When Barack Obama first started his campaign, the junior senator from Illinois was far from a household name.
Known best for his highly lauded speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, for many political hobbyists, when he announced his intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination back in February 2007, he was little more than an interesting quirk in an election already heavily stacked for the Democratic Party.
President George W. Bush was at the height of his unpopularity, and, barring, say, the sudden capture of Osama Bin Laden, the Republicans were facing a difficult battle to the White House.
Over the course of the next 11 months, however, thanks to a well-crafted grassroots campaign to attract young voters and a savvy Internet campaign strategy, the candidate with a self-described “funny name” began to gain momentum.
Then the real magic started.
Following his success in the Iowa Caucus, Obama repeatedly proved himself as an effective communicator with, if not always a concrete plan, at least an inspiring vision of the direction and promise of America.
In the months that followed, the primary race shrank from a battle of many to a war between Sen. Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. And, near the end, it got pretty nasty.
The tone of the campaign shifted from what each candidate thought they could offer the nation to bitter battle over who had more experience or who voted for the Iraq War.
By the time Clinton conceded in June, pundits and Democrats across the nation wondered if maybe the contenders had hurt their chances by going too far.
Fears of a Democratic defeat were only intensified by the surprise nomination of Sen. John McCain after a campaign marked by the loss of several key staffers and severe financial difficulties early in the game.
McCain, a venerated war hero, popular incumbent senator and proven moderate, was probably the Republican Party’s best chance to steal former Clinton supporters and derail the momentum of the Obama campaign. And he certainly put up a strong fight.
Unfortunately, his campaign strategy centered on attacks, not Obama’s personal views, but against the statements and actions of men like Bill Ayers and groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, with whom Obama had, at best, very loose association. And they didn’t work.
Add Sarah Palin to the mix, a vice presidential candidate who thought the geographic proximity of Alaska to Russia gave her foreign policy experience, and the “Straight Talk Express” just didn’t have enough going for it to compete.
After eight years of failed policies, two wars, an economic recession and a president with one of the lowest approval ratings in U.S. history, Obama’s message of change and hope was just what our nation needed.
Combine that with a no-nonsense platform of tax-breaks for the middle class and a foreign policy geared toward repairing diplomacy to regain our esteem abroad, and there was nary a doubt who was the better candidate. Of course, it also didn’t hurt that, by not opting into public financing for his campaign, he was able outspend the McCain campaign by a four to one ratio, according to CNN.
And thus, in a day that will be forever remembered, Barack Obama took a commanding victory and became the first African American elected to the nation’s highest office — a historic achievement not only for his supporters and the Democratic Party, but also for the American people.
Change is the word of the day, America. Let’s see what this man can do.
Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column typically appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.