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U.S. presidential election, 2008

The 2008 election for President of the United States is scheduled to occur November 4, 2008.

Table of contents
1 The shape of presidential battles
2 Senario 1: A Bush victory in 2004
3 Senario 2: A Bush defeat in 2004
4 Timeline
5 Candidates: The lessons from history
6 Potential candidates for 2008

The shape of presidential battles

Though many candidates seek election to the presidency, recent elections have revolved around the dominant Democratic and Republican parties, though the Green, Libertarian, and Reform parties have all been deciding factors in the last three presidential elections. The outcome of the 2004 presidential election will shape the nature of the 2008 race, the selection of candidates, the central issues, and the policy platforms.

Senario 1: A Bush victory in 2004

The re-election of George W. Bush in 2004 would produce a non-incumbent election, that is, one in which a sitting president is not a candidate, in 2008 as Bush is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term by the Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Depending on the success or otherwise of the Bush presidency, the Republicans would have the option of running a candidate promising to continue Bush's policy, a candidate who repudiated Bush's policies and promoted a different policy agenda, or someone who followed some but not all of the Bush political platform and agenda. Current Vice President Richard Cheney announced in 2001 that he would never run for President.

For the Democrats, a Bush election in 2004 would give them in 2008 a broad freedom to choose a candidate and platform unencumbered by having their own sitting president seeking re-election, should he or she choose to seek re-election in 2008.

Senario 2: A Bush defeat in 2004

A defeat for sitting president George W. Bush would change the shape of the 2008 election profoundly. Whomever had been the Democratic candidate and was now the incumbent president would have four years to shape public policy and would be the likely candidate for the party, should they choose to run, in 2008. In practical terms, it would mean that defeated Democratic candidates in 2004, and those who chose not to enter the race, could well find themselves having to focus their presidential ambitions on the 2012 election rather than 2008, by which time new party figures, congressmen, senators and governors, might have eclipsed them in profile. A victory for Howard Dean or Richard Gephardt in the 2004 presidential election, for example, could end prospects of Hillary Clinton becoming a candidate in 2008. By 2012, her presidential prospects might have been overshadowed by newer Democratic politicians.

For Bush, a defeat would open up the prospect, if he chose, of seeking to become the party candidate in 2008. However few defeated presidents have chosen to seek the presidency again. Bush's defeat in 2004 could enable the Republicans to adopt a dramatically different policy platform to his in the 2008 election, whereas his election in 2004 could lead the party to fight 2008 as a continuation of Bush's policy agenda, or on themes based on an 8 year Bush presidency.


Candidates of the Democratic, Green, Libertarian, Republican and possibly other parties will begin making their plans known in early 2005.

Candidates: The lessons from history

Predictions as to who will be a major party's candidate in the 2008 election are difficult to make. Past selection processes suggest that the Democrats and Republicans will choose from someone who has held major elective office in one of the following:

  1. The presidency
  2. The Senate
  3. The House of Representatives
  4. Governor of a state.

A major turnover in each of these will occur in presidential, gubernatorial and congressional elections due in 2004, 2006 and 2008, with as a result many new potential rivals possibly emerging to challenge big name politicians seen as of 2003 as potential candidates in the 2008 race. In particular a landslide victory in any of the elections could give either big party a new slate of politicians in public office interested in seeking the presidency or vice-presidency in 2008. Equally a disastrous national defeat could see some big name politicians losing their jobs, they then opting for the presidency in an attempt to rehabilitate their reputation as electoral successes, a path followed by Richard Nixon following his defeat by John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Among the past upsets and unexpected candidates were the following:

The failure of "certainties" like Edward Kennedy and Mario Cuomo to become nominees let alone president, the unexpected elections of Harry S Truman and Richard Nixon and other upsets suggests that any predictions made have to be tentative. Only one candidate has been seen as expressing an interest in being a candidate in 2008, Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton. Clinton's potential to be a candidate in 2008 may well hinge on Bush's re-election in 2004. The election of a Democratic candidate in 2004, if they choose unlike Johnson but like Bill Clinton to seek re-election, would well push Hillary Clinton's presidential electoral prospects back to 2012, by which time a new generation of leaders elected in senate, house, gubernatorial and presidential elections in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010, including a possible sitting Vice-President, could be the challengers, leaving her, like Edward Kennedy, Mario Cuomo, Howard Baker, Newt Gingrich, Gary Hart and others, as an ex-"future presidential candidate".

Potential candidates for 2008