2004 U.S. Presidential Election

Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Bush/Cheney (31), Blue denotes those won by Kerry/Edwards (19+DC). Light blue is the electoral vote for "John Ewards" (sic) by an undetermined Minnesota "faithless elector". Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

< 2000  2008 >
United States presidential election, 2004
2 November 2004
PartyRepublican PartyDemocratic Party
Home StateTexasMassachusetts
Running mateRichard B. CheneyJohn Edwards
Electoral Vote286251
States Carried3119+DC
Popular Vote62,040,61059,028,111
Before Election
George W. Bush
Republican Party

After Election
George W. Bush
Republican Party

The United States presidential election of 2004 was held on Election Day, Tuesday, November 2, 2004. Republican candidate George Walker Bush, the President of the United States, was elected over Democratic candidate John Kerry, the junior United States Senator from Massachusetts. Foreign policy was the dominant theme throughout the election campaign, particularly Bush's conduct of the War on Terrorism and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

As in the presidential election of 2000, voting controversies and concerns of irregularities emerged during and after the vote. The winner was not determined until the following day, when Kerry decided not to dispute Bush's win in the state of Ohio. The state held enough electoral votes to determine the winner of the presidency. Both Kerry and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean have stated their opinion that voting in Ohio did not proceed fairly, and that had it done so, the Democratic ticket might have won that state and therefore the election.[1]

Bush received about 51 percent of the votes cast (62 million votes), making him the first presidential candidate to win a majority of the popular vote since his father George H. W. Bush in the presidential election of 1988. The 62 million votes cast for Bush were the most individual votes cast for anyone in history, though John Kerry's 59 million votes ranked second in that category as well.


George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 after the Supreme Court settled issues over ballot re-counts and standards in a contest where the Democratic candidate alleged voting irregularities in Florida. The votes were recounted in certain Democratic counties, first by machine and then manually, with George W. Bush leading narrowly after each recount. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Florida Supreme Court's 4-3 reversal of a lower court ruling in favor of the Republican candidate's arguments, ordering the state to stop further selective recounts.

Just eight months into his presidency, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 suddenly transformed Bush into a "wartime president." Bush's approval ratings surged to near 90%. Within a month, the forces of a coalition led by the United States invaded Afghanistan, which had been sheltering Osama bin Laden, suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks. By December, the Taliban had been removed as rulers of Kabul, although a long and ongoing occupation would follow.

The Bush administration then turned its attention to Iraq. The administration argued that the need to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq had become urgent. The stated premise was that Saddam's regime had tried to acquire nuclear material and had not properly accounted for biological and chemical material it was known to possess, potential weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in violation of U.N. sanctions. This interpretation has been hotly debated since its proposal, and its basis in U.S. military intelligence has since been compromised with the failure of the U.S. to find the aforementioned WMDs in Iraq. This situation escalated to the point that the United States assembled a group of about forty nations, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and Poland, which President Bush called the “coalition of the willing”, to invade Iraq.

The coalition invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. The invasion succeeded swiftly, with the collapse of the Iraq government and the military of Iraq in about three weeks. The oil infrastructure of Iraq was rapidly secured with limited damage in that time. On May 1, George W. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, in a Lockheed S-3 Viking, where he gave a speech announcing the end of major combat operations in the Iraq war. Bush's approval rating in the month of May rode at 66%, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll.[2]

However, Bush's high approval ratings did not last. First, while the war itself was popular, the post-war occupation lost support as months passed and casualty figures increased, with no decrease in violence nor progress toward stability in Iraq. Second, as investigators combed through the country, they failed to find the predicted WMD stockpiles, which led to debate over the rationale for the war. Third, with the war over and 9-11 attacks two years past, domestic concerns began to rise to the forefront, an issue that usually favored the Democrats, as fading national security matters were considered to benefit the Republicans. [1] [2]


Republican nomination

Bush's popularity as a wartime president helped consolidate his base, and ward off any serious challenge to the nomination. On March 10, 2004, Bush officially clinched the number of delegates needed to be nominated at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. Bush accepted the nomination on September 2, 2004, and selected Vice President Dick Cheney as his running mate. (In New York, the ticket was also on the ballot as candidates of the Conservative Party of New York State.)

Democratic nomination

Democratic candidates

Candidates gallery

former senator and former Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois

Retired General Wesley Clark of Arkansas

Senator Bob Graham of Florida

Potential candidates who did not run

Notable in his absence was former Vice President and 2000 Presidential candidate Al Gore, who announced he would not run in December 2002. Other politicians who were mentioned as possible candidates but declined to run were

Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana

Senator Joe Biden of Delaware

Former Senator Bill Bradley' of New Jersey

Former Senator Gary Hart of Colorado

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Ohio

Former Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska

Tom Vilsack of Iowa

By summer of 2003, Dean had become the apparent frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, performing strongly in most polls and leading the pack in fundraising. Dean's strength as a fundraiser was attributed mainly to his embrace of the Internet for campaigning. The majority of his donations came from individual DEANO supporters, who came to be known as Deanites, or, more commonly, Deaniacs. Generally regarded as a pragmatic centrist during his time as governor, Dean emerged during his presidential campaign as a left-wing populist, denouncing the policies of the Bush administration (especially the 2003 invasion of Iraq) as well as fellow Democrats, who, in his view, failed to strongly oppose them. Senator Lieberman, a liberal on domestic issues but a hawk on the War on Terror, failed to gain traction with liberal Democratic primary voters.

In September 2003, retired four-star general Wesley Clark announced his intention to run in the presidential primary election for the Democratic Party nomination. His campaign focused on themes of leadership and patriotism; early campaign ads relied heavily on biography. His late start left him with relatively few detailed policy proposals. This weakness was apparent in his first few debates, although he soon presented a range of position papers, including a major tax-relief plan. Nevertheless, many Democrats did not flock to his campaign.

Enlarge picture
Senator Kerry at a primary rally in St. Louis, MO at the St. Louis Community College - Forest Park
By the January 2004 Iowa caucuses, the field had dwindled down to nine candidates, as Bob Graham dropped out of the race and Howard Dean was a strong front-runner. However, the Iowa caucuses yielded unexpectedly strong results for Democratic candidates John Kerry, who earned 38% of the state's delegates and John Edwards, who took 32%. Former front-runner Howard Dean slipped to 18% and third place, and Richard Gephardt finished fourth (11%). What hurt Dean even more than his poor performance was a speech he gave at a post-caucus rally; at the end of the speech—which has become known as the "I have a scream" speech or the "Dean scream"—Dean frantically yelled out the names of states and culminated with a yelp. On January 27 Kerry triumphed again, earning first place in the New Hampshire primary. Clark took third place in New Hampshire, behind New Englanders Kerry and Dean.

The following week, John Edwards won the South Carolina primary and finished a strong second in Oklahoma. After Howard Dean's withdrawal from the contest, Edwards became the only major challenger to Kerry for the Democratic nomination. However, Kerry continued to dominate, taking in a string of wins in Michigan, Washington, Maine, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., Nevada, Wisconsin, Utah, Hawaii, and Idaho. Many other candidates dropped out during this time, leaving only Sharpton, Kucinich, and Edwards in the running against Kerry.

In March's Super Tuesday, Kerry won decisive victories in the California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island primaries and the Minnesota caucuses. Dean, despite having withdrawn from the race two weeks earlier, won his home state of Vermont. Edwards finished only slightly behind Kerry in Georgia, but, failing to win a single state other than South Carolina, chose to withdraw from the presidential race.

On July 6, John Kerry selected John Edwards as his running mate, shortly before the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, held later that month. Kerry made his Vietnam War experience the prominent theme of the convention. In accepting the nomination, he began his speech with, "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty."

Other potential vice-presidential candidates

Retired General Wesley Clark of Arkansas

Other nominations

See also:

There were five other pairs of candidates who were on the ballot in states with enough electoral votes to have a theoretical chance of winning a majority in the Electoral College.

General election: campaign

Campaign issues

President Bush focused his campaign on national security, presenting himself as a decisive leader and contrasted Kerry as a "flip-flopper." Bush's point was that Americans could trust him to be tough on terrorism while Kerry would be "uncertain in the face of danger." Bush also sought to portray Kerry as a "Massachusetts liberal" who was out of touch with mainstream Americans. One of Kerry's slogans was "Stronger at home, respected in the world." This advanced the suggestion that Kerry would pay more attention to domestic concerns; it also encapsulated Kerry's contention that Bush had alienated American allies by his foreign policy.

Exit polls revealed Americans who voted for President Bush cited the issues of terrorism and moral values as the most important factors in their decision. Kerry supporters cited the war in Iraq, economic issues like jobs and health care.

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Bush speaking at campaign rally in St. Petersburg, Florida, October 19, 2004
Over the course of Bush's first term in office, his extremely high approval ratings immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks steadily dwindled, peaking only during combat operations in Iraq in the Spring of 2003, and again following the capture of Saddam Hussein in December the same year.[3] Kerry supporters attempted to capitalize on the dwindling popularity to rally anti-war sentiment.

During August and September of 2004, there was an intense focus on events that occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Bush was accused of failing to fulfill his required service in the Texas Air National Guard.[4] However, the focus quickly shifted to the conduct of CBS News after they aired a segment on 60 Minutes Wednesday introducing what became known as the Killian documents.[5] Serious doubts about the documents' authenticity quickly emerged,[6] leading CBS to appoint a review panel that eventually resulted in the firing of the news producer and other significant staffing changes.[7][8]

Meanwhile, Kerry was accused by the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, who averred that "phony war crimes charges, his exaggerated claims about his own service in Vietnam, and his deliberate misrepresentation of the nature and effectiveness of Swift boat operations compels us to step forward." The group challenged the legitimacy of each of the combat medals awarded to Kerry by the U.S. Navy, and the disposition of his discharge.

In the beginning of September, the successful Republican National Convention along with the allegations by Kerry's former mates gave President Bush his first comfortable margin since Kerry had won the nomination. A post-convention Gallup poll showed the President leading the Senator by 14 points.[9][10]


Three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate were organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, and held in the autumn of 2004. As expected, these debates set the agenda for the final leg of the political contest. Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik and Green Party candidate David Cobb were arrested while trying to access the debates. Badnarik was attempting to serve papers to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The first debate was held on September 30 at the University of Miami, moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS. Though originally intended to focus on domestic policy, questions were asked on the War on Terror, the War in Iraq and America's international relations.[11] During the debate John Kerry accused Bush of having failed to gain international support for the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, saying the only countries assisting the USA during the invasion were the United Kingdom and Australia. Bush replied to this by saying, "Well, actually, he forgot Poland." (In an ironic turn of events, Poland announced plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq shortly after the debate.) Later, a consensus formed among mainstream pollsters and pundits that Kerry won the debate decisively, strengthening what had come to be seen as a weak and troubled campaign.[12] In the days after, coverage focused on Bush's apparent annoyance with Kerry and numerous scowls and negative facial expressions. On October 5, the Vice Presidential debate was held between Dick Cheney and John Edwards at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and was moderated by Gwen Ifill of PBS. It again focused on Iraq and the War on Terror. An initial poll by ABC indicated a victory for Cheney, while polls by CNN and MSNBC gave it to Edwards.[13][14][15][16]

The second presidential debate was held at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri on October 8, moderated by Charles Gibson of ABC. Conducted in a "town meeting" format, less formal than the first Presidential debate, this debate saw President Bush and Senator Kerry taking questions on a variety of subjects from a local audience.[17] Bush attempted to deflect criticism of what was described as his scowling demeanor during the first debate, joking at one point about one of Kerry's remarks, "That answer made me want to scowl."[18]

Bush and Kerry met for the third and final debate at Arizona State University on October 13.[19] 51 million viewers watched the debate, while only 15.2 million viewers tuned in to watch the Major League Baseball championship games broadcast simultaneously.

Election results

The certified results in each state are as follows:

State Bush Kerry Nader Badnarik Peroutka Cobb Others
Alabama1,176,394693,9336,7013,4951,994-write-in 898
Alaska190,889111,0255,0691,6752,0921,058write-in 790
California5,509,8266,745,485-50,16526,64540,771Leonard Peltier 27,607, miscellaneous 140
Colorado1,101,2551,001,73212,7187,6642,5621,591Stanford Andress 804, Gene Amondson 378, Bill Van Auken 329, James Harris (politician) 241, Walt Brown 216, Earl Dodge 140
Connecticut693,826857,48812,9693,3671,5439,564Roger Calero 12
Delaware171,660200,1522,153586289250Walt Brown 100
D.C.21,256202,9701,485502-737write-in 506, James Harris 130
Florida3,964,5223,583,54432,97111,9966,6263,917Walt Brown 3,502, James Harris 2,732
Illinois2,346,6082,891,989-32,452435240Peter Camejo 115, Lawson Bone 4, Ernest Virag 4, John Joseph Kennedy 3, David Cook 2, Margaret Trowe 1, Joann Breivogel 1, John Kennedy 1, Robert Christensen 1
Indiana1,479,438969,011-18,058-102John Joseph Kennedy 37, Walt Brown 22, Lawson Mitchell Bone 6
Iowa751,957741,8985,9732,9921,3041,141James Harris 373, Bill Van Auken 176
Kansas736,456434,9939,3484,0132,89933John Joseph Kennedy 5, Bill Van Auken 5, Walt Brown 4
Louisiana1,102,169820,2997,0322,7815,2031,276Walt Brown 1,795, James Harris 985
Maine330,201396,8428,0691,9657352,936write-in 4
Maryland1,024,7031,334,49311,8546,0943,4213,632Joe Schriner 27, John Joseph Kennedy 7, Ted Brown (Libertarian) senior 4, Lawson Mitchell Bone 2, Robert Abraham Boyle II 1
Massachusetts1,071,1091,803,800-15,022-10,623write-in 7,028
Michigan2,313,7462,479,18324,03510,5524,9805,325Walt Brown 1,431
Minnesota1,346,6951,445,01418,6834,6393,0744,408write-in 2,521, Thomas Harens 2,387, Bill Van Auken 539, Roger Calero 416, John Joseph Kennedy 4, Debra Joyce Renderos 2, Martin Wishnatsky 2, Walt Brown 2, Joy Graham-Prendergast 1
Mississippi672,660457,7663,1751,7931,7581,073James Harris 1,599, write-in 215
Nebraska512,814254,3285,6982,0411,314978write-in 931, Roger Calero 82
Nevada418,690397,1904,8383,1761,152853'None of these candidates' 3,688
New Hampshire331,237340,5114,479---write-in 1,435
New Jersey1,670,0031,911,43019,4184,5142,7501,807Walt Brown 664, Bill Van Auken 575, Roger Calero 530
New Mexico376,930370,9424,0532,3827711,226
New York2,962,5674,314,28099,87311,60720787Roger Calero 2,405, Michael Halpin 4, John Joseph Kennedy 4, Bill Van Auken 2
North Carolina1,961,1661,525,849-11,731-108Walt Brown 348
North Dakota196,651111,0523,756851514-Martin Wishnatsky 9
Ohio2,858,7272,739,952-14,69511,907186Joe Schriner 114, James Harris (politician) 22, Richard Duncan 16, Thomas Zych 10, John Thompson Parker 2
Oregon866,831943,163-7,2605,2575,315miscellaneous 8,956
Rhode Island169,046259,7604,6519073391,333write-in 845, John Parker 253
South Carolina937,974661,6995,5203,6085,3171,488Walt Brown 2,124
South Dakota232,584149,2444,3209641,103-
Tennessee1,384,3751,036,4778,9924,8662,57033Walt Brown 6
Texas4,526,9172,832,704-38,7871,6261,014Andrew Falk 219, John Joseph Kennedy 126, Walt Brown 111, Deborah Allen 92
Utah663,742241,19911,3053,3756,84139Charles Jay 946, James Harris (politician) 393, Larry Topham 2, John Joseph Kennedy 1, Joe Schriner 1.
Vermont121,180184,0674,4941,102--write-in 957, John Thompson Parker 265, Roger Calero 244
Virginia1,716,9591,454,742-11,03210,161-write-in 5,473
Washington1,304,8941,510,20123,28311,9553,9222,974John Thompson Parker 1,077, James Harris (politician) 547, Bill Van Auken 231
West Virginia423,778326,5414,0631,405825John Joseph Kennedy 13
Wisconsin1,478,1201,489,50416,3906,464-2,661write-in 2,986, Walt Brown 471, James Harris (politician) 411
Wyoming167,62970,7762,7411,171631-write-in 480

Result by county/parish (Kerry vs. Bush)

This image shows the breakdown by county/parish for the continenental United States and Hawaii.

Blue for the Democratic candidate, red for the Republican candidate. There is no information regarding Alaska, which is composed of boroughs. However, the Republican candidate took all of them, except one of the two Juneau electoral districts.

Grand Total

Candidate Votes % States led National ECV
George W. Bush62,040,61050.7331286
John Kerry59,028,44448.2719+DC251
Ralph Nader465,6500.38--
Michael Badnarik397,2650.32--
Michael Peroutka143,6300.12--
David Cobb119,8590.096--
Leonard Peltier27,6070.023--
Walt Brown10,8370.009--
James Harris7,1020.006--
Roger Calero3,6980.003--
None of these candidates (Nevada)3,6880.003--
Thomas Harens2,3870.002--
Gene Amondson1,9440.002--
Bill Van Auken1,8570.002--
John Thompson Parker1,6460.001--
Charles Jay9460.001--
Stanford Andress8040.001--
Earl Dodge1400.000--
Total122,267,553100.00050 + DC538

Notes on results

New Hampshire has held a recount, requested by Ralph Nader. In New York, Bush obtained 2,806,993 votes on the Republican ticket and 155,574 on the Conservative ticket. Kerry obtained 4,180,755 votes on the Democratic ticket and 133,525 votes on the Working Families ticket. Nader obtained 84,247 votes on the Independence ticket, and 15,626 votes on the Peace and Justice ticket.

Note also: Official Federal Election Commission Report, with the latest, most final, and complete vote totals available.


  • George W. Bush (R) $367,227,801 / 62,040,610 = $5.92 / vote
  • John Kerry (D) $326,236,288 / 59,028,111 = $5.52
  • Ralph Nader (i) $4,566,037 / 463,653 = $9.85
  • Michael Badnarik (L) $1,093,013 / 397,265 = $2.75
  • Michael Peroutka (C) $709,087 / 144,498 = $4.91
Source: FEC

Close states

  1. Wisconsin, Kerry, 0.38%
  2. Iowa, Bush, 0.67%
  3. New Mexico, Bush, 0.79%
  4. New Hampshire, Kerry, 1.37%
  5. Ohio, Bush, 2.11%
  6. Pennsylvania, Kerry, 2.50%
  7. Nevada, Bush, 2.59%
  8. Michigan, Kerry, 3.42%
  9. Minnesota, Kerry, 3.48%
  10. Oregon, Kerry, 4.16%
  11. Colorado, Bush, 4.67%

Members of the 2004 United States Electoral College

Ballot access

Presidential Ticket Party Ballot Access
Bush / CheneyRepublican50+DC
Kerry / EdwardsDemocrat50+DC
Badnarik / CampagnaLibertarian48+DC
Peroutka / BaldwinConstitution36
Nader / CamejoIndependent, Reform34+DC
Cobb / LaMarcheGreen27+DC

“Faithless elector” in Minnesota

One elector in Minnesota cast a ballot for president with the name of “John Ewards” [sic] written on it. The Electoral College officials certified this ballot as a vote for John Edwards for president. The remaining nine electors cast ballots for John Kerry. All ten electors in the state cast ballots for John Edwards for Vice President. (John Edwards' name was spelled correctly on all ballots for Vice President.) This was the first time in U.S. history that an elector had cast both of his or her votes for the same person. Electoral balloting in Minnesota was performed by secret ballot, and none of the electors admitted to casting the Edwards vote for President, so it may never be known who the “faithless elector” was. It is not even known whether the vote for Edwards was deliberate or unintentional, although the Republican Secretary of State and several of the Democratic electors have expressed the opinion that this was an accident. It is worth noting that an Independence Party straw poll, which was published in lieu of an endorsement from that party, selected John Edwards for President, though there is no evidence to suggest that this is related to the Edwards electoral vote for President.

Electoral vote error in New York

New York's initial electoral vote certificate indicated that all of its 31 electoral votes for president were cast for “John L. Kerry of Massachusetts” instead of John F. Kerry, who won the popular vote in the state.[20] This was apparently the result of a typographical error, and an amended electoral vote certificate with the correct middle initial was transmitted to the President of the Senate prior to the official electoral vote count.[21]

Presidential results by congressional district

In his successful bid for reelection in 2004, Republican George W. Bush won the popular vote in 255 of the nation's 435 congressional districts, a 75-seat edge over Democrat John Kerry’s 180. At 255, the President won 27 more districts than the 228 he carried in the 2000 election. There were 59 “turnover” or “split” districts, i.e., those represented in the U.S. House by a member of a party other than the winner of the presidential vote in the district. Following the 2004 election, 41 districts of the 109th Congress were carried by Bush yet represented by a Democrat; 18 districts were carried by John Kerry yet represented by a Republican. This represents a continued decrease over recent presidential elections. In 2000 there were 86 turnover districts. In 1996, there were 110 turnover districts. The 2004 presidential election was the first following the 2001–2002 redistricting phase of congressional apportionment.

Caveats: only a handful of states report the results by district. These numbers are estimates based upon results collected from the 400 counties that contain a portion of more than one district. They may include an allocation of absentee/early votes which were not tabulated by district.[22]


The results produced many interesting features. A partial list is given below, but it is by no means complete.
  • This is the first time since George H.W. Bush in 1988 that the winning candidate has won over 50% of the popular vote.
  • Kerry received a higher percentage of the popular vote in 2004 than George W. Bush did in 2000.
  • Although Bush received a majority of the popular vote: 50.73% to Kerry's 48.27%, it was, in percentages, the closest popular margin ever for a victorious sitting President. Bush received 2.5% more than Kerry; the closest previous margin won by a sitting President was 3.2% for Woodrow Wilson in 1916. In terms of absolute number of popular votes, Bush's victory margin (approximately 3 million votes) was the smallest of any sitting President since Harry S. Truman in 1948.
  • At least 12 million more votes were cast than in the 2000 election. Based upon 2000 census figures, 42.45% of the U.S. population voted in the 2004 election. Note that this is a percentage of the entire population, not of just eligible voters. The record turnout—the highest since 1968—was attributed partly to the intensity of the division between the candidates and partly to intensive voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts by both major parties and their allies. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10492-2005Jan14.html
  • Owing to the nation's growing population and large turnout, both Pres. Bush and Sen. Kerry received more votes than any previous presidential candidate in American history. The previous record was held by Republican Ronald Reagan, who in 1984 received more votes than any other presidential candidate in American history (54.4 million).
  • The counties where Bush led in the popular vote amount to 83% of the geographic area of the U.S. (excluding Alaska, which did not report results by borough/census area, but had all electoral districts but one of the two in Juneau vote for Bush).
  • Between the 2000 and 2004 elections, the House of Representatives (and therefore the Electoral College) had been reapportioned per the results of the 2000 Census. If Bush won exactly the same states as he won in 2000, he would win by a margin of 278-260, a net gain of 7 electoral votes over his performance in 2000.
  • Only three states picked a winner from a different party than they had in 2000. Bush took Iowa and New Mexico (combined 12 electoral votes), both won by Democrat Al Gore in 2000, while Kerry took New Hampshire (4 electoral votes), which Bush had previously won. Bush received a net gain of 8 electoral votes from these switches. All three were very close states in both 2000 and 2004, and none gained or lost electoral votes due to reapportionment.
  • As in 2000, electoral votes split along sharp geographical lines: The west coast, northeast, and most of the Great Lakes region for Kerry, and the South, Great Plains, and Mountain states for Bush. The widespread support for Bush in the southern states continued the transformation of the formerly Democratic Solid South to the Republican South.
  • Minor-party candidates received many fewer votes, dropping from a total of 3.5% in 2000 to approximately one percent. As in 2000, Ralph Nader finished in third place, but his total declined from 2.9 million to 400,000, leaving him with fewer votes than Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan had received in finishing fourth in 2000. The combined minor-party total was the lowest since 1988.
  • The election marked the first time an incumbent president was returned to office while his political party increased its numbers in both houses of Congress since Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 election. It was the first time for a Republican since William McKinley in the 1900 election.
  • Presidential candidates Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party and David Cobb of the Green Party were arrested in St. Louis, Missouri on October 8, 2004 for an act of civil disobedience. Badnarik and Cobb were protesting their exclusion from the presidential debates between George W. Bush and John Kerry.
  • One issue from the 2000 election had been Bush's electoral victory despite losing the popular vote. Yet, if Kerry had won Ohio, he would have won the election but still could have lost the popular vote.

Electoral College changes from 2000

The U.S. population is continuously shifting, and some states grow in population faster than others. With the completion of the 2000 census, Congressional reapportionment took place, moving some representative districts from the slowest growing states to the fastest growing. As a result, several states had a different number of electors in the U.S. Electoral College in 2004 than in 2000, since the number of electors allotted to each state is equal to the sum of the number of Senators and Representatives from that state.

The following table shows the change in electors from the 2000 election. Red states represent those won by Bush; and Blue states, those won by both Gore and Kerry. All states except Nebraska and Maine use a winner-take-all allocation of electors. Each of these states was won by the same party in 2004 that had won it in 2000; thus, George W. Bush received a net gain of seven electoral votes due to reapportionment.

Gained votesLost votes
  • Arizona (8→10 +2)
  • Florida (25→27 +2)
  • Georgia (13→15 +2)
  • Texas (32→34 +2)
  • California (54→55 +1)
  • Colorado (8→9 +1)
  • North Carolina (14→15 +1)
  • Nevada (4→5 +1)
  • New York (33→31 -2)
  • Pennsylvania (23→21 -2)
  • Connecticut (8→7 -1)
  • Mississippi (7→6 -1)
  • Ohio (21→20 -1)
  • Oklahoma (8→7 -1)
  • Wisconsin (11→10 -1)
  • Illinois (22→21 -1)
  • Indiana (12→11 -1)
  • Michigan (18→17 -1)

(This table uses the currently common Red→Republican, Blue→Democratic color association, as do the maps on this page. Some older party-affiliation maps use the opposite color coding for historical reasons.)

Vote splitting concerns

Some supporters of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry were concerned that the independent candidacy of Ralph Nader would split the vote against the incumbent, thus allowing the Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush to win the 2004 election. Many Democrats blame Ralph Nader for splitting the vote in the 2000 presidential election when he ran as the candidate of the Green Party.

Such splits are of particular concern because most states assign the presidential electors they send to the Electoral College, to the candidate with the most votes (a plurality), even if those votes are less than 50% of the total votes cast—in such a situation, a relatively small number of votes can make a very big difference. For instance, a candidate who won narrow pluralities in a significant number of states could win a majority in the Electoral College even though they did not win a majority or even a plurality of the national popular vote. While Ralph Nader and the Green Party ultimately support replacing the Electoral College with direct popular elections, both have also suggested that states instead use instant-runoff voting to select their presidential electors, which would partially address the issue of vote splitting.

Opponents of Ralph Nader's candidacy often referred to vote splitting as the spoiler effect. Some voters who preferred Ralph Nader's positions over John Kerry's voted for John Kerry to avoid splitting the vote against the incumbent, claiming to be choosing the “lesser of two evils”. These voters used slogans such as, “Anybody but Bush,” and, “A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.” A group of people who supported Nader in 2000 released a statement entitled "Vote to Stop Bush", urging support for Kerry/Edwards in swing states. Whether due to this campaign or other factors, the impact of Nader on the election's outcome ultimately proved inconsequential, as he received less than 1% of the national vote. In fact, all of the independent candidates together polled fewer votes than Nader had in 2000.

Battleground states

Enlarge picture
Presidential popular votes by state. Red is Republican, Blue is Democrat
Enlarge picture
Presidential popular votes by county. Note substantially more "mixing" of colors.
Enlarge picture
Presidential popular votes by county as a scale from Red/Republican to Blue/Democrat

During the campaign and as the results came in on the night of the election there was much focus on Ohio (ordinarily GOP-leaning, but suffering at the time from manufacturing job losses), Pennsylvania, and Florida. These three swing states were seen as evenly divided, and with each casting 20 electoral votes or more, they had the power to decide the election. As the final results came in, Kerry took Pennsylvania and then Bush took Florida, focusing all attention on Ohio.

The morning after the election, the major candidates were neck and neck. It was clear that the result in Ohio, along with two other states who had still not declared (New Mexico and Iowa), would decide the winner. Bush had established a lead of around 130,000 votes but the Democrats pointed to provisional ballots that had yet to be counted, initially reported to number as high as 200,000. Bush had preliminary leads of less than 5% of the vote in only four states, but if Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico had all eventually gone to Kerry, a win for Bush in Ohio would have created a 269–269 tie in the Electoral College. The result of an electoral tie would cause the election to be decided in the House of Representatives with each state casting one vote, regardless of population. Such a scenario would almost certainly have resulted in a victory for Bush, as Republicans controlled more House delegations. Therefore, the outcome of the election hinged solely on the result in Ohio, regardless of the final totals elsewhere. In the afternoon Ohio's Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, announced that it was statistically impossible for the Democrats to make up enough valid votes in the provisional ballots to win. At the time provisional ballots were reported as numbering 140,000 (and later estimated to be only 135,000). Faced with this announcement, John Kerry conceded defeat.

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Presidential popular votes cartogram, in which the sizes of counties have been rescaled according to their population.
The upper Midwest bloc of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin is also notable, casting a sum of 27 electoral votes. However, all the swing states are important. The following is list of the states considered swing states in the 2004 election by most news organizations and which candidate they eventually went for. The two major parties chose to focus their advertising on these states:

Bush: Kerry:

Election controversy

Main articles: 2004 U.S. election voting controversies and 2004 U.S. presidential election controversy and irregularities
Enlarge picture
Map of election day problems
After the election, some sources reported indications of possible data irregularities and systematic flaws during the voting process, which are covered in detail by the election controversy articles.

Although the overall result of the election was not challenged by the Kerry campaign, Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Badnarik obtained a recount in Ohio. This recount was completed December 28, 2004, although on January 24, 2007, a jury convicted two Ohio elections officials of selecting precincts to recount where they already knew the hand total would match the machine total, thereby avoiding having to perform a full recount.[23]

At the official counting of the electoral votes on January 6, a motion was made contesting Ohio's electoral votes. Because the motion was supported by at least one member of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, election law mandated that each house retire to debate and vote on the motion. In the House of Representatives, the motion was supported by 31 Democrats. It was opposed by 178 Republicans, 88 Democrats and one independent. Not voting were 52 Republicans and 80 Democrats. [3] Four people elected to the House had not yet taken office, and one seat was vacant. In the Senate, it was supported only by its maker, Senator Boxer, with 74 Senators opposed and 25 not voting. During the debate, no Senator argued that the outcome of the election should be changed by either court challenge or revote. Senator Boxer claimed that she had made the motion not to challenge the outcome, but to “shed the light of truth on these irregularities.?

New during this campaign

International observers

At the invitation of the United States government, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sent a team of observers to monitor the presidential elections in 2004. It was the first time the OSCE had sent observers to a U.S. presidential election, although they had been invited in the past.[24] In September 2004 the OSCE issued a report (PDF 168K) on U.S. electoral processes and the election final report (PDF 256K).

Earlier, some 13 U.S. Representatives from the Democratic Party had sent a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking for the UN to monitor the elections. The UN responded that such a request could only come from the official national executive. The move was met by considerable opposition from Republican lawmakers.[25] The OSCE is not affiliated with the United Nations.

Electronic voting

For 2004, some states expedited the implementation of electronic voting systems for the election. Regarding these new systems, some security analysts warned that computer voting terminals had a significant possibility of voter fraud or data corruption by a software attack. Others said that recounts would be nearly impossible with the machines and criticized the lack of a “paper trail”, which is included in many other trivial events such as grocery shopping or using an ATM. Machines which do not use a paper trail are called Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) systems. Author Bev Harris, in her book Black Box Voting, describes in detail the potential problems created by DRE systems.

Campaign law changes

The 2004 election was the first to be affected by the campaign finance reforms mandated by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (also known as the McCain-Feingold Bill for its sponsors in the United States Senate). Because of the Act's restrictions on candidates' and parties' fundraising, a large number of so-called 527 groups emerged. Named for a section of the Internal Revenue Code, these groups were able to raise large amounts of money for various political causes as long as they do not coordinate their activities with political campaigns. Examples of 527s include Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, MoveOn.org, the Media Fund, and America Coming Together. Many such groups were active throughout the campaign season. (There was some similar activity, although on a much lesser scale, during the 2000 campaign.)

To distinguish official campaigning from independent campaigning, political advertisements on television were required to include a verbal disclaimer identifying the organization responsible for the advertisement. Advertisements produced by political campaigns usually included the statement, “I'm [candidate's name], and I approve this message.” Advertisements produced by independent organizations usually included the statement, “[Organization name] is responsible for the content of this advertisement,” and from September 3 (60 days before the general election), such organizations' ads were prohibited from mentioning any candidate by name. Previously, television advertisements only required a written “paid for by” disclaimer on the screen.

This law was not well known or widely publicized at the beginning of the Democratic primary season, which led to some early misperception of Howard Dean, who was the first candidate to buy television advertising in this election cycle. Not realizing that the law required the phrasing, some people viewing the ads reportedly questioned why Dean might say such a thing—such questions were easier to ask because of the maverick nature of Dean's campaign in general.

Colorado's Amendment 36

Main article: Colorado Amendment 36

A ballot initiative in Colorado, known as Amendment 36, would have changed the way in which the state apportions its electoral votes. Rather than assigning all 9 of the state's electors to the candidate with a plurality of popular votes, under the amendment Colorado would have assigned presidential electors proportionally to the statewide vote count, which would be a unique system (Nebraska and Maine assign electoral votes based on vote totals within each congressional district). Detractors claimed that this splitting would diminish Colorado's influence in the Electoral College, and the amendment ultimately failed, receiving only 34% of the vote.

Legal challenges

Election watchers and political analysts forecast a number of contested election results in a manner similar to the Florida voting recount of 2000. Various states grappled with their own legal issues that could have affected the outcome of the vote, while both of the major political parties and a number of independent groups like the ACLU marshaled numbers of lawyers.

In several states including Ohio, Colorado, Florida, and Nevada, there were lawsuits or other disputes about such issues as “voter challenging”, voter registration, and absentee ballots. These were considered unlikely to change the Electoral College result. In Florida, for example, multiple lawsuits were filed even before the election, but few observers expected any of them to change the official result that Bush had outpolled Kerry by roughly 400,000 votes. As of the morning of November 3rd, the deciding state in the electoral vote count was Ohio, where Bush held a 136,000 vote lead. Democrats' hopes rested on the approximately 135,000 provisional ballots that had yet to be counted. Nevertheless, after concluding that a recount would not change the election results, Kerry conceded defeat at about 11:00 EST that morning, and George W. Bush declared victory the afternoon of the same day.

The Green Party and Libertarian Party presidential candidates, David Cobb and Michael Badnarik, filed for a recount of the Ohio vote. After announcing their intention and soliciting donations, they quickly raised $150,000 to cover the state's required fee and other costs. A statewide recount of the presidential vote was completed under the watch of thousands of elections observers organized by the Cobb campaign. Based on reports filed by these observers, some voting rights advocates claim that the recount was conducted improperly, and illegally, and have filed a new lawsuit, which is currently pending. The Congressional Democrats who objected to the counting of Ohio's electoral votes relied on part on information about voting irregularities provided by observers working for the Cobb campaign.

See also

Other elections


1. ^ [4]
2. ^ [5]
3. ^ [6]
4. ^ "Bush fell short on duty at Guard", Boston Globe, September 8, 2004. Retrieved on 2007-06-16. 
5. ^ "CBS 60 Minutes Wednesday transcript", Thornburgh-Boccardi Report, Exhibit 1B, September 8, 2004. Retrieved on 2007-06-16. 
6. ^ Michael Dobbs and Mike Allen. "Some Question Authenticity of Papers on Bush", Washington Post, September 09, 2004. Retrieved on 2007-06-16. 
7. ^ Thornburgh-Boccardi report. CBS News. Retrieved on 2007-06-16.
8. ^ "Final Figure in '60 Minutes' Scandal Resigns", The Associated Press, March 25, 2005. Retrieved on 2007-06-16. 
9. ^ [7]
10. ^ [8]
11. ^ [9]
12. ^ [10]
13. ^ [11]
14. ^ [12]
15. ^ San Francisco Chronicle October 5, 2004
16. ^ [13]
17. ^ [14]
18. ^ [15]
19. ^ [16]
20. ^ [17]
21. ^ [18]
22. ^ Polidata, 2005
23. ^ "Election Staff Convicted in Recount Rig", Washington Post, January 24, 2007.2007"> 
24. ^ [19]
25. ^ Washington Times August 6, 2004



External links

Official candidate websites (alphabetical, by last name)

A website originally existed for George W. Bush's campaign, but after the election it was removed and the URL now redirects to the Republican Party website. The other five candidates continued to run their campaign websites as personal sites.

Election maps & analysis

State-by-state forecasts of electoral vote outcome


Election campaign funding

Election 2004 global debate and voting

Minnesota electoral voting snafu

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