national television media, prime viewing time spots
are coveted and reserved for the best the party has to offer.
Finally, conventions allow the party faithful the opportunity to network
with the members of other state organizations, to have fun collecting buttons,
state memorabilia, and other trinkets, and to just have a generally good time.
Conventions are typically held in a party-like atmosphere, with the partial
intent of influencing the viewing audience to stick with their candidates, both
national and local, in the upcoming election.
The presidential campaign is generally know to start once the candidates for
the two major parties have been decided in convention. But as noted, the
outcome of those conventions is almost always well-known before the actual
convention itself. At some point in the primary campaign, the front runners
from both parties are established, and the politicking shifts from countering
your opponents in your own party to countering the candidate-apparent in the
opposing party. In recent years, the Reform Party has emerged as a large voting
bloc, and the Democratic and Republican candidates have to contend with
potentially strong candidates from that party, too. The emergence of more large
national parties is possible, but for now, we can discuss just the Republicans
and Democrats, while recognizing the Reform Party.
There are several features to the final phase of the presidential campaign
that can be highlighted. The first of these is the stump speech. The stump
speech is nothing new in this phase; each candidate will have had one during
the primaries, but in the final phase, it takes on more importance. The stump
speech is the standard speech given by a candidate, to highlight his or her
plans for the next term of the presidency and to contrast the plans of the
opponent. These speeches tend to use broad, general terms and espouse broad and
general policies, designed to attract the maximum number of voters.
Another common sight is the presidential debate. Debates are also not new in
the process, with primary debates having taken place a while back, but now the
focus is not on a dozen candidates but on just two (or, with Reform, three).
Debates are often well-scripted, with candidates well versed in possible
questions, and with evasion techniques well trained. You might be surprised how
well a candidate can evade a very specific question, redirecting his answer to
a completely different topic. The debates often do not answer too many real
questions, and major gaffes are rare, but they do give the public a chance to
see the candidates face off in a way they would not otherwise.
The media is another major factor in the final phase. Newspapers revel in
the election season, with more to report on a day-to-day basis than at any
other time of the four-year cycle. Television is filled with daily updates on
the candidates, their whereabouts, the additions to stump speeches, and the
perennial topic of campaigns and finances. Radio, and more so television, have
transformed the way campaigns are conducted. No longer are the candidates
waging wars of words, but now they are wars of sound bites — what catch
phrase or three-second snippet of a speech can we push to make our point, or to
berate the opposition? Since the 1960 debate between Kennedy and Nixon, the
first to be televised, television and politics have become inextricably
While all of this is going on, the voting public watches the debate, watches
and listens to TV and radio commercials, and gets input barraged from nearly
all sides of every issue. Political action committees vie for funds and push
agendas, as do labor unions, companies, and other public figures. Candidates
are endorsed by newspapers and other media. Scandal is almost always
omnipresent, as some former boyfriend of a former girlfriend of an aide to a
candidate comes forward with some shocking revelation (or, even, the candidate
himself comes forward to admit to wrong-doing). The cycle of point and
counterpoint continues right up until election day.
On election day, all of America has an opportunity to vote for a candidate
(or, as explained on the Electoral College Topic
Page, for the electors for a candidate). Typically, only about half to 60%
of all voters actually vote, but the reporting that goes on from the day the
first vote is cast until the last poll closes in Hawaii, the nation holds its
breath. Were the polls right — does the front-runner have it in the bag,
or did the dark-horse come up from behind? Of what effect were any last-minute
scandals or third party candidates?
The media have been covering elections for hundreds of years, and in the
last ten or so, have honed the prediction of the winner to a science. Often,
networks hold off on their predictions until the last polls close, but often
word slips out that one or the other is ahead. As results pour in from voting
districts around the nation, the presumed electoral votes mount for each
candidate; usually by eight or nine o'clock, Eastern Time, the winner is
apparent, and the nation begins to prepare itself for either the status quo, or
a big change. As history has shown time and time again, however, old
assumptions can be easily challenged. In the election
of 2000, the wisdom of exit polling and calling races before official
tallies were in was challenged as the networks called elections, retracted
them, and recalled them, and retracted them yet again.
2008 Campaign Sites
The presidential elections in 2008 will be highlighted
at the following sites.
Long-time Democratic Governor of Vermont, Howard Dean,
toyed with the idea of running for President for some time. Speculation in the
local media first brought up the question when President Bill Clinton was
finishing out his second term. The Democratic nomination would be up fro grabs,
and though Vice President Al Gore was the heir apparent, nothing was set in
Dean became governor of the state of Vermont in 1991. He was Lieutenant
Governor, and took the reins when Governor Dick Snelling died in office, only
the third Lieutenant Governor to take office in this way. He went on to be
elected again and again through the 1990's, proving to be one of Vermont's
In 1998, Dean campaigned in several states in the summer and fall, giving
speeches that sounded strangely presidential, but there was a backlash back
home, as Dean had just been reelected Governor. Vermonters found it unseemly
that presidential ambitions be so bluntly professed so soon after his election.
2000 was not to be Dean's year. He was reelected again in 2000, but this time,
he made it clear the it was his final run, and questions about the presidency
In the Fall of 2001, Dean started a political action committee (PAC) that
raised funds and gave money to Democratic campaigns for the 2002 election
cycle. The PAC, The Fund
for a Healthy America, reflects one of Dean's biggest professed concerns:
health care in America. A doctor before he became Lieutenant Governor, Dean has
been on the forefront of calls for health care reform. Such a PAC is a first
unofficial step in the campaign process.
This part of this page will highlight several of the points in the Dean
campaign, from its inauspicious beginning, through its heady middle, to its
09/05/2001 - Dean announces he will not run for reelection in
07/21/2002 - Dean appears on NBC's Meet the Press, his first big
11/05/2002 - Dean's Lieutenant Governor Doug Racine loses his bid for
the governorship to Republican Jim Douglas. Though because no candidate
received more than 50% of the vote the Legislature will pick the official
winner, Racine concedes the election and asks that Democratic legislators vote
12/02/2002 - Massachusetts Senator John Kerry announces that he will
run for President in 2004 and forms an exploratory committee.
12/15/2002 - Former Vice President and Presidential Candidate Al
Gore announces he will not run for President in 2004. The move is seen as
opening up the field to all Democratic hopefuls.
01/02/2003 - North Carolina Senator John Edwards announces that he
will run for President in 2004 and forms an exploratory committee.
01/06/2003 - Missouri Senator Richard Gephardt announces that he will
run for President in 2004 and forms an exploratory committee. Gephardt
previously ran in 1988.
01/07/2003 - South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle officially announces
that he will not run for President in 2004.
01/09/2003 - Dean officially leaves the office of Governor of
Vermont as Jim Douglas is sworn in.
01/13/2003 - Connecticut Senator and former Vice Presidential
candidate Joseph Lieberman officially announces that he will run for
President in 2004.
01/17/2003 - The AP reports that roughly one year from the Iowa
caucuses, candidates are gearing up support. Dean has hired former executive
director of the Iowa Democratic Party, Jeanie Murray, to head his efforts in
01/21/2003 - New York activist Rev. Al Sharpton officially announces
that he will run for President in 2004 and forms an exploratory committee.
02/12/2003 - Kerry is reported to be resting peacefully after having
surgery to remove a cancerous prostate. Kerry said that he does not expect the
cancer nor the surgery to affect his presidential bid.
02/17/2003 - Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich officially announces
that he will run for President in 2004 and forms an exploratory committee.
02/18/2003 - Former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley Braun officially
announces that she will run for President in 2004 and forms an exploratory
02/19/2003 - Gephardt files campaign papers with the Federal Election
Commission, officially ending the exploratory period.
02/21/2003 - Hollywood insider and Democratic fund raiser Rob Reiner
announces his support for Dean.
02/26/2003 - Florida Senator Bob Graham officially announces that he
will run for President in 2004 and forms a presidential campaign committee.
03/03/2003 - Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd announces that he
will not run for President in 2003.
03/19/2003 - Hostilities in Iraq initiated. Dean has consistently
spoken out against the war, but soon adds expressions of support for U.S. and
03/21/2003 - Polls find Dean and Kerry in a statistical tie in New
Hampshire, with 23 percent supporting Kerry and 22 percent for Dean.
04/03/2003 - A Franklin Pierce College poll find Dean and Kerry tied
in New Hampshire, with 21 percent supporting each.
04/17/2003 - News stories report that Dean's campaign filings
indicate that Dean's fund-raising efforts left him third in the funding race,
with a large share coming from small contributors and from Internet
05/04/2003 - The first-in-the-nation candidate debate in South
Carolina focuses on the feuding between the Dean and Kerry campaigns.
05/06/2003 - Graham officially announces his bid for the Democratic
05/14/2003 - Gephardt announces endorsements from the House Minority
Leader and the House Minority Whip.
05/16/2003 - President George W. Bush registers his reelection
06/20/2003 - Prominent Vermonter Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and
Jerry's, announces his support for Kucinich.
06/20/2003 - Dean's son Paul is arrested in Vermont for his role in a
break-in at a country club, characterized as a high school prank.
06/23/2003 - Dean officially announces his bid for the Democratic
06/30/2003 - Dean tops list of Democratic fund raising, much of $7.5
million coming from on-line donations.
08/05/2003 - Dean's son appears in court to answer burglary charges,
and is sentenced to a diversion program that, if completed, will expunge his
08/05/2003 - Dean is featured on the front cover of both Time and
08/23/2003 - Dean kicks off his Sleepless Summer Tour, beginning in
Falls Church, VA, and ending three days later in New York City after nine
total campaign stops.
08/24/2003 - On CNN, Dean is asked about potential running mates,
including former General Wesley Clark.
08/26/2003 - The Sleepless Summer Tour ends in New York City, in
front of a crowd of an estimated 10,000.
08/28/2003 - In a poll of likely New Hampshire Democratic voters,
Dean takes a commanding lead over John Kerry, 38 percent to 17 percent. The
same poll found that 64 percent thought it likely George Bush would win
08/29/2003 - In a poll of likely Iowa caucus voters, Dean is in a
statistical dead heat with Gephardt, with Dean getting 25 percent and Gephardt
09/02/2003 - Kerry officially announces his bid for the Democratic
09/04/2003 - All current Democratic candidates except Sharpton meet
in Albuquerque, NM for a debate.
09/08/2003 - Dean maintains a lead, though smaller, over Kerry in
New Hampshire, 38 percent to 26 percent.
09/09/2003 - All eight Democratic candidates meet for a debate on Fox
News, sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus.
09/09/2003 - Edwards announces he will not run for reelection to North
Carolina's Senate seat, concentrating instead on his presidential bid.
09/16/2003 - Edwards officially announces his bid for the Democratic
09/17/2003 - Former General Wesley Clark announces his candidacy for
the Democratic nomination.
09/21/2003 - Braun officially announces her bid for the Democratic
10/06/2003 - Graham, citing fund raising difficulties, drops out of
10/13/2003 - Kucinich officially announces his bid for the Democratic
10/20/2003 - Clark and Lieberman announce they will not campaign for
the Iowa caucuses, allowing them to concentrate on New Hampshire.
10/30/2003 - A Time/CNN poll of Democratic voters places Dean at the
front of the pack, ahead of Clark, Gephardt, and Lieberman.
11/04/2003 - At an MTV Rock the Vote debate, Dean comes under fire
for appealing to poor whites after calling himself the candidate "for guys with
Confederate flags in their pickup trucks."
11/10/2003 - The Dean campaign, after polling Dean supporters,
announces intention to turn down $19 million in federal matching funds,
allowing unrestricted campaign spending.
11/12/2003 - Dean wins support from the national AFSCME and SEIU
11/14/2003 - Kerry follows Dean's lead and decides to forgo public
11/26/2003 - Dean travels to Hawaii to witness the repatriation of
remains thought to be those of his brother, killed in Laos in 1974.
12/03/2003 - Dean is urged by fellow Democrats to open 145 boxes of
gubernatorial papers held under seal in Vermont instead of waiting the 10-year
term Dean requested.
12/04/2003 - Dean's lead in a New Hampshire poll places him 32
percentage points ahead of Kerry.
12/08/2003 - Dean proposes that a judge review all of his sealed
gubernatorial records to determine which could be released to the public and
still preserve privacy.
12/09/2003 - Former Vice President and Democratic candidate for
President Al Gore endorses Dean.
12/12/2003 - Former President Jimmy Carter tells CNN that Dean's
chances in Iowa and New Hampshire look "quite, quite good."
12/2003 - Clark says in a TV interview that he was offered the Vice
Presidency under Dean before Clark entered the race. Dean's camp denies any
12/29/2004 - Dean calls on Democratic Party Chair Terry McAuliffe to
appeal to the other Democratic contenders to stop in-fighting that could harm
Democratic chances in the November election.
01/01/2004 - Dean campaign announces $15 million raised in the last
quarter of 2003, the most ever raised by a Democrat in a quarter. Bush has
raised about $50 million.
01/04/2004 - Dean is criticized for not increasing security at a
Vermont nuclear power plant while governor. Dean noted that these plants are
under federal control, but that he tried to have the plant increase security in
01/06/2004 - Former Senator and Presidential hopeful Bill Bradley
01/07/2004 - A national CNN/USA Today poll of registered Democrats
finds Dean leading the pack with 24 percent. Clark, with 20, Kerry, with 11,
and Lieberman, trail. Dean's lead slipped three points, and Clark's rose eight
points, since December.
01/09/2004 - NBC News airs 2000 footage in which then-Governor Dean
characterized the Iowa caucuses disparagingly.
01/09/2004 - Ten days before the Iowa caucuses, Iowa Senator Tom
Harkin endorses Dean.
01/10/2004 - Kerry is endorsed by Senate colleague Ted Kennedy.
01/11/2004 - Edwards is endorsed by the Iowa newspaper The Des Moines
01/11/2004 - In the final debate before the caucuses, Dean is
criticized by Sharpton for never having a black or Latino member of his cabinet
in 12 years in Vermont.
01/12/2004 - Dean goes on the defensive, attacking all of his rivals
in a speech in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
01/13/2004 - Non-binding District of Columbia primary. Only Dean,
Kucinich, Moseley Braun, and Sharpton are on the ballot. Deans wins, pulling
in 43 percent. Sharpton got 34 percent, Moseley Braun got 12, and Kucinich
got 8 percent.
01/15/2004 - Moseley Braun drops out of the race and endorses
01/16/2004 - Polls are now showing Dean, Gephardt, Kerry, and Edwards
in a statistical dead heat in Iowa.
01/18/2004 - Last minute polls show Kerry ahead in Iowa, with Dean,
Gephardt, and Edwards following close behind. Dean joined former President
Jimmy Carter for church services in Georgia. Dean's wife later joined Dean in
Iowa for the first time. Clark is endorsed by former Presidential candidate
01/19/2004 - Iowa caucuses. Kerry takes 38% of the vote; Edwards got
32%, Dean 18%, and Gephardt 11%.
01/20/2004 - Gephardt withdraws from the race following his
disappointing Iowa showing. Dean is criticized and lampooned for his delivery
of an impassioned Iowa concession speech.
01/22/2004 - In the first post-Iowa poll, Kerry pulls ahead in New
Hampshire, with a 31 percent draw, to Dean's 21 percent, Clark's 16, Edwards's
11, and Lieberman's 4 percent. The Boston Herald and the Boston Globe both
endorse Kerry. Dean appears on ABC's Primetime Live with his wife Judy. All
seven remaining candidates appear in a debate from New Hampshire.
01/23/2004 - Kerry picks up the endorsement of South Carolina Senator
Fritz Hollings. A CNN poll finds Kerry ahead of Dean in New Hampshire, 34
percent to 22 percent.
01/25/2004 - Polls still show Kerry in the lead in New Hampshire, with
his lead over Dean stabilized at 38 to 25 percent. A Newsweek preference poll
shows a 49-45 percent lead for Kerry over Bush. In the same poll, Bush led
01/26/2004 - A Reuters poll finds Kerry just three points ahead of
Dean, 31 to 28.
01/27/2004 - New Hampshire primary. Kerry wins with 39 percent of
the vote; Dean takes 26 percent; Clark 13; Edwards 12; Lieberman 9; Kucinich
1; Sharpton barely registers.
01/29/2004 - Dean announces a shake-up in his campaign team, asking
all staff to work two weeks unpaid, and replacing Joe Trippi with former Al
Gore staffer Roy Neel. Lieberman is endorsed by the Arizona Republic
01/31/2004 - Polls in upcoming primary states show Dean pulling in at
no higher than third. Dean's campaign is said to be concentrating on Michigan
and Washington and has pulled all TV advertising in February 3 states.
02/02/2004 - Kerry polls highest in all February 3 states except
Edwards in South Carolina and Clark in Oklahoma. Dean is said to be hoping to
pull a few delegates out of each state, but continues to concentrate on
02/03/2004 - Primaries in Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma, and
South Carolina. Caucuses in New Mexico and North Dakota. After early returns,
Lieberman withdraws from the race.
02/04/2004 - Final results show Kerry to be the big winner: Arizona:
Kerry 43%, Clark 27%, Dean 14%, Edwards 7%, Lieberman 7%. Delaware: Kerry 50%,
Lieberman 11%, Edwards 11%, Dean 10%, Clark 10%. Missouri: Kerry 51%, Edwards
25%, Dean 9%, Clark 4%. New Mexico: Kerry 42%, Clark 21%, Dean 16%, Edwards
11%. North Dakota: Kerry 50%, Clark 24%, Dean 12%, Edwards 10%. Oklahoma:
Clark 30%, Edwards 30%, Kerry 27%, Lieberman 6%, Dean 4%. South Carolina:
Edwards 45%, Kerry 30%, Sharpton 10%, Clark 7%, Dean 5%.
02/04/2004 - News reports have Dean calling Wisconsin his "last
stand." On his web site, Dean says "The entire race has come down to this: we
must win Wisconsin."
02/06/2004 - Former candidate Gephardt announces his endorsement of
02/07/2004 - Caucuses in Michigan and Washington. Final results show
Kerry wins in both states: Michigan: Kerry 52%, Dean 17%, Edwards 13%, Sharpton
7%, Clark 7%. Washington: Kerry 49%, Dean 30%, Kucinich 8%, Edwards 7%. Dean
loses the endorsement of the AFSCME union.
02/08/2004 - Maine caucuses. Kerry wins with 45% of the vote; Dean
got 26%, Kucinich 15% and Edwards 9%.
02/09/2004 - Dean backtracks on his statement that Wisconsin is his
last stand, saying that encouragement from supporters has prompted him to stay
in the race regardless of the outcome.
02/10/2004 - Primaries in Tennessee and Virginia.
02/11/2004 - Final results are in. Tennessee: Kerry 41%, Edwards
26%, Clark 23%, Dean 4%, Sharpton 2%. Virginia: Kerry 52%, Edwards 27%, Clark
9%, Dean 7%. Clark announces that he is withdrawing from the race.
02/13/2004 - Former candidate Clark endorses Kerry.
02/14/2004 - Caucuses in Nevada and District of Columbia. Kerry
wins both: Nevada: Kerry 63%, Dean 17%, Edwards 10%, Kucinich 7%. Washington
D.C.: Kerry 47%, Sharpton 20%, Dean 18%, Edwards 10%.
02/15/2004 - In a debate in Wisconsin, Dean tones down his anti-Kerry
rhetoric to focus on Bush. Reports are mixed about Dean's plans after
02/16/2004 - After expressing support for Kerry, Dean's national
chairman Steve Grossman leaves the Dean campaign.
02/17/2004 - Wisconsin primary.
02/18/2004 - Wisconsin results: Kerry 40%, Edwards 34%, Dean 18%.
Dean heads home to Burlington, Vermont to regroup. Early reports say that Dean
will hold a rally to announce that he is withdrawing from the race. Later,
Dean formally announced his withdrawal from the race, while promising to
continue to campaign within the party for change.
02/19/2004 - Kerry gets the endorsement of the AFL-CIO union.
02/22/2004 - Ralph Nader, Green candidate in 2000, announces he will
run as an independent.
02/24/2004 - Caucuses in Idaho and Utah, primary in Hawaii. Results:
Idaho: Kerry 54%, Edwards 22%, Dean 11%; Utah: Kerry 55%, Edwards 30%, Kucinich
7%, Dean 4%; Hawaii: Kerry 46%, Kucinich 30%, Edwards 13%, Dean 9%.
03/02/2004 - Super Tuesday: Minnesota caucuses; Primaries in
California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode
Island, Vermont, and Washington. Kerry wins all states except Vermont, which
Dean wins 58% to Kerry's 34%. Edwards's campaign indicates he will withdraw
from the race. Dean announces his support for Kerry.
03/03/2004 - Edwards officially withdraws from the race.
03/09/2004 - Primaries in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
Kerry wins all by a wide margin; the lowest, Texas, he wins with 66% to
Edwards's 15%. Dean draws 5% in both Texas and Louisiana.
03/10/2004 - A CNN poll reveals that Kerry has enough delegates to
win the Democratic nomination.
03/14/2004 - Nevada primary. Kerry wins 63% to Dean's 17% and
03/15/2004 - Sharpton endorses Kerry, but remains officially in the
race so he can accumulate delegates.
05/04/2004 - Primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. Kerry wins all
six Indiana delegates; Kerry wins six of 13 North Carolina delegates, with
Edwards winning the remaining seven.
05/11/2004 - Primaries in Nebraska and West Virginia. Kerry wins
two delegates in Nebraska; Kerry wins three in West Virginia, with Dean taking
the remaining two.
05/15/2004 - Wyoming caucuses. Kerry wins all four delegates.
05/18/2004 - Oregon primary. Kerry wins all five delegates.
06/01/2004 - Primaries in Alabama and South Dakota. Kerry wins three
delegates from each state.
06/08/2004 - New Jersey primary. Kerry wins twelve delegates, with
Dean taking two. As the last primary closes, final delegate totals are as
follows. Kerry: 2174; Edwards: 534; Dean: 175; Clark: 57; Sharpton: 27;
06/21/2004 - Ralph Nader selects Green Party activist Peter Camejo
as his running mate for the 2004 election.
06/27/2004 - In the Green Party national convention, Ralph Nader is
snubbed as the party supports lawyer David Cobb as its nominee.
07/03/2004 - A "Dean for VP" campaign starts up as Kerry's decision
for a running mate looms.
07/06/2004 - Kerry announces that he has asked Edwards to serve as his
07/22/2004 - Kucinich officially withdraws from the race.
07/26/2004 - Democratic convention opens in Boston. Kerry and
Edwards are selected in the first ballot and both accept the nominations.
08/30/2004 - Republican convention opens in New York City. Bush and
Cheney are selected and both accept the nominations.
09/30/2004 - First debate, between Bush and Kerry, in Coral Gables,
10/05/2004 - Second debate, between Cheney and Edwards, in Cleveland,
10/08/2004 - Third debate, between Bush and Kerry, in St. Louis,
10/13/2004 - Fourth debate, between Bush and Kerry, in Tempe,
11/02/2004 - Election Day.
12/13/2004 - Elector Day.
01/06/2005 - Congress meets to count electoral ballots.