How Barack Obama Works

By: Josh Clark

Obama Wins the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election

President-elect Barack Obama hugs his wife Michelle during an election night rally on Nov. 4, 2008.
President-elect Barack Obama hugs his wife Michelle during an election night rally on Nov. 4, 2008.
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

The few days preceding the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 4 were exhausting for Obama. A record number of voters had taken part in early voting in the 32 states that allowed it. Despite these millions of ballots already cast, Florida, Virginia and Ohio remained key battleground states, and Obama visited each several times over the week leading up to Election Day. Outside of the race, Obama suffered the loss of his grandmother, who'd helped raise him, the day before the election.

His campaign found itself flush with cash after the record-breaking $650 million he raised during his combined primary and presidential bids ($150 of which was raised in September 2008 alone); 91 percent of those funds coming from individual donors [source: Telegraph, Open Secrets].


As a result of the unspent cash, the Obama campaign purchased half-hour blocks of programming time on three of the four major U.S. television networks. He held last-minute and late-night rallies, drawing crowds between 45,000 and 100,000 people in the West and Midwest and featuring guest appearances by celebrities like Bruce Springsteen. He also purchased advertising and held rallies in traditionally Republican states like Missouri and New Mexico, as well as in his opponent Sen. John McCain's home state of Arizona.

His 20-month campaign for the White House over, Obama returned to Chicago to cast his ballot and spend election night with his family and more than 125,000 supporters at an Election Night rally in his honor in Chicago's Grant Park.

The first election results in the nation predicted the outcome for the rest of the country. The 21 voters in Dixville Notch, N.H. -- which allows ballots cast at midnight on Nov. 4 -- went to Obama, 15 to 6. As the day wore on and polls began to close, the results for the rest of the United States came in.

The popular vote for the nation was divided, with Obama capturing an estimated 62.2 million votes, 52 percent of the vote [source: CNN]. But the electoral vote count showed that Obama won in a landslide. Ultimately, Obama won an estimated 338 electoral votes, 68 more than the 270 required to become president. In addition to maintaining all states that had voted Democrat in 2004, the candidate managed to flip at least seven 2004 red states to newly blue ones, including the battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia -- a state that hadn't voted Democrat since 1964 [source: CNN, Fox News].

On Nov. 4, 2008, after serving just four years as an elected official in the federal government, Sen. Barack Obama became the first black president-elect in the history of the United States. "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible," Obama said during his victory speech, "…tonight is your answer" [source: USA Today].

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • Barone, Michael. "Polls show the race between Obama and McCain is tightening." U.S. News. August 5, 2008. polls-show-the-race-between-obama-and-mccain-is-tightening.html
  • Bozell, Brent. "Barack's no Reagan." News Busters. July 29, 2008.
  • Chadwick, Alex and Elving, Ron. "The politics of Obama's overseas trip." NPR. July 21, 2008.
  • Cobb, William Jelani. "As Obama rises, old guard civil rights leaders scowl." Washington Post. January 13, 2008. 011102000_pf.html
  • Drew, Christopher and McIntire, Mike. "An Obama friend and patron until an indictment." New York Times. June 14, 2007.
  • Eilperlin, Juliet and Weisman, Jonathan. "McCain camp: 'Obama has played the race card.'" Washington Post. July 31, 2008.
  • Falsani, Cathleen. "Obama: I have a deep faith." Chicago Sun-Times. April 5, 2004.,obamafalsani040504.article
  • Feller, Ben. "Bush strategy: Bash Democratic Congress." Associated Press. November 2, 2007.,,-7044111,00.html
  • Felzenberg, Alvin S. "Fairy tales can come true." January 28, 2008. 0OTJkZjkyZDNhZDFmMGM=
  • Flintoff, Corey. "Obama selects Biden for Democratic ticket." NPR. August 28, 2008.
  • "Gerstenzang, James. "Barack Obama links John McCain to Bush-Cheney oil policies." Los Angeles Times.
  • Gordon, Michael and Zeleny, Jeff. "Interview with Barack Obama." New York Times. November 1, 2007.
  • Harnden, Toby. "Barack Obama's powerful speech on race." The Telegraph. March 18, 2008.
  • Healy, Patrick. "Obama weathers a test of mettle." January 27, 2008.
  • Helman, Scott. "Obama unveils platform on Letterman." Boston Globe. January 25, 2008. 01/obama_unveils_p.html
  • Hernandez, Ray and Drew, Christopher. "It's not just "Ayes' and 'Nays': Obama's votes in Illinois echo." The New York Times. December 20, 2007. r=1&oref=slogin
  • Hinckley, David. "Left and right, radio talkers praise Barack Obama speech." New York Daily News. March 19, 2008. 2008-03-19_left_and_right_radio_talkers_praise_bara.html
  • Horrigan, Marie. "Obama adopts universal health care as policy theme." New York Times. January 25, 2007.
  • Jackson, David and Long, Ray. "Obama knows his way around a ballot." Chicago Tribune. April 3, 2007. ballot,1,57567.story
  • Johnson, Alex. "Obama claims Democratic nomination." June 4, 2008.
  • Klein, Joe. "The fresh face." Time. October 15, 2006.,9171,1546362,00.html
  • Letkemann, Jessica. "Clinton, Obama to battle in Grammy category." Billboard. December 6, 2007. vnu_content_id=1003681960
  • Levey, Noam N. and Simon, Richard. "Senate on verge of new ageda." Los Angeles Times. November 9, 2006.,0,1354533.story
  • Luo, Michael and Drew, Christopher. "Obama picks up fund-raising pace." New York Times. July 3, 2008.
  • Mercer, Marsha. "Campaigns should mind folk wisdom." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. October 14, 2008.
  • Mosk, Matthew. "Obama's fundraising strong." Washington Post. January 9, 2008. fundraising_strong.html
  • Murray, Mark. "Voters Dissatisfied with Bush, Congress." MSNBC. May 19, 2005.
  • Popkey, Dan. "Obama is making politics cool for young people." Idaho Statesman. February 3, 2008.
  • Raju, Manu. "GOP scours Obama votes for election ammunition." The Hill. January 8, 2008. election-ammunition-2008-01-08.html
  • Rose, Charlie. "Analysis of Senator Obama's overseas trip." Huffington Post. July 25, 2008.
  • Ross, Brian and Schwartz, Rhonda. "The Rezko connection: Obama's Achilles heel?" ABC News. January 10, 2008.
  • Sargent, Greg and Kleefield, Eric. "Compare and Contrast: Hillary and Obama's votes on Iraq." TPM Election Central. March 29, 2007. _and_contrast_hillary_and_obamas_votes_on_iraq.php
  • Schaper, David. "Examining Obama's 'Present' votes in Illinois." NPR. January 23, 2008.
  • Scott, Janny. "In Illinois, Obama proved pragmatic and shrewd." New York Times. July 30, 2007.
  • Secter, Bob, Jackson, David and Gibson, Ray. "Obama-Rezko ties again at issue." Chicago Tribune. January 23, 2008. rezko-clinton-080122,0,5430503.story?coll=chi_tab01_layout
  • Steinhauser, Paul. "Poll: Debate watchers say Obama wins." CNN. October 15, 2008.
  • Strobel, Warren P. "Obama, McCain shift debate to more troops - for Afghanistan." McClatchy Newspapers. July 15, 2008.
  • Tapper, Jake. "Obama to quit -- smoking that is." ABC News. Feburary 7, 2007.
  • Vuoto, Grace. "Washington watch: Obama must go for the jugular." January 22, 2008. Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421 841978F18BE895F87F791&tier=4&id=A91418BF96C64BA2B8CC 5031AD01B483
  • Wallsten, Peter. "Obama said oops on 6 Senate votes." Los Angeles Times. January 24, 2008. jan24,0,713086.story
  • Wilkinson, Howard. "1000 attend Cincinnati Obama fundraiser." The Cincinnati Enquirer. February 26, 2007. cincinnati-obama-fundraiser/
  • Wills, Christopher. "Fact check: Obama's 'Present' votes. Associated Press. January 24, 2008. CYeBqTwD8UC4MA00
  • Wright, David, Fies, Andy and Miller, Sunlen. "Obama: 'Old politics just won't do'." ABC News. January 30, 2008.
  • Zeleny, Jeff. "Obama explores abortion issue." October 6, 2007. abortion-issue/
  • Zeleny, Jeff and Connelly, Marjorie. "Obama carries South Carolina by wide margin." New York Times. January 27, 2008. 1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin
  • "ADA's 2005 Congressional voting record." Americans for Democratic Action. May 2006.
  • "Analysis: Rejecting public funding won't hurt Obama." CNN. June 20, 2008.
  • "Barack Obama." Darfur Scores.
  • "Barack Obama on the issues." Washington Post. issues/candidates/barack-obama/
  • "Barack Obama dazzles Hollywood." Associated Press. February 20, 2007.
  • "Barack Obama, Sr.: 'Wrestling with…a ghost'." Chicago Sun-Times. September 9, 2007., BSX-News-wotreev09.stng
  • "Barack Obama: The new generation." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 27, 2008. /story/121FA9A750C5E018862573DC0003A07F?OpenDocument
  • "Barack Obama, U.S. Senator." GovTrack.
  • "Bush: Congress not getting its work done." CNN. October 30, 2007.
  • "Bush vetoes bill banning waterboarding." Associated Press. March 8, 2008.
  • "Candidate Obama's sense of urgency." 60 Minutes. February 11, 2007.
  • "Civil rights." Barack
  • "Contributions from selected industries." Open October 29, 2007. Ind=A02
  • "Democrats tested by big-tent deal." Courier-Post. June 17, 2008. AID=/20080617/COLUMNISTS24/806170301/1005/OPINION&template=
  • "Developer linked to Obama arrested." CNN. January 28, 2008. iref=newssearch
  • "Dodd and Biden drop out of White House race." Reuters. January 4, 2008.
  • "Ethics and lobbying reform." Obama Senate Site.
  • Federal SEIU voting record: 110th Congress, 1st session." Service Employees International Union. US&session=1101&x=6&y=9
  • "The Freedom Index: A Congressional scorecard based on the U.S. Constitution." The New American. July 23, 2007.
  • "The politics of satire." New Yorker magazine. July 21, 2008.
  • "Getting down to business." San Jose Business Journal. November 9, 2007.
  • "Hollywood stars flock to Oprah fundraiser for Obama." AFP. September 2007.
  • "Illinois Senator Barack Obama." Planned Parenthood. 2008.
  • "Immigration profile of: Sen. Barack Obama." Numbers USA. July 10, 2008.
  • "Meet Barack Obama: Health Care." AFL-CIO. 2008.
  • "Missed votes by member." The Washington Post. 2008.
  • "Obama accepts Jesse Jackson's apology." MSNBC. July 10, 2008.
  • "Obama announces another quarter of historic grassroots support." Barack October 1, 2007. another_quarte.php
  • "Obama chooses Biden as running mate." MSNBC. August 25, 2008.
  • "Obama, Clinton prepare for 1-on-1 debate." NPR. January 31, 2008
  • "Obama: Iran requires direct diplomacy." NPR. October 13, 2007.
  • "Obama selects Biden to be veep running mate." Associated Press. August 23, 2008.
  • "Obama sets fundraising record with $55 million." Los Angeles Times. March 7, 2008.
  • "On the issues: Health Care." New York Times.
  • "Poll finds electorate split between Obama, McCain." CNN. June 6, 2008.
  • "Remarks of Illinois state senator Barack Obama against going to war with Iraq. Barack October 2, 2002.
  • "Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Turning the page in Iraq." Barack September 12, 2007. barack_obam_23.php
  • "Remarks of Senator Obama: The great need of the hour." Barack January 20, 2008. barack_obam_40.php
  • "SEIU voting record: 109th Congress." Service Employees International Union. 1092&x=9&y=11#IL
  • "Senate: Barack Obama (D-IL)."
  • "Senator Barack H. Obama, Jr." Project Vote Smart.
  • "Transcript excerpt: Barack Obama." 60 Minutes. February 11, 2007. 2458530_page6.shtml
  • "The primaries over … the general election looms." CBS News. June 4, 2008.
  • "Top Ten Barack Obama campaign promises presented by Senator Barack Obama." CBS. January 24, 2008.
  • "Vote scorecard: 110th Congress, 1st session." Family Research Council Action. 2007.
  • "Who is Barack Obama?" January 15, 2008.
  • "109th Congress, U.S. Senate: Illinois." NFIB.
  • "2006 National Environmental Scorecard." League of Conservation Voters. 2006.
  • "2007 Congressional voting record inside." Americans for Democratic Action. February 2008.
  • Elsworth, Catherine. "Barack Obama spending rewrote the rules on campaign funding." The Telegraph. November 4, 2008.
  • Helman, Scott. "'Hometown favorite' casts his ballot." Boston Globe. November 4, 2008.
  • Hook, Janet and Levey, Noam N. "Early voting hits record high." Los Angeles Times. November 4, 2008.,0,6994159.story
  • Lilleston, Randy and Stanglin, Douglas. "Obama elected nation's 44th president." USA Today. November 5, 2008.
  • Newton-Small, Jay. "A long campaign, and a changed Barack Obama." Time. November 2, 2008.,8599,1855677,00.html
  • "McCain losing ground in Republican stronghold of Virginia." Fox News. October 6, 2008.
  • "Results map." CNN. November 5, 2008.
  • "Summary data for Barack Obama." Open Secrets. October 27, 2008.
  • "The first results are in." Associated Press. November 4, 2008.