The Frontrunner's Fall in the Democratic Primary 2008. Analyze of Clinton’s Run

Term Paper, 2014

34 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of Content

1 Introduction

2 Setting the Stage from January 20th 2007 till 3th January 2008

3 The Iowa Caucuses

4 Five days to New Hampshire

5 Nevada and South Carolina

6 Tsunami Tuesday

7 Obama’s post Super Tuesday Wave

8 Junior Super Tuesday

9 Pennsylvania

10 Game Change Indiana & North Carolina?

11 Endgame

12 Conclusion and Outlook

13 Appendix

1 Introduction

September 14th 2014 Iowa – “Welcome Iowa I am back” shouted the guest star at the 37th and final “Harkin Steak Fry named after the host introduced her to the crowd:1 The host is Iowa’s legendary Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, who run in 1992 against Hillary’s husband Bill Clinton for the Presidency of the United States. A huge reception arose after these words and as Hillary Clinton mentioned the media bubble about her potential second run for the oval office, she smiles and cries: “It is true I am thinking about it” to the crowd.

Seven years prior Hillary Clinton visited Iowa in January 2007 as a candidate, who almost locked up the democratic nominated and was called the inevitable candidate by the press.2 She announced her run for the presidency exactly one year before the 44th President of the United States would be inaugurated and would raise his or her hand to take the oath to the constitution.3 Almost everybody took her win over the Democratic Nomination for granted but many pundits doubted her ability to win over a Republican in a general election. Some in the press called her campaign perfect over the early campaign all the year through 2007. Hillary Clinton lead almost everywhere in the polls except from Iowa. Obama and Edwards trailed her in the national polls by approximately 10 to 20 percent and the latter even a bit more.

January 3th 2008 Iowa – the political world is shifting near to the opposite during this evening. Clinton’s inevitable candidacy to the nomination burns in ashes and Obama becomes from the “fascination new kind on the block” in Washington over night to a real super star that is destined to win the democratic nomination and the presidency as a post racial candidate.

January 8th 2008 New Hampshire everybody expects an easy victory of the new Democratic frontrunner Obama, who comes with a momentum near to the sky out of Iowa. Even the internal pre-election poll of the Clinton camp is indicating Obama a lead in double digits. But the exit polls are far from clear after the polls closed and as soon as hard numbers on early counted precincts are in, they are giving Hillary Clinton a lead. Are her strongholds in the state faster counted then those of Obama? Is it a sign of strength to her wounded campaign that the race in New Hampshire remains too close to call on large parts of election night? Yes and No, because the winner of the New Hampshire primary is not the articulate Junior Senator from Illinois but the Junior Senator from New York called Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Democratic Primary in 08 is one of the most fascinating elections of American Politics in modern times which will be analyzed for generations to come. The first serious female Presidential candidate from one major party and the first serious Afro-American candidate for the Oval office exited not only the Democratic Party but the whole global public.

As President Obama is now in 2014 in the midst of his second term and speculation as well as expectation are rising on a second run of his democratic rival from foe and fried of former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: So it is worth to examine the democratic race of the giants that put light in the biggest remaining glass celling’s of society race and gender. This paper will tell and analyze the democratic campaign from the Clinton perspective in 08 in the context of an anticipated second run in 2016.

2 Setting the Stage from January 20th 2007 till 3th January 2008

Originally eight democrats run for the Democratic Nomination for President of the United States in the Presidential Race in 2008: Barack Obama - Junior Senator from Illinois, Hillary Clinton - Junior Senator from New York, John Edwards - Vice Presidential Candidate of 2004 and former Senator from North Carolina, Joseph Biden – mostly called Joe Biden – Senator from Delaware, Chris Dodd - senator from Connecticut, Bill Richardson - former US. Ambassador by the United Nations and Governor from New Mexico, Dennis Kucinich - houseman from Ohio and finally Mike Gravel - former Senator from Alaska.

Hillary Clinton was all over the Frontrunner in the national polls for the Democratic nomination. In fact Barack Obama was over a long period not even named in polls on the democratic nomination in 08. Chief rivals of Clinton in the early polls, way before the crucial midterm election in 2006, where democrats should take back the House and the Senate – were John Edwards and one other prominent democrat: The former Presidential candidate Al Gore, about whose presidential ambitions were many rumors out there. After Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize, these speculation gained momentum, until Al Gore publicly announced not seek the office of the presidency again in 2008.4

The speculation about Barack Obama seeking the office of the presidency raised during the midterm campaign and his book tour on “the audacity of hope” which received a huge reception especially in the early voting states Iowa and New Hampshire. The media speculation on a potential Obama run was growing and growing and finally in Meet The Press, where Obama once declared he won’t run in 2008 for president, he declared now that it is fair to say that he is considering a run.5

The bubble of media speculation grow even more and behind the scene some democrats worried about the prospects of democratic candidates for Congress in Republican states with respect to the prospect of Clinton on top of the ballot.

Back then Hillary Clinton was still a highly polarizing political figure in American politics: As First Lady of the United States, she was on the political left to her husband Bill Clinton. She was the first First Lady to engage actively and publicly in American politics such as the takeover of healthcare reform and within this process she drew a wide range of negatives from half the country. As being one of the most polarizing First Ladies in the history of the United States, her popularity rose first by addressing more the traditional values of a First Lady and then later literally skyrocket as she become the victim of the Lewinsky scandal. As once again first First Lady to run for the United States Senate in her adopted state of New York, she moved more and more towards the moderate wing within the Democratic Party and the national scene. As Junior Senator for New York she reached literally across the aisle and worked with the most conservative GOP senator and biggest foes of the Clinton administration.

But her reputation from the early years as First Lady still affected her image on the conservative side of the country rather heavily. So almost half of the electorate declared never to vote for Hillary Clinton, while the first female Senator from New York was literally a rock star within the Democratic Party.

As the United States Congress gave President Bush 43 an authorization to invade Iraq, Clinton cast finally a vote in favor of authorization. This move alienated the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and moved Clinton in a kind of two front war on very liberal Democrats and very conservative old Clinton haters, whose mind got constituted in the 90th on the back then progressive First Lady.

Barack Obama entered the United States Senate through his election success in 2004. Clinton got to know him on some fundraisers that she entered to support Obama’s senate run. Obama got in the public spotlight due to the articulate keynote speech he hold on the Democratic National Convention 2004 in Boston. As John Kerry lost against Bush 43, Obama won easily the Senate seat and entered now the political arena with the reputation of a young aspiring Junior Senator that would reach far. Though Clinton prepared personally since a long time ago for her historic run for the white house and joined as first Senator from New York and first female Senator the Armed Services Committee, to show her credentials in a field that is widely seen as a male field in American politics.

Clinton and Obama were both rock stars during the midterm campaign 2006 and Clinton, who had in contrast to Obama to run for her own reelection in New York state spend a skyrocketing figure of almost 40 Million on her own senate race – though standing in the polls at 65% and above.6 She saved ten to 14. million which she transformed to her Presidential Exploratory committee at 20th January 2007. Obama declared his official candidacy for President in Springfield on 10th February in reminisce to Abraham Lincolns historic “divided house cannot stand” speech in Springfield. But entered the race in reality at 17th January 2007 by forming a Presidential Exploratory Committee.

Early National Polls showed a Clinton edge by a double digit advance in the numbers, while some lonely polls showed already there a narrower gab between Clinton and Obama.

With end of the first quarter on 1th April Clinton raised 26 million plus the approximately ten to 14 millions that she donated the campaign from her former Senate campaign. She set a new fundraising record in American Politics, while Al Gore hold the previous record for the comparable quarter in 1999 with nine million.

Though Obama raised less than the altogether 36 million of Hillary – he raised more than her 26 million and showed remarkable fundraising credibility. For the second quarter Clinton raised 27 million, while Obama outraised her with 32,5 million. For the third and fourth quarter of 2007 Clinton raised 27 and respectively 20 million dollars and won back the fundraising lead against Barack Obama.

The candidates for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party participated in a record number of television debates starting with Orangeburg, South Carolina on 26th April 2007 and ending originally on 31th January 2008 in Hollywood, California short before Super Tuesday.

In the early debates with that much candidates at the stage no clear debate winner came up, later in the debates in 2008 Clinton was often seen stronger than Obama. Therefore Clinton publicly requested Obama for additional television debates. First the Obama camp declined these request but later before Primaries in Texas and Ohio two new debates in each state was added and two debates before the Primary in Pennsylvania as well. And already in the year 2007 it was a MSNBC debate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania were the turn of Clinton’s inevitability got a bit tested and for the first time partly changed. On October 30th 2007 in Drexel University the democratic debate broadcasted on MSNBC focused for the first part on foreign policy and geopolitical ambition of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Later the debate changed on the domestics and there happened an occasion that was widely interpreted as a misstep of Hillary Clinton. Perhaps the first big misstep in her campaign: Eliot L. Spitzer back then governor of New York State proposed to give illegal aliens in New York a driver license and Clinton asked about the proposal by a New Hampshire Newspaper said: “It made a lot of sense.”7

The moderator asked everybody on the podium on his disagreement with the proposal and only objection was in the room from Chris Dodd who called the driver license a privilege. Then Clinton’s voice raised again saying she is not supporting the proposal and simply thinking about how to solve the dilemma. After some back and forth the moderator asked Clinton once again, whether she supports the Spitzer proposal or not and she replied in the following way:

“You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed, and George Bush has failed. Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York we want to know who’s in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows. He’s making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.”8

This was the first turning point on the Clinton camp losing momentum in public. The whole transcript of the exchange is added to the appendix of the end of this paper. In the coming weeks with the help of strong debate performances Clinton gained some momentum back and still lead constant in national polls.

3 The Iowa Caucuses

Except of Obama’s home state and the home states of the other Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton lead additional to her often huge national figures and almost all of the state polls as well. Except of the state polls of Iowa. Most political insiders and experts expected that the Democratic candidate for the general election would be clear after the early voting states Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and the Super Tuesday Primary that collected as many states as never before.9

Clinton lead in double digits in New Hampshire and many in the Clinton camp called New Hampshire as her fire wall.10 Moreover Clinton enjoyed huge leads in Nevada and lead early in South Carolina and even after the sensational endorsement of Oprah Winfrey for Obama – she ran neck and neck in the public polls against Obama in South Carolina. John Edwards the third important player in the democratic primary was the former Senator of neighboring state North Carolina and born in South Carolina – but don’t attracted impressive numbers in the state polls of South Carolina until this moment. Moreover the running mate of John Kerry started to campaign in Iowa literally since the defeat of Kerry on election night 2004. Therefore Edwards was the early favorite in the state polls of Iowa, that indicated him with a big as well as impressive lead.

After Obama and Clinton announced their candidacy, they visited more than frequently Iowa and started to build here a big ground operation. So John Edwards lead in the polls declined more and more and tightened finally up to a very competitive three way race.

A turning point in the campaign on Iowa was the Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner: While the Clinton campaign failed even to buy early enough tickets for this big fundraising event, the Obama campaign filledin almost all of the crowd and Obama give a supreme speech that got an almost gigantic media reception. Meanwhile Hillary hold fest to her stump speech. But Hillary Clinton was able with a lot work to gain the endorsement of the Des Moines Register, which was Iowa’s largest newspaper. Clinton invested her resources more or less evenly in the early voting states especially with respect Iowa and New Hampshire. In contrast John Edwards and Obama concentrated almost all of their efforts on the Iowa caucuses.

John Edward’s did so almost starting from 2004, while Obama’s secret strategy was to knock the inevitable Hillary off in Iowa. The only state which provided an opening in the polls to do so. And then the Obama camp planned to ride with a wave of momentum to victory to victory.

Clintons central state office in Iowa first had to face arrogant behavior from her national campaign headquarter in the D.C. suburbs in Virginia. Later this attempt drastically changed and the Iowa team got all of the best and most expensive resources out there in the world of Presidential campaigns. But it was compared to the other campaigns too little too late.

Especially it was too late, because the other campaigns fought with almost of their resources in their deposal, while the Clinton camp recognized pretty late their difficult odds on the ground. And so Hillary and Bill decided to invest so many financial resources in Iowa that their victory would be literally ensured due to the amount of resources they spend in the last minute. But while they should finish on the third place, they burned almost all of their original large financial resources and realized they had to fight after New Hampshire with almost zero cash on the campaign account.

On election night 4th January 2008 a record turnout emerged in Iowa beyond any expectations from previous experiences and beyond any internal estimates of the Clinton camp. Especially these new caucus’s goers delivered the victory for Obama.

Quite remarkable is the CNN Iowa Entrance poll that asked people about their voting preferences before they entered the schools, gyms and further locations to caucuses for their favorite Presidential Candidate. While Hillary got almost the same votes like Obama from registered democrats, Obama got massive support from independents. The voter asked about the top candidates ability mention with over 50 percent to bring about change and broke then for Obama, while Clinton won the voters, who preferred experience as the top candidates quality:11

2136 Respondents on the CNN Iowa Caucuses Entrance Poll

While Obama got with 38% of the elected delegates on top. Clinton finished third behind Edwards in a photo finish.12

4 Five days to New Hampshire

The third place finish of the Frontrunner in Iowa constituted big media coverage by itself. But even more the occasion that a state with almost no ethnic minorities voted an Afro-American in first place and finally a superb victory speech of Obama in Iowa constituted an incredible wave of momentum that surged Obama in media, fundraising and opinion polls. The next national poll and in Clinton’s stronghold California - the state poll showed an exact draw in the numbers between Obama and Clinton. As California the largest primary state was always seen as a stronghold for Clinton, this lead declined now to even more shocking news for Clinton. Furthermore the internal financial mismanagement showed the development that the Clinton campaign would run out of money and fall short before bankrupt like indicated above before.

The early polls published literally on the next day after the Iowa caucuses showed Obama and Clinton neck in neck in New Hampshire. But every day Obama’s numbers grow and bypassed finally to a double digit lead.

The Clinton camp took on comprehensive actions to push their own numbers in New Hampshire: They went negative on Obama and swept across New Hampshire. Bill Clinton separated his political events from Hillary and started to campaign on her behalf on his own in reminiscence on the 1992 Primary her, where Bill Clinton after vigorously campaigning came out as the comeback kid. Bill Clinton concluded his efforts at Election Day by going around the streets in Manchester New Hampshire’s largest city and asking passersby on voting for his wife.

The first Game Change was a television debate in New Hampshire between the remaining candidates: Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Richardson. Clinton went in the debate very aggressive on Obama and challenged him under a wide range of issues. She got asked from a television moderator why people seem to like Obama more than Clinton paused and replied: “Well that hurts my feeling. But I try to go on. He is very likeable I agree with that…” Then Obama interrupted and spoke: “Hillary you are likeable enough.”13

The debate started to inject the Clinton campaign on the ground in the New Hampshire with new momentum. But the development could not hinder an emotional breakdown of Hillary one day before the election. Hillary was at a big table in Cafe Espresso in Portsmouth and her voice started to crack in front of dozen of cameras.14

Earlier in the morning according to the insider book Game Change she had a conversation with her Campaign Manager Patty Solis Doyle, who advised her to drop out after New Hampshire. Clinton took that advice very personal and felt deeply betrayed from her campaign manager. The person she thought have been the most loyal, advised her to drop out at the first unexpected setback. Moreover Patty Solis Doyle was also responsible for the financial crisis and dangerous overspending of the Clinton camp in the previous months.

So the stakes rose also internally in the Clinton camp and many of her adviser and employees considered to hand in their resignation after the anticipated loss in New Hampshire – most likely in stunning double digits in Clinton’s former Firewall.

But the broken voice and almost tears in Clinton’s emotional breakdown helped to soften her image and highlighted her in the media in the last day before the votes were cast.

At voting day the internal polls of the Clinton camp and Obama camp had Obama in a decisive lead. But within the day the Clinton camp realized that the numbers are much narrower between both frontier candidates than anyone expected. The Clinton camp got a lot of energy from these news and literally spontaneously hold some last minute action on election day like holding a small rally directly before the local television office in Manchester in order to demonstrate action at local and regional television in New Hampshire.

As the polls closed the media labeled the race: “The Democratic race too close to call and the Republican race too early to call. The exit Polls in the democratic race are far from clear. Is this news on its own good news to Hillary Clinton?”

Most television moderators of the election coverage expect a Clinton loss within three to five points under this new circumstances and debated this as a huge morale victory for her, because originally everybody expected to loss in double digits at election night.

But the hard numbers showed Clinton consistently ahead. Which more and more wondered the television set and let to a debate why her voters or respectively precincts were counted earlier than Obama’s. But going more and more into election night the Clinton lead hold constantly by two to three points over Obama and short before the county Hanover with a college was called – the television networks declared victory for Clinton. And with so an incredible comeback for Clinton emerged.


1 “ Hillary Clinton in Iowa: “I’m ba-ack!” MSNBC, September 14, 2014, avoidable at

2 „After Mark Warner Out, Clinton inevitable,“ Real Clear Politics, October 16 2006, available:

3 “Hillary Clinton launches White House bid: 'I'm in,” CNN, January 22 2007,

4 “Supporters Push Gore to Run in 2008,” Washington Post, February 8 2007,

5 “Obama: Opens door to 2008 run on ``Meet the Press,'', October 22 2006,

6 “$36 MILLION?....,” Washington monthly, November 15 2006,

7 “The Yes, No and Maybe on Driver’s Licenses,” New York Times, November 1 2007,

8 Ibid.

9 “It could all be over after 'Super Duper Tuesday,”, February 7 2007,

10 “Hillary’s Firewall,” New York Observer, December 11 2007,

11 “election center 2008: Entrance Polls Iowa,” CNN, January 4 2008,

12 “election center 2008: Results Iowa caucuses,” CNN, January 4 2008,

13 “underdog Clinton goes after Obama,” Washington Post, January 6 2008,

14 “Hillary Clinton's Emotional Moment,“ Newsweek, January 7 2008,

Excerpt out of 34 pages


The Frontrunner's Fall in the Democratic Primary 2008. Analyze of Clinton’s Run
Free University of Berlin  (John F. Kennedy Institut)
Party History in the US.
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ISBN (Book)
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Primary, Hillary Clinton, Vorwahlkamp 2008, Präsidentschaftswahlen 2008, Demokratische Vorwahlen 2008, Nordamerika, Obama, Clinton's, Vorwahlen, Wahlkampf, Wahlkampf USA, Politische Kampagnen, Kampagnen, Demokratische Partei
Quote paper
Oliver Märtin (Author), 2014, The Frontrunner's Fall in the Democratic Primary 2008. Analyze of Clinton’s Run, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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