Rallycross Essay 2012 Presidential Election

AFTER a panel discussion on the US elections hosted by a Dutch radio station the other night, I got to talking to a fellow American who's looking for work stateside. His Dutch government-funded job had been eliminated by austerity measures, so he was trying to convince his wife of the virtues of moving back to America. The main reason he was hesitating was the mood of vicious and increasingly entrenched political animosity. "Do you get the feeling," he asked, "that it could get violent?"

I said I didn't know. But it's certainly not a silly question. A recent broadcast of "This American Life", which focused on people who have lost close friends in recent years over politics, seemed to capture the mood pretty accurately. One sequence portrayed a student with a life-threatening pre-existing condition that until recently rendered him uninsurable, who has stopped talking to a conservative friend who refuses to support ObamaCare because he said it felt as though the friend didn't value his life. A conservative man describes being unable to continue talking to a former friend who supports a president he is convinced is destroying the country. Two sisters can't agree on who is being rude and condescending to whom after a furious falling-out over political philosophy.

Barack Obama has just won re-election, but America remains a country bitterly divided, as it has been for well over a decade. The divide is simultaneously very narrow in numerical terms, and gaping in ideological or partisan terms. This is what strikes one most strongly looking back at America from across an ocean: the country seems repeatedly embroiled in savage 51-49 electoral campaigns, and it seems to be increasingly paralysed by irresolvable rancour between right and left.

And think about it for a second: this is bizarre. If Americans are in fact divided between two extremely different political ideologies, it would be an extraordinary coincidence if each of those philosophies were to hold the allegiance of nearly equal blocs of support. That situation ought not to be stable. Adherence to these two ideologies ought to shift enough just due to demographics that the 50-50 split should deteriorate. And yet the even split seems to be stable. What's going on?

To put this another way, it's entirely logical to get a 50-50 split in a country where two relatively compatible political parties are competing for centrist votes. In a system governed by the logic of the median-voter theorem, one would expect to see the parties converging in policy terms to win the allegiance of voters in the centre. And you can even make a case that this is, in policy terms, what has happened in America. Realistic arguments over policy take place on relatively narrow terrain: they are arguments over a top marginal tax rate of 35% or 39.6%, over a health-insurance system with guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions but with or without a mandate, and so forth. But in ideological terms, this is not what the political divide looks like. Republicans construe the Democratic positions on these questions as socialism and international decline. Democrats construe the Republican positions as social darwinism and militant imperialism. How you do end up with a populace split evenly between these radical belief structures?

My basic take is that the stable, narrow, bitter partisan divide in America is a phenomenon driven by an interaction between two major players: the parties themselves, and the media. Political parties have achieved a staggering level of professionalism; the increasing availability of voter preference data and increasing sophistication of recruitment techniques in the age of information technology are likely to result in convergence between their abilities to secure their vote shares. The media, meanwhile, and this can't be repeated often enough, is overwhelmingly biased towards producing exciting political races. Horse-race reporting gives the media the collective ability to shape the kind of narrative it needs in order to report excitingly. The increasing interaction between mass media and social media seems only to exacerbate this tendency: both mass-media analysts and private social-media contributors are rewarded for sharply divisive characterisations. We're seeing market segmentation in which a number of players have an interest in keeping the segments at equal sizes.

But most people don't view the increase in partisanship as a morally neutral, structural phenomenon in which they're being driven into two camps by organisational forces. And they don't see the policy argument as being a narrow one. The suspicion on both sides is that, while the results in policy terms if the other side wins the election may not be catastrophic, the other side's true aim is a vision of America that is anathema to one's own. And this leads to a social antipathy that can be quite profound. It increasingly takes a conscious effort for Democrats and Republicans to be socially at ease with each other. There is an increasing level of outright hostility; on the Republican side especially, the arguments that have been deployed to rally opposition to the enemy's agenda provide intellectual support for violent resistance.

Setting aside the policy issues we're facing over the next four years, I think the most immediate need is for Americans to find a way to live civilly with each other. "This American Life" brought on a pair of writers, liberal Phil Neisser and conservative Jacob Hess, who've written a book ("You're Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You're Still Wrong)") about their efforts to find a way to talk to each other and agree to disagree on fundamental philosophical and moral issues. There need to be a lot more similar efforts along these lines. This election has put Barack Obama back in office, and returned him a Democratic Senate and a Republican House. Over the next four years, legislative battles are going to continue to be savage and hard-fought. Neither conservatives nor liberals are going to change their minds en masse about fundamental issues of political philosophy. The top priority is for Americans to figure out a way to keep these divisions from dividing the country into two hostile armed camps that are incapable of talking to each other.

(Photo credit: AFP)

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See also: United States presidential election, 2008

The 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama, then juniorUnited States Senator from Illinois, was announced on February 10, 2007 in Springfield, Illinois.[1] After winning a majority of delegates in the Democratic primaries of 2008, on August 23, leading up to the convention, the campaign announced that Senator Joe Biden of Delaware would be the Vice Presidential nominee.[2] At the 2008 Democratic National Convention on August 27, Barack Obama was formally selected as the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States in 2008.[3] He was the first African American in history to be nominated on a major party ticket.[4]

On November 4, 2008, Obama defeated the Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, making him the President-elect and the first African American elected President.[5][6] He was the third sitting U.S. Senator, after Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy, to be elected President. Upon the vote of the Electoral College on December 15, 2008, and the subsequent certification thereof by a Joint Session of the United States Congress on January 8, 2009, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States and Joe Biden Vice President of the United States, with 365 of 538 electors.[7][8]

End of the primaries[edit]

Further information: Barack Obama presidential primary campaign, 2008

On June 3, 2008, after the Montana and South Dakota primaries, he secured enough delegates to clinch the nomination of the Democratic Party for President of the United States.[4] His opponent in the general election, RepublicanJohn McCain, passed the delegate threshold to become the apparent nominee of his party on March 4.[9] On June 7, Hillary Clinton, Obama's remaining opponent in the quest for the Democratic nomination, conceded defeat and urged her supporters to back Obama.[10] After a June 26 dinner at which Obama encouraged his fundraisers to donate to Clinton's debt-saddled campaign,[11] Obama and Clinton ran their first post-primary event together in Unity, New Hampshire, on June 27.[12] Over the first two weeks of July, the campaign ran a heavier schedule of fundraising events, drawing from former donors to Clinton's campaign.[13] Obama strategically had pictures made with financial experts Warren Buffett and Paul Volcker so the public would perceive him as having inside knowledge of Wall Street.[14]

Running mate[edit]

Main articles: Democratic Party (United States) vice presidential candidates, 2008 and Joe Biden presidential campaign, 2008

Obama's vice presidential running mate had been a subject of speculation since the end of the primaries. As of August 2008, some of the most popular choices for Vice President included, but were not limited to, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, retired General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and retired General Wesley Clark.

On August 21, 2008, Obama announced that he had made a selection for his running mate, but would not reveal until August 23 who it was.[15] Obama's campaign encouraged supporters to sign up for a text messaging system that would alert them the moment he announced his choice.

On August 22, KMBC News of Kansas City spotted bumper stickers of an "Obama/Bayh '08" ticket that were being printed in Lenexa, Kansas. Three sources close to a local printing plant reported that such material was being produced.[16] The image of the bumper sticker circulated on the internet. However, NBC News later quoted sources stating that Bayh had been informed by Obama's campaign that he was not the pick.[17] According to an Associated Press report that same evening, Joe Biden was selected as Obama's candidate.[18] The Associated Press report was confirmed several hours later, on August 23, on his official campaign website and by a mass text message to supporters.[2] Obama selected Biden to be vice president for three reasons: he could relate to blue-collar Americans (i.e. he is originally from Pennsylvania—arguably a blue-collar state); he has a multitude of connections on Capitol Hill; and he has more personal connections in foreign policy than Obama.[19]

Major events[edit]

Middle Eastern and European tour[edit]

In July 2008 Obama traveled to Kuwait, Afghanistan,[20]Iraq,[21]Jordan,[22] the West Bank,[23]Israel, Germany, France, and Britain. During the course of this trip he met with assorted international leaders, including President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan,[24] Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister of IsraelEhud Olmert, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France,[25] and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, as well as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Conservative opposition leader David Cameron.[26]

On July 24, 2008 he gave a speech at the Victory Column in Berlin before a crowd of estimated 200,000 to 240,000 people.[27][28][29]

[edit]

Main article: United States presidential election debates, 2008

There were three presidential debates between Obama and McCain. No third party candidates or Independent candidates were offered an invitation to join in any of the debates,[30] as Obama and McCain were the only candidates on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Commission on Presidential Debates proposed, and the candidates agreed, that two of three 90-minute debates would be in an informal, seated, talk show format, while the third would be in a town hall format that allowed both candidates to walk around.[31]

  • The first presidential debate was held on Friday, September 26, 2008 at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi. This debate was held in a traditional debate format.
  • The second presidential debate was held on Tuesday, October 7, 2008 at Belmont University, in Nashville, Tennessee. This debate was held in the town hall format.
  • The third presidential debate was held on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, New York. This debate was held in a seated, talk show format.

On June 4, John McCain proposed a series of ten joint town hall meetings with Obama, at which the two could engage each other.[32] Obama first agreed in principle to the notion,[33] but later rejected McCain's proposal, offering instead one town-hall event on the Independence Day holiday and four traditional debate-style joint appearances.[34][35]Hank Paulson, President Bush's Treasury Secretary, said Obama's comprehension of the financial crisis compared to McCain’s was as broad as "night and day". McCain’s confidence vastly lowered when Obama questioned his ideas on the financial crisis in a meeting on September 25 at the White House with Bush and other congressmen. McCain did not have suggestions regarding what he would do to fix the economy, particularly Henry Paulson’s $700 billion three-page bank recovery plan (TARP). Neither McCain nor Bush had read it. Obama’s confidence escalated from that point. This was the turning point of the campaign.[19]

Financial crisis[edit]

On September 15, 2008 financial services firm Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, setting off a series of events leading to a 4.4% Dow Jones loss, at the time the largest drop by points in a single day since the days following the attacks on September 11, 2001.[36] That stock market loss was subsequently exceeded by an even larger −7.0% plunge on September 29, 2008.

On September 24, 2008, after the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, McCain announced that he was suspending his campaign to return to Washington to help craft a $700 billion bailout package for the troubled financial industry, and he stated that he would not debate Obama until Congress passed the bailout bill.[37] Despite this decision, McCain was portrayed as not playing a significant role in the negotiations for the first version of the bill, which fell short of passage in the House. He eventually decided to attend the first presidential debate on September 26, despite Congress' lack of immediate action on the bill. His ineffectiveness in the negotiations and his reversal in decision to attend the debates were seized upon to portray McCain as erratic in his response to the economy. Days later, a second version of the original bailout bill was passed by both the House and Senate, with Obama, his vice presidential running mate Joe Biden, and McCain all voting for the measure (Hillary Clinton would as well).[38]

Saddleback Civil Forum[edit]

Main article: Civil Forum on the Presidency

The Civil Forum on the Presidency was the venue of back-to-back interviews of U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama by pastor Rick Warren on August 16, 2008, at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

Victory speech[edit]

Main article: Barack Obama election victory speech, 2008

Following his victory, Obama gave his victory speech[39] at Grant Park in his home city of Chicago[40] on November 4, 2008, before an estimated crowd of 240,000.[41][42] Viewed on television and the Internet by millions of people around the globe, Obama's speech focused on the major issues facing the United States and the world, all echoed through his campaign slogan of change.[43] He also mentioned his grandmother, who had died two nights earlier.

Fundraising[edit]

See also: Fundraising for the 2008 United States presidential election

The Obama campaign's fundraising broke previous records for presidential primary and general campaigns, and has changed expectations for future presidential elections. The campaign avoided using public campaign funds, raising all of its money privately from individual donors. By the general election the campaign committee raised more than $650 million for itself, and coordinated with both the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and at least 18 state-level Democratic committees to create a joint-fundraising committee to raise and split tens of millions of dollars more.[44][45][46]

Post-election fundraising continued for the separate transition administration, called the Obama-Biden Transition Project, and also the separate inaugural ceremonies and celebrations committee.[44]

Chronology[edit]

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Obama's campaign raised more money in the first quarter of 2008 ($133,549,000)[47] than it had raised in all of 2007 ($103,802,537). The campaign had a relatively small total of $21.9 million in May, but went on to raise $52 million in June, after Obama had secured the nomination.[48]

On June 19, Obama was the first major-party presidential candidate to turn down public financing for a general election campaign since the system was created in the aftermath of Watergate.[49][50] Obama was expected to raise $265 million between the time of the announcement and election day.[51]

By rejecting the funds in favor of private donations, the campaign was in a position to outspend John McCain prior to the election. Had he signed on to the plan, the campaign would only have been able to spend $84.1 million between the party convention in August and the general election in November.[52]

Obama explained his decision to opt out of the public financing system, saying, "public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system."[50] Critics of the decision argued that the decision contradicted earlier statements that he would attempt to reach agreement with McCain to obtain public financing,[51][53] and asserted that Obama's campaign was receiving as much support from unregulated 527 groups as McCain's.[54]

On September 4, 2008, the Obama campaign announced they raised $10 million in the 24-hour period after Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin's acceptance speech. The RNC reported raising $1 million in the same period.[55]

On October 19, 2008, Obama's campaign announced a record fundraising total of $150 million for September 2008. This exceeded the campaign's single-month record ($66 million) for August 2008.[56]

The campaign raised much of its cash in small donations over the internet, with about half of its intake coming in increments of less than $200.[57] Both major party campaigns screened regularly for patterns of abuse and returned or rejected donations in excess of legal limits, from overseas, from untraceable addresses, or from fraudulent names.[58] After some criticism of the Obama campaign on conservative blogs, the Republican National Committee asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate the Obama campaign's screening practices.[59]

Branding[edit]

Logo[edit]

See also: Obama logo

Obama's campaign is notable for its extensive use of a logo. The logo, consisting of a circle, with the center suggesting a sun rising over fields in the colors of the American flag, was designed by a team at Chicago design firm Sender LLC. "We were looking at the "o" of his name and had the idea of a rising sun and a new day," according to Sol Sender, now a strategist at VSA Partners. "The sun rising over the horizon intended to evoked a new sense of hope."[60]

Slogan[edit]

Obama's campaign used the slogan "Change we can believe in" and the chant "Yes We Can". The latter slogan is shared with the United Farm Workers and associated with its founder César Chávez and is well known amongst Latinos in its Spanish form Sí se puede. The "Change we can believe in" has been used in parodies both during and since the campaign. John McCain attempted to criticize Obama by enumerating various controversial policy positions he allegedly took and proclaiming "that's not change we can believe in" alongside a banner proclaiming McCain as "a leader we can believe in".[61] Since the campaign it has been used to parody campaigns against incumbents as being "change you can't believe in" such as by British blog LeftFootForward against David Cameron[62] or by the Economist against the People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan.[63]

Hope poster[edit]

See also: Barack Obama "Hope" poster

The "hope" poster was an iconic image of Barack Obama designed by artist Shepard Fairey.[64] It consisted of a stylized stencil portrait of Obama in solid red, white (actually beige) and (pastel and dark) blue. Either the words "progress", "hope", or "change" were under the image of Obama (in some versions other words were used). It was created and distributed widely—as a digital image, on posters and other paraphernalia—during the 2008 election season. Initially it was distributed independently but with the approval of the official Obama campaign. The image became one of the most widely recognized symbols of Obama's campaign message, spawning many variations and imitations, including some commissioned by the campaign itself. In January 2009, after Obama had won the election, Fairey's mixed-media stenciled portrait version of the image was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution for its National Portrait Gallery.

Typefaces[edit]

The signature campaign typeface was Gotham, typically using capital letters with occasional use of the script Snell Roundhand. Gotham was designed in 2000 by Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, originally for GQ magazine. Prior to Gotham, the campaign used the typeface Gill Sans in upper case and lower case.[65] Another Hoefler and Frere-Jones font, Requiem, was used for the campaign logo.[66]

Campaign songs[edit]

U2's "City of Blinding Lights" was often played in anticipation of Obama's speeches during campaign events.[67]Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" was also played heavily during his campaign rallies.[68]Stevie Wonder's Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours was frequently played immediately after Obama's speeches.[69] Barack Obama personally asked Joss Stone in August to write and record his presidential campaign song, reportedly due to the fact that she appeals across racial boundaries.[70]Ben Harper's "Better Way" was also played at a few events throughout the campaign.[71] Furthermore, Obama's candidacy inspired artists to create more unsolicited music and music videos than any other candidate in American political history.[72] Examples include "Yes We Can" by will.i.am, of the band The Black Eyed Peas; "Make it to the Sun"[73] by Ruwanga Samath and Maxwell D; Barack Obama" by JFC; and "Unite the Nation" by the Greek-American hip hop group Misa/Misa.[74]

Technology[edit]

See also: Barack Obama on social media

Obama was particularly noted for his use of the Internet to rally supporters and make his policies known. He is the first U.S. President to have effectively used the internet and social media for successful political outcomes. His successful presidential campaign raised the bar and are now presidential standards.

"The integration of technology into the process of field organizing … is the success of the Obama campaign," says Sanford Dickert, who worked as John Kerry’s chief technology officer for the 2004 campaign. "But the use of technology was not the end-all and be-all in this cycle. Technology has been a partner, an enabler for the Obama campaign, bringing the efficiencies of the internet into the real-world problems of organizing people in a distributed, trusted fashion."[75]

Obama’s campaign was further strengthened by his opponent John McCain’s comparatively limited use of the Internet. McCain did not have the organization of Obama’s campaign, nor did he spend a comparable amount of money on this portion of the campaign. Both opportune timing and usage of online campaigning gave Obama significant advantage over McCain.[75]

Social Media[edit]

Through forums and social websites such as MySpace and Facebook, Obama built relationships with his supporters, and would-be supporters. He developed an upfront, personable and face-to-face quality that gave his supporters a sense of security and trust, which inspired them to rally others in their local communities. The supporters of Obama themselves formed a nationwide community.

All of his policies were made available online, and updates were sent to the subscribers of his political party via email and text message, ultimately making him the most technologically savvy candidate to date, increasing his popularity among youth voters.

MyBo[edit]

In early 2007, the Obama campaign launched a social-networking site called my.barackobama.com, or MyBO for short, and recruited 24-year-old Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes to help develop the platform and their social networking strategy.[76][77] MyBo became the hub of the campaign's online efforts to organize supporters.[78]

The nationwide community provided useful and effective tools, such as the Neighbor-to-Neighbor tool, allowing supporters to reach a large number of people in a short time in their own community, which in turn led to campaign rallying for more Obama support. An unprecedented communication strategy was the "online call tool". Over one million calls were made from residential, personal laptops and desktops.[19] Online communication led to Obama supporters engaging in social activities such as signmaking and door-to-door petitioning for Obama support, as well as simply discussing their opinions about policies and issues they supported along with Obama.[79][80] As described by campaign adviser Steve Spinner, the campaign grew "from zero to 700 employees in a year and raised $200 million. That’s a super-high-growth, fast-charging operation."

NationalField[edit]

In 2008, campaign staffers stationed in the long-shot battle ground state of Georgia, reinvented the tedious, messy process of reporting and aggregating nightly data and intelligence upward through the campaign apparatus—making the organizing work of vast Obama field infrastructure more immediately measurable.[81]NationalField became an internal social network within the field organization, used to monitor the daily activities of the sprawling grassroots effort.[83] It allowed staff to share what they were working on and benchmark themselves against other staffers. Unlike a standard social graph, where all users have access to all information, NationalField was based on a hierarchical social graph where the higher level you were in the organization, the broader your view of the information below you.[84]

The platform closely reflected the team-building model of the Obama Campaign, often associated with organizer and Harvard professor Marshall Ganz in that it was an intensely structured a social network.[81]

Voter Data[edit]

After trailing Republicans for many election cycles in their use of micro-targeting, the 2008 Obama campaign was the first Democratic presidential campaign to benefit from the existence of a national voter file. In 2007, DNC chairman Howard Dean centralized data collection and management by hiring the Voter Activation Network and creating the database Votebuilder.[76] Votebuilder created a web-based interface for the database and permitted the Obama campaign to give neighborhood-level volunteers access to the registered voter list for their area of responsibility.[85]

Media campaign[edit]

In October 2008, Obama was voted Advertising Age magazine's "Marketer of the Year" by members of the Association of National Advertisers for the campaign, surpassing Apple and Zappos.com.[86] In a post-election analysis of the campaign, the magazine lauded its "understanding of ground-level marketing strategies and tactics, everything from audience segmentation and database management to the creation and maintenance of online communities."[87]

Online advertising[edit]

The Obama web campaign used consumer marketing to target individuals with customized information to their predicted interests. Political communication to viewers was based on data collected about them. This data was collected by volunteers, surveys on the website and records of consumption habits. Website surveys took a short amount of time to fill out[88] and the company used A/B testing to determine which forms converted most effectively, led by the team's Director of Analytics Dan Siroker.[89][90] More detailed surveys were requested and received through email. Records of consumption habits helped the campaign make predictions about people based on statistical models.[88] People received messages tailored close to their beliefs.[88] Marketing based on consumer data also enabled effective grassroots organizing through the website. Data gathered from the website indicated who the most dedicated constituents were; the website tracked how often a person visited and when.[88] The campaign team then targeted and encouraged activists in contested, winnable areas, such as through the website program Neighbor-to-neighbor.

Television advertisements[edit]

Soon after becoming the presumptive nominee, Obama began a biographical commercial campaign emphasizing his patriotism.[91] The advertisements ran in 18 states, including traditionally Republican Alaska and North Carolina.[92] Between June 6 and July 26, Obama's campaign spent $27 million on advertisements, against McCain and Republican National Committee's combined total of $24.6 million.[93]

In a September 15, 2008 interview with Good Morning America, Obama stated, "If we're going to ask questions about, you know, who has been promulgating negative ads that are completely unrelated to the issues at hand, I think I win that contest pretty handily." What he apparently meant was that McCain had put out more negative ads.[94]

Infomercial[edit]

On October 29 at 8:00 pm EDT, the Obama campaign's 30-minute infomercial "American Stories, American Solutions" was simulcast on NBC, CBS, Fox, Univision, MSNBC, BET and TV One, focusing on a wide range of issues including health care and taxation. The infomercial then showed an Obama speech live from Florida.[95] Fox asked for the second part of Game Five of the 2008 World Series to be delayed by 15 minutes in order to show the commercial, and that request was granted.[96]ABC was the only major US network not to show the ad after being indecisive during the initial approach and the Obama campaign later declined the offer. The Obama ad got 30.1 million viewers across networks compared to ABC's Pushing Daisies which garnered 6.3 million viewers.[97] Prior to this, the last presidential candidate to purchase a half-hour ad was H. Ross Perot, who ran as an independent candidate in 1992.[98] The Obama campaign also bought a channel on Dish Network to screen Obama ads 24/7.[99] Wyatt Andrews reported on a "Reality Check" on the CBS Evening News the next day with doubts over the factual accuracy of some of the promises Obama made in the advertisement, given the government's enormous financial deficit.[100]

Other Initiatives[edit]

Fight the Smears[edit]

On June 12, 2008, the Obama campaign launched a website to counter what the campaign described as smears by his opponents.[101] The site provided responses to issues brought up about the candidate,[102] such as:

Israel for Obama[edit]

Originally started by American-Israelis in late May, the "Israel for Obama" campaign aimed to refute the allegations made against Obama concerning Israel and the Jewish community. This was done by gaining endorsements from Israel.[107] When he took a Middle East trip from Afghanistan to Iraq, Jordan and finally to Israel, they organized a small "Israel for Obama" rally for him.[108][109][110]

Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council stated that "The Democratic operation in the Jewish community was more extensive than I've seen in 35 years,"[111] The chairman of the campaign in Israel, Yeshiyah Amariel,[112][113][114] and others such as the Jewish Alliance for Change and the Jewish Council for Education & Research used YouTube to release video endorsements from officials and normal people in Israel for Obama and his positions (such as "Israelis for Obama"[115] and "right man for the job.")[116] In the closing weeks of the election the campaign used support from Israelis to fight the smears spread online by bloggers. Its success caused the polls of Jewish support for Obama to increase so that by the time of the Nov. 4 election, according to exit polls, 77% of the voting American Jewish community voted for Obama over the 23% that were for John McCain.[117][118]

Political positions[edit]

Main articles: Political positions of Barack Obama and Comparison of United States presidential candidates, 2008

Obama has taken positions on many national, political, economic and social issues, either through public comments or his senatorial voting record. Since announcing his presidential campaign in February 2007, Obama emphasized withdrawing American troops from Iraq, increasing energy independence (that includes New Energy For America plan[119]), decreasing the influence of lobbyists, and promoting universal health care as top national priorities.

Opinion polling[edit]

Further information: Nationwide opinion polling for the United States presidential election, 2008 and Statewide opinion polling for the United States presidential election, 2008

Joe Biden and Barack Obama after the presentation of Biden as the vice presidential running mate in Springfield, Illinois
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."
—Barack Obama, November 4, 2008
Obama (far right) participates in a bipartisan meeting with President Bush and Senator McCain, and House and Senate party leaders regarding the economy, September 25, 2008
A campaign sign in a window in Arlington, Virginia
An "Obama 08" campaign office in Arlington, Virginia, photographed November 1, 2008
Obama's birth certificate

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