2004 United States presidential election
The 2004 United States presidential election was the 55th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 2, 2004. The incumbent Republican President George W. Bush and his running mate Vice President Dick Cheney were elected to a second term, defeating the Democratic ticket of John Kerry, a United States Senator from Massachusetts and his running mate John Edwards, a United States Senator from North Carolina. Notably, it is to date the only presidential election since 1988 in which the Republican candidate won the popular vote. At the time Bush's popular vote total was the most votes ever received by a presidential candidate, a total that has since been surpassed 6 times in the last 4 presidential elections. Bush also became the only incumbent president to win reelection after losing the popular vote in the previous election.
Bush and Cheney were renominated by their party with no difficulty. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean emerged as the early front-runner in the 2004 Democratic primaries, but Kerry won the first set of primaries in January and clinched his party's nomination in March after a series of primary victories. Kerry chose Edwards, who had himself sought the party's 2004 presidential nomination, to be his running mate.
Bush's popularity had soared early in his first term after the September 11, 2001 attacks, but his popularity declined between 2001 and 2004. 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. Bush presented himself as a decisive leader and attacked Kerry as a "flip-flopper", while Kerry criticized Bush's conduct of the Iraq War. Domestic issues were debated as well, including the economy and jobs, health care, abortion, same-sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research.
Bush won by a narrow margin of 35 electoral votes and took 50.7% of the popular vote. He swept the South and the Mountain States and took the crucial swing states of Ohio, Iowa, and New Mexico, the latter two being flipped Republican. Although Kerry flipped New Hampshire compared to the previous election, Bush's electoral map expanded numerically. Some aspects of the election process were subject to controversy, but not to the degree seen in the 2000 presidential election. Bush won Florida by a solid five-point margin, unlike his razor-thin margin of victory there in 2000 that led to a legal challenge in Bush v. Gore.
Bush was the first winning candidate since his father in the 1988 election to win over 50% of the popular vote, and is the most recent Republican candidate to have done so. Bush's victory also marked the first and only time that the nominee of a major party won a presidential election without winning any electoral votes from the Northeast. It also marks the final time to date that a Republican presidential nominee has won the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Virginia. Bush served until 2009 and was succeeded by Democrat Barack Obama, whereas Kerry continued to serve in the Senate and later became Secretary of State during Obama's second term. As of 2020, this is the most recent presidential election where an incumbent president increased their electoral vote count from their previous election as well as the most recent when the Republican nominee won the popular vote. This also remains the most recent election (and the sole one since 1984) when the Republican candidate would be re-elected as President of the United States.