Here's where the polls were on June 6th, after Barack won the Democratic Primary.
Seven days later, media lost one of its giants. Tim Russert, NBC's Washington Bureau Chief and host of Meet the Press died of a heart attack at his desk, on Friday, June 13, 2008.
He was just 5 months older than me. It dawned on me that Tim had passed doing what he loved. That made me ask the question: If I were to pass on tomorrow, would I be doing that one thing in my life that I really love? My answer I made the decision then that I would make time in my life for some good old rock 'n roll.
Tim wrote a couple of great books. I highly recommend them. My son, Adam, bought them for me.
By the end of June, Hillary came out in full support of Barack. They looked like two long-lost buddies that were finally reunited. Hillary's supporters took a little longer to start supporting Barack.
By July 9th, the polls were shifting towards Barack.
McCain's campaign was not getting any traction. They decided to go after the media, for being in the tank for Barack. The cover of the New Yorker Magazine on July 21st was certainly not pro-Obama.
Not to be outdone, Vanity Fair spoofs The New Yorker.
And of course, someone had to have a little fun with a conservative magazine cover.
Earlier in July, McCain started going after Barack on his Iraq "War" policy, saying that since he hasn't been to Iraq in quite some time, how could he know the situation well enough to come up with a plan? Barack never answered McCain with words. He let his overseas trip speak for itself.
He met with world leaders.
He was asked to speak in Israel and Jordon.
He met with our troops.
Finally, he spoke to 200,000 people waving AMERICAN flags in Berlin - excitement we haven't seen from our European friends in a long time.
Papers from around the world made this event their front page story. McCain made the public mistake of challenging Barack to make this trip, not realizing that it had been in the works for nearly a month.
When Barack returned, the McCain camp launched their "Celebrity" attack. The idea was that he was JUST a celebrity, and not a serious candidate for President because he was too inexperienced. Needless to say, the media had a little fun with it, too.
Paris Hilton was also seen in the ad very briefly, so she decided to push back with a video that actually talked about an economic plan that made sense. Go figure! (No, I'm not a Paris Hilton fan, by any stretch of the imagination.)
It's true that Barack is a political celebrity - the likes of which we haven't seen since John F. Kennedy back in the 1960 Presidential race. He attracted huge crowds at many rallies prior to the overseas trip and McCain's attack.
75,000 in Denver
He also held town meetings in much smaller venues.
If you were to stack up all the magazines that featured Barack on the cover through this election season, you could understand how the attack on Barack could impress the Low Information Voter.
The polls shifted slightly, reflecting the "Celebrity" attacks on Barack's campaign.
After the ads were aired, and almost in defiance of them, 100,000 people showed up in St. Louis.
On August 23rd, we learned that Joe Biden, US Senator from Delaware, would be Barack's running mate. They announced in Springfield, Illinois, to a crowd of 35,000.
On August 29th, we learned that John McCain's running mate would be Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska.
Very little was known about Palin. Reporters started scurrying to Alaska to learn about her. It was soon discovered that she was under investigation for abuse of power. The speculation about her qualifications kept the media busy.
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The Conventions
The Democratic Convention was held in Denver with the finalé at Invesco Field on Thursday, August 28th. Many thought that Barack giving his acceptance speech at Invesco was a bit over-the-top. Personally, I understood why he wanted to do that. There is the "Thank You" logic that says, "We'd like to invite as many people as possible to this historic evening" but I think there was another reason.
As a performer, I know that you get much of your energy from the crowd. Barack most certainly knows this as well. He knew that this was a pivotal moment in the race and in his life. Making sure that he had a large audience for this speech was critical to its success and to the media successfully reporting the event. The outside, nighttime setting and 84,000 people looked very impressive in pictures and video.
After a successful Democratic Convention, it was the Republican's turn - the following week. Usually there is a 3 to 4 week period between conventions. I don't recall any explanation for why the Dems moved theirs back. At the beginning of September, the polls looked much like they did at the beginning of August.
The Republican Convention was hurt by the hurricanes in Oklahoma and Texas. The first day, September 1st, there was some usual convention opening business and Cindy McCain along with Laura Bush spoke. Day two was more lively, but still lacked the energy of the Democratic Convention. Sarah Palin's speech on Wednesday, September 3rd got things going. Having been a local sportscaster in Alaska, she was very experienced reading a teleprompter. Her delivery was smooth. She looked confident and up to the task of attacking the Democratic nominee. The speech was well-crafted by some of George Bush's speech writers. It targeted Barack's supposed lack of experience to be our country's President and our Commander in Chief. John McCain's acceptance speech was a let-down by comparison to Palin's. This seemed like an omen for how the rest of the campaign would go for him - his VP nominee upstaging him in rallies and in the media.
Pollsters went to work around the clock after Palin's speech. The polls taken in the several days after the speech showed a quick shift towards McCain-Palin from Obama-Biden. The media was reporting a 10-point shift towards McCain. But the facts showed it to be a little over 5 points. The polls peaked for McCain on September 14th.
It would be the only period of time John McCain would be ahead in the polls.
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Then came the Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson interviews with Palin. She was not prepared to be interviewed on the major issues such as foreign and domestic policies, the economy, the role of the Vice President and how it relates to Congress's role, and on and on. It became quite evident that she was not prepared for the office of Vice President of the United States, should she and McCain win the election. With McCain's history of cancer and the known statistic that one out of four 72 year old men do not live to see 75, this was a growing concern among Republicans.
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Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock became a household name with her spot-on impersonation of Palin. Many times, the script did not differ from Palin's own words.
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The Financial Industry Gets Rocked
On September 15th, Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy. Shortly after that, insurance giant AIG goes to the government for a bailout of over $100B dollars.
Wall Street goes into a downward spiral
That same morning, John McCain said not to worry, that the "…fundamentals of our economy are strong…" - using George Bush's line from a few months back. It's as if he couldn't think of anything else to say, but did not want to agree with Barack. Three hours later, he completely reversed his statement, saying, "…we are in a crisis." It must have pained him to separate from Bush. (You had to know that I would use these pics somewhere.)
Then, for no discernable reason, he "suspends" his campaign on Wednesday, the 24th, to go to Washington D.C. and "…solve the crisis…"
McCain had asked Barack to suspend his campaign as well. Barack never responded to that request, but when he was asked to go to Washington to sit at the table with President Bush, he accepted the invitation.
Realizing his first debate with Barack was scheduled for the coming Friday, the 26th, McCain then suggests that the debate be postponed so that all his attention can be focused on the financial situation. Barack responded with "…presidents have to be able to do two things at once…" and "…America needs to hear from the candidates now more than ever …" Touché.
Meanwhile, a bailout plan was finally passed. Both Barack and McCain vote for it. We, the taxpayers, are now part owners in a variety of financial institutions.
Wall Street was walking on eggshells as the Dow dipped to below 9000 from a high of 14,000.
President Bush is powerless to do anything because confidence in his abilities was at an all time low - the lowest for any sitting President.
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The Debates
Debates are really not debates anymore. They are heavily weighted with formality and stop watches. These were no exception, until the 3rd debate, when out of God-knows-where, comes "Joe, the Plumber." Are you kidding me? McCain kept referring to a conversation that Barack Obama had with a northern Ohio resident. Barack used the word "redistribute" in describing how the middle class has been hurt by the Bush Administration's tax policies.
Barack said that maybe it was time for the average income earner in this country to receive some of the same tax breaks that the top 2% benefited from for the past eight years thereby redistributing some of the "wealth" BACK to the middle class. This little exchange created a lot of media attention for Joe.
There was one moment in the third debate where McCain walked in front of the teleprompter and when he finally realized it and started moving out of the way, made one of the funniest faces I've ever seen. I couldn't resist using this picture.
The Right Place at the Right Time
My son, Adam, managed to get a press pass for the third debate. The guy never ceases to amaze me. Lonna and I watched him on TV in the press room and did the cell phone thing - watching him talk to us through our TV and the national media. You can read the whole story here. He took some great pics.
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By October 2nd, the polls started shifting away from McCain.
Palin started strongly and forcefully attacking Barack, the role of most VP nominees on the campaign trail. The McCain-Palin rallies started to have some electricity.
But it quickly became obvious that people were coming to see her, not him. After she spoke, and McCain got up to speak, people would drift out of the rallies.
The campaign then decided to split them up, but that backfired. Her crowds were consistently much larger than McCain's, a point that was not lost on the media.
She was upstaging the Presidential nominee - something you don't want happening - especially when there are real doubts that your VP nominee is qualified to be Vice President, much less... President.
In an attempt to boost the attendance, McCain started using "Joe the Plumber" at his rallies. Joe was not impressive. It was also learned that Joe did not always have kind words to say about McCain.
Near the end, the McCain camp started having issues with Palin about $150,000 in wardrobe expenditures, speech text, etc. which ultimately caused separation between her "people" and the McCain camp.
Joe the Plumber had some of his own issues - unpaid taxes, no license as a plumber and no where near enough money to start his own business as he claimed. It was as if McCain was left to his own devices to make his campaign succeed.
Many Republicans had been moving towards Barack throughout this presidential season - most notably, well-known op-ed writers and commentators like David Brooks of the New York Times, George Will of the Washington Post and ABC News, and Kathleen Parker of the National Review. The biggest reason for their shift was the choice of Sarah Palin for VP.
Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under George W. Bush, and before that, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for both George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, was probably the best-known Republican to endorse Barack. Here's some of what he had to say:
“I don’t believe [Palin] is ready to be president of the United States,” Powell said flatly. By contrast, Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, “is ready to be president on day one.”
Stressing that Obama was a lifelong Christian, Powell denounced Republican tactics that he said were insulting not only to Obama but also to Muslims.
“The really right answer is what if he is?” Powell said, praising the contributions of millions of Muslim citizens to American society. “I look at these kind of approaches to the campaign, and they trouble me,” Powell said. “Over the last seven weeks, the approach of the Republican Party has become narrower and narrower.”
“I truly believe that at this point in America’s history we need a president who will not just continue ... basically the policies we have followed in recent years,” he said. “We need a president with transformational qualities.”
For that reason, he said, “I will be voting for Barack Obama.”
By mid-October, the polls started widening for Barack.
McCain started using a new phrase at his rallies. "We've got 'em right where we want 'em!" he would say, trying to deflect attention from the widening gap in the polls. Inside, I'm sure he was concerned that it might already be over.
By November 1st, it probably was over.
You had to know Adam would not miss an opportunity to be at one of Barack's rallies. He and a friend drove all night to get to a morning rally in Nevada. The pictures he took are GREAT!
On November 2nd, I had the same opportunity to attend one of Barack's final rallies before the election. I asked Lonna if she wanted to go see Barack speak for her birthday. She gladly said yes. Afterwards, we went out to dinner. It was a great day.
Now I have to tell you that standing for over five and a half hours (three in one place) is not my idea of a good time. But having the opportunity to see the next President of the United States speak far outweighed any discomfort that I experienced.
There were 80,000 people in downtown Columbus for this event.
As we were leaving, I took a few pictures with my BlackBerry just to see if I could get anything at all. We were walking as I took the pictures.
This is the best I could do for video of the event. We were all squished together and holding a camera still over my head was not easy.
 And then came November 4th.