There were a large number of Democrats contending to become the party’s presidential nominee in 2004. Initially, the leading contender was Governor Howard Dean of Vermont. Also competing were: Senator John Kerry, Senator John Edwards, Senator Joe Lieberman, Retired General Wesley Clark, Representative Dennis Kucinich, Senator Carol Mosley Braun, Senator Bob Graham, House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt and Reverend Al Sharpton. The Iowa caucus rearranged and narrowed the field. Senator Kerry won a decisive victory, with Senator Edwards coming in second. Governor Dean came in a distant third. Senator Kerry never looked back and secured the Democratic nomination.
President Bush was renominated without opposition.
From the moment Kerry became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party, the Republicans began an intensive attack on him. The Democrats made Kerry's Vietnam War service a major theme of their convention. Following the convention a group of Vietnam Veterans called the “Swift Boat Veterans” launched a major attack on Kerry's war record. The veterans claimed Kerry did not deserve his medals. Despite there seeming to be little truth in their allegations, the Swift Boat veterans received a great deal of publicity. Their attacks definitively hurt Kerry.
The Republicans had a successful convention, in which they repeatedly attacked Kerry. Republicans claimed Kerry was a “flip-flopper”. They also asserted Kerry could not be trusted to fight the war on terror. The NY based Republican convention highlighted President Bush’s qualities, which were well-suited to fighting terrorism. President Bush opened a significant lead in the polls following the convention. President Bush’s popularity rating shifted during the first debate. In that debate Kerry carried himself significantly better than the President. Bush performed better is subsequent debates. However, Kerry was considered the winner of all three. Events in Iraq in the last two weeks before the election seemed to favor Kerry.
In the end, the Republicans were more successful than the Democrats in getting out their core voters. That, and the related lack of enthusiasm for Kerry, resulted in another Bush victory. Bush won almost the identical states he had in 2000. Though this time, he won the plurality of the popular vote.
Participation of Eligible Voters: 56.6%