An historic election between the first major candidate of color and possibly the whitest man in America.
For years John McCain was one of the most respected members the Republican party. He wasn't respected quite so much after the election.
In spite of being a two-term president, Bush the Younger had not left the GOP untarnished; the wars in the Middle East weren't as much fun as they started out, and McCain's opponent, Barack Obama, had been an early and vociferous opponent of the Iraq invasion. But McCain supported the "troop surge," which indeed was a strategic success, and his poll numbers rose.
Moreover, McCain had another ace up his sleeve: the strong Republican record of fiscal success. He pointed out in an interview that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong," and except for the Wall Street crash, the near-collapse of the international banking system, soaring unemployment, and plummeting property values, he was right.
McCain was also criticized for another interview in which he admitted he wasn't sure exactly how many houses he owned, but this was completely unfair. A presidential candidate has enough to do without going around counting up his houses.
Shrewdly McCain picked as his running mate, Sarah Palin whose impressive resume - two years as governor of Alaska, and before that, mayor of Wasilla - added luster to his campaign. (She'd even been a city council member; the woman's, like, too good to be true, right?)
Like Yogi Berra, a lot of things Palin said, she didn't really say. Saturday Night Live put ridiculous words in her mouth like being able to see Russia from Alaska and other nonsense. Palin did say "obviously, we've got to stand with our North Korean allies," but this was no dumber really than Ford asserting there were no Communists in Eastern Europe.
Challenged by that hard-hitting interviewer Katie Couric about which magazines she read, Palin responded, ""All of 'em, any of 'em that have been in front of me over all these years." (What more do you want, you Palin-naysayers?)
Other campaign issues were whether Obama were secretly a Muslim or even a United States citizen. (He was born in Hawaii, which you have to admit is pretty sketchy. It's not like being from a real state, like Alaska.) But none of these pertinent issues was enough to win the presidency for McCain.
Barack Obama: 365
John McCain: 173