After 26 months, more than 10 candidates and over 12 debates, the campaign of 2008 came to end. For once, this was a campaign, an election, that lived up to our expectations. It will likely be seen as the most important election of our lifetime…until the next most important election of our lifetime, of course. Nonetheless, this election set the precedent, changed the rules and invigorated the electorate. A few highlights:
America did it. There was no Bradley effect. Forty-five years after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech,” more than 200,000 people gathered in Grant Park to see Barack Obama address the nation as President-elect:
- The 2008 campaign was the most expensive ever, with more than $5.3 billion spent
- McCain stuck with public financing, and may well have been the last presidential candidate to make that mistake
- Obama raised over $500 million, attracting more than 3 million donors who gave little but gave often
- Yes, the campaign had the usual majority of white, old men but it stood out for its diversity, from an Hispanic governor, to two Italians, to a former First Lady, a female vice presidential candidate and, finally, an African American who outlasted and out survived them all.
- YouTube, Twitter, IPhone – all were non-existent, Jetsens-like technology in 2004 that became the centerpieces of the 2008 campaign. From voter-generated content to campaign videos to the media and, of course, SNL, technology pushed the candidates into campaigning 3.0, and, many would argue, propelled Obama to victory.
- The 24/7 news cycle and the accessibility of everything from polling sites to The Note and First Read had everyone feeling they were James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. Americans were engaged like never before and the democracy is better for it.
- The mainstream media felt the effects of the first 21st century campaign as well. They struggled to contend with blogs and citizen journalists, while the campaigns and candidates could use the Internet and old-fashioned ignoring to bypass them completely.