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 run.
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 New Hampshire.
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 executive branch.
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 mixed
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.
Case Study - Howard Dean
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 stone.
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 longest-serving governors.
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 arose again.
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 pedestrian end.
09/05/2001 - Dean announces he will not run for reelection in 2002.
07/15/2002 - Dean for America files its first Federal Election Commission (FEC) report. The American Prospect calls Dean "The Darkest Horse."
07/21/2002 - Dean appears on NBC's Meet the Press, his first big national exposure.
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 for Douglas.
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 Iowa.
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 committee.
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 British troops.
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 contributions.
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 nomination.
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 campaign.
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 nomination.
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 criminal charge.
08/05/2003 - Dean is featured on the front cover of both Time and Newsweek.
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 reelection.
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 21 percent.
09/02/2003 - Kerry officially announces his bid for the Democratic nomination.
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 nomination.
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 nomination.
10/06/2003 - Graham, citing fund raising difficulties, drops out of the race.
10/13/2003 - Kucinich officially announces his bid for the Democratic nomination.
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 unions.
11/14/2003 - Kerry follows Dean's lead and decides to forgo public campaign finances.
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 such offer.
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 the 1990's.
01/06/2004 - Former Senator and Presidential hopeful Bill Bradley endorses Dean.
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 Register.
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 Dean.
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 George McGovern.
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 Dean 50-45.
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 newspaper.
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 Michigan.
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 Kerry.
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 Wisconsin.
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 Edwards's 10%.
03/15/2004 - Sharpton endorses Kerry, but remains officially in the race so he can accumulate delegates.
03/16/2004 - Illinois primary. Kerry wins 72%; Edwards 11%, Dean 4%.
03/20/2004 - Alaska primary. Kerry wins 48%; Edwards 26%, Dean 11%. 12% are uncommitted.
04/13/2004 - Colorado caucuses. Kerry wins 5 delegates to Edwards's two and one for Dean.
04/27/2004 - Pennsylvania primary. Kerry wins 8 delegates to Edwards's one.
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; Kucinich: 23.
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 running mate.
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, Florida.
10/05/2004 - Second debate, between Cheney and Edwards, in Cleveland, Ohio.
10/08/2004 - Third debate, between Bush and Kerry, in St. Louis, Missouri.
10/13/2004 - Fourth debate, between Bush and Kerry, in Tempe, Arizona.
11/02/2004 - Election Day.
12/13/2004 - Elector Day.
01/06/2005 - Congress meets to count electoral ballots.
01/20/2005 - Inauguration Day.