Candidates 2008

They all wanted to be President of the United States

These were the most prominent candidates for the presidency of the United States in 2008. Side note: Incumbent George W. Bush had already served two terms and was prevented by law from running for a third term. His vice-president, Dick Cheney, chose not to run.


Joseph Biden
(Announced he would run on 7 January 2007; dropped out of the race on 3 January 2008; became the running mate of Barack Obama in August 2008; was elected vice president on 4 November 2008): Biden became a U.S. senator from Delaware since 1973, and developed a reputation as a foreign policy specialist. Biden ran for president once before, in 1988, but withdrew after he was accused of plagiarizing portions of a speech from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. Biden turned 66 in 2008.

Hillary Clinton
(Announced she would run on 20 January 2007; dropped out of the race on 7 June 2008): Clinton represented New York in the U.S. Senate, having been elected in 2000 and again in 2006. She had lived in the White House before: she was First Lady from 1993-2001 while her husband, Bill Clinton, was president. She would have been the first former First Lady ever to run for president. She conceded to Barack Obama in June of 2008, after the end of the Democratic primaries, and later accepted his nomination to become Secretary of State. Clinton turned 61 in 2008.

John Edwards
(Announced he would run on 28 December 2006; dropped out of the race on 30 January 2008): Youthful, telegenic and Southern, Edwards was the running mate of Democratic nominee John Kerry in 2004. They were defeated by the GOP ticket of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Edwards served one term as a senator from North Carolina from 1999-2005. He ran for president himself in 2004 before accepting the #2 spot behind Kerry. Edwards turned 55 in 2008.

Mike Gravel
(Announced he would run on 17 April 2006; dropped out of Democratic race on 25 March 2008): Gravel was a U.S. senator from Alaska from 1969-81, and was a controversial figure for helping to make public the full text of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Gravel was the first Democrat to declare for the 2008 presidential campaign, but was a very long shot, having been out of the Senate for a quarter-century. He dropped out of the Democratic primaries in March of 2008 to run as a Libertarian, finishing fourth in voting at that party’s national convention in May. Gravel turned 78 in 2008.

John Kerry
(Announced he would not run on 24 January 2007): Kerry was the Democratic nominee in 2004, when he lost narrowly to Republican incumbent George W. Bush. Despite serving in the U.S. Senate since 1984, Kerry is still the junior senator from Massachusetts; the senior senator isTed Kennedy, who first was elected in 1962 (and who himself ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972 and 1980). Kerry was considered a likely candidate for 2008, but announced in 2007 that he would not run in order to focus on his Senate duties and on ending the war in Iraq. Kerry turned 65 in 2008.

Dennis Kucinich
(Announced he would run on 12 November 2006; dropped out of the race on 25 January 2008): Also considered a long shot, Kucinich made a second run after campaigning all the way to the 2004 convention. An outspoken liberal, former Cleveland mayor and U.S. Representative from Ohio since 1997, he was banking in part on his consistent opposition to the increasingly unpopular U.S. war in Iraq. He withdrew from the presidential race to focus on re-election to his Congressional seat. Kucinich turned 62 in 2008.

Barack Obama
(Announced he would run on 10 February 2007; became the Democratic nominee in on 27 August 2008; was elected president on 4 November 2008): Obama’s stirring speech to nominate John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic convention made him suddenly a major figure in the party. Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois that same year. After winning the Democratic nomination in 2008, he named Joe Biden as his running mate. Obama turned 47 in 2008.

Tom Vilsack
(Announced he would run on 9 November 2006; dropped out of the race on 23 February 2007): The governor of Iowa, Vilsack announced his run for president two days after the midterm elections of 2006. (He did not run for reelection as governor in 2006; he was elected in 1998 and had promised to serve only two terms.) Vilsack was a long-shot candidate who hoped his reputation in Iowa, the site of early party caucuses, would give him a boost. Upon retiring from the race in 2007 he told reporters, “This process has become to a great extent about money, a lot of money… it is money and only money that is the reason we are leaving today.” Vilsack later accepted Obama’s nomination to become Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack turned 58 in 2008.


Sam Brownback
(Announced he would run on 20 January 2007; dropped out of the race on 19 October 2007): Brownback became a U.S. senator from Kansas in 1997. He was known as a leading Senate conservative on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. In announcing his run for president, he called himself a “full-scale Ronald Reaganconservative” and said “To walk away from the Almighty is to embrace decline for a nation.” Brownback turned 52 in 2008.

Rudy Giuliani
(Announced he would run on 15 February 2007; dropped out of the race on 30 January 2008): Giuliani was mayor of New York City from 1994-2001. He became internationally famous for his defiant leadership after the World Trade Center attacks in Manhattan on 11 September 2001. He and Democrat John Edwards left the 2008 race on the same day, after doing poorly in the Florida primaries. Giuliani turned 64 in 2008.

Mike Huckabee
(Announced he would run on 28 January 2007; dropped out of the race on 4 March 2008): Huckabee is a conservative from Hope, Arkansas, the same small town that produced liberal President Bill Clinton. Huckabee served as governor of Arkansas from 1996-2007. He is also known for his 2005 book Quit Digging Your Grave With A Knife And Fork, in which he described losing over 100 pounds after being diagnosed with diabetes. Huckabee turned 53 in 2008.

John McCain
(Announced he would run on 25 April 2007; became the GOP nominee on 4 September 2008; lost to Barack Obama in the general election of 4 November 2008): McCain flew fighter jets in the Vietnam War and spent five years in a prisoner of war camp after being shot down over Hanoi. He was first elected senator from Arizona in 1987. He ran for the GOP nomination for president in 2000, but was defeated by George W. Bush. He became the official nominee at the GOP convention in September, naming Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain turned 72 in 2008.

Ron Paul
(Announced he would run on 12 March 2007; dropped out of the race on 12 June 2008): Paul has been a U.S. Representative from Texas since 1997. This was not his first run for president: he was the Libertarian Party candidate in 1988, earning 0.5% of the national vote. Paul is a proponent of limited government: his campaign website noted that he had never voted for an unbalanced budget, had voted against the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, and refused to take part in the Congressional pension program. Paul turned 73 in 2008.

Mitt Romney
(Announced he would run on 13 February 2007; dropped out of the race on 7 February 2008): Romney was governor of Massachusetts for one term, from 2003-2007. He decided not to run for a second term, and a month after leaving office he announced a run for president. He shut down his campaign in 2008 after falling behind John McCain in the early primaries. Romney’s father, George Romney, ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and was defeated by Richard Nixon. Romney turned 61 in 2008.

Fred Thompson
(Announced he would run on 6 September 2007; dropped out of the race on 3 January 2008): A star on TV’s Law & Order, Thompson was the Hollywood heir to Ronald Reagan: both used their on-screen fame to nail down political jobs (Reagan as governor of California from 1967-75, Thompson as senator from Tennessee for 1994-2003). Thompson hoped to make the comparison complete by winning the White House in 2008 as Reagan did in 1980. But he dropped from the race after poor showings in the early primaries. Thompson turned 66 in 2008.


Ralph Nader
(Announced he would run on 24 February 2008; lost to Barack Obama in the general election on 4 November 2008): The fiery consumer advocate makes his third straight run for president. Nader’s run in 2000 earned him nearly 2.9 million votes (about 2.7% of the vote) nationwide. He was widely credited (or blamed) with draining enough liberal votes from Democrat Al Gore to put Republican George W. Bush in the White House. Nader pulled 465,000 votes, or 0.38% of the vote, nationwide in 2004. Nader turned 74 in 2008.

For a look at other presidential races, see our features on Candidates 2000, Candidates 2004, and Candidates 2012.

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