Reporting for Duty: The Presidency of John Kerry and Beyond

Chapter XXXXVIII: October 2008.
Chapter Forty Eight:

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
President Kerry was in trouble. Though Senator Obama had briefly breathed new life into the President’s reelection effort, the financial meltdown, the Edwards scandal, and the inability of the administration to work effectively with Congress to combat the Wall Street crisis offset this brief bump. Federal Reserve Chairman Robert Rubin attempted to relieve pressure by lowering interest rates in order to hold off total pandemonium on Wall Street, while Congress rushed to pass a bill which could stabilize the markets. The Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) was pushed forcefully by the President, who warned that a failure to pass such a bill could spark an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression. The second version of the bill, drafted by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), was more amenable to Senate Republicans and a number of Democrats. It authorized the $700 billion dollar TARP program but also deregulated other aspects of the financial sector in order to allow banks greater flexibility as they seek to recoup their losses. The Senate passed this version of the bill by a vote of 67-33, sending it to the House of Representatives where Speaker Dreier was able to push through the bill by a vote of 222-213. President Kerry signed the bill into law, and appointed Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren to administer TARP.

The $700 billion price tag of the program immediately came under fire from an increasingly cynical public. The revelation that much of the cash infusions into several struggling financial institutions were awarded to top executives in the form of exuberant bonuses ranging into the millions of dollars only further alienated the public, with some political analysts predicting that turnout would fall compared to 2004 due to deep dissatisfaction with both major party candidates. Of the four men running on the major party tickets, only Senator Obama had retained relatively middling approval ratings. But that too would soon change.


Senator Obama's relationship with Jeremiah Wright became problematic for the President's campaign.
With less than 24 hours to go until the Vice Presidential debate between Governor Pawlenty and Senator Obama, a number of controversial sermons from Obama’s pastor in Chicago, Jeremiah Wright, surfaced. Quoted on video saying “God damn America” and stating that 9/11 was “America’s chickens coming home to roost.” Going into the debate, a flustered Obama struggled to defend himself, stating that he wasn’t present for any of those remarks. But Pawlenty, who was far less charismatic than his rival, continued to insist that Obama couldn’t be unaware of such statements, and the public by and large believed him. Though most polls showed Obama won the debate, his popularity continued to decrease. Sensing a fatal vulnerability, Kerry’s campaign convinced Obama to deliver a major address on race relations in Philadelphia. But unfortunately for the Democratic ticket, the Obama speech did little to help; though his elegant rhetoric was praised, the public was less enthused by the kind of dialogue on race relations that Obama called for. It did not help that conspiracy theories surrounding Obama’s birth began to circulate among the internet and social media. The myth was proliferated widely in the wake of the Jeremiah Wright scandal, with figures including Donald Trump and even Sean Hannity weighing in on the theories before facing backlash. The rigorous campaign schedule and the duties of office made it hard for the President to firmly rebut these theories, as the pressing economic situation absorbed the majority of his attention.

As the campaign continued into the final two weeks, the President found himself balancing domestic politics with foreign policy. The war between Russia and Georgia ended swiftly on October 14th, when the Swiss Foreign Minister successfully negotiated a ceasefire between both nations. Much to the displeasure of the Georgian President, the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia would continue to be occupied by Russian forces indefinitely. Governor Bush criticized the President for “leading from behind,” citing the Swiss mediation of the war in Georgia as well as the administration's unwillingness to interfere in the tense situation in Latin America. In the Middle East, the last active duty combat forces stationed outside of Baghdad cross the border in Kuwait as Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke hailed the end of the Iraq War. In spite of this, thousands of troops remained behind to help train and support the Arab Stabilization Force, and they would continue to face sporadic militant activity for the duration of their time there.

2008 Presidential Election
(REP) Jeb Bush: 51%
(DEM) John Kerry: 45%
Undecided: 2%
(GRE) Jesse Ventura: 1%
(LBT) William Weld: 1%

Presidential Approval Rating
Disapprove: 62%
Approve: 35%
Undecided: 3%
Here comes the Jeb.
Excellent chapter as well.

With the steps the Kerry Administration is taking will the incoming Recession be less damaging compared to the OTL Great Recession?
I get a nasty feeling that Kerry is about to lose and embarrassingly so. I hope not, I hope I'm wrong but if I'm not then...well, it'll be interesting at any rate.
Chapter XXXXIX: Election Night '08.
Chapter Forty Nine:
6:00 PM: Polls close in Indiana and Kentucky; both states are deemed too early to call.

7:00 PM: Polls close in Florida, Georgia, parts of Indiana, parts of Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. Indiana, Kentucky, and South Carolina are called for Bush, while Vermont is called for Kerry.

7:15 PM: Saxby Chambliss is declared the winner of the Georgia Senate election, having held a consistent fifteen point lead over his Democratic challenger, Jim Martin. Republican fears of a possible runoff election are dashed, and Chambliss’s larger than expected victory bodes well for the GOP.

7:30 PM: Polls close in Ohio and West Virginia; Ohio is too close to call, while WV is called for Bush.

8:00 PM: Georgia is called for Governor Bush; neighboring Florida remains too close to call as the results from the conservative panhandle region begin to trickle in. Polls close in states across the eastern time zone, with a flurry of results being made. Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee are called for Bush; Delaware, D.C, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, and Massachusetts are called for Kerry; Connecticut, Florida, Maine's 2nd congressional district, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania remained too close to call.

8:15 PM: Senate races in New Hampshire and New Jersey are too close to call. Former Governor Matt Blunt defeats Governor Claire McCaskill handily in a rematch in Missouri, giving Republicans their first gubernatorial takeover of the night.

8:25 PM: In an interview with Fox News as part of their election night coverage, Republican Vice Presidential nominee Tim Pawlenty states that the early returns are "promising" but notes that "it's anyone's guess what happens tonight.”

8:30 PM: Polls in Arkansas and North Carolina close. Arkansas is immediately called for Governor Bush, though North Carolina was too close to call. The Arkansas and North Carolina Senate races remain too close to call, though Congressman Asa Hutchison and Senator Elizabeth Dole both lead their Democatic rivals narrowly.

8:33 PM: Kentucky Senator (and Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell is projected the winner of the Kentucky Senate race, dispatching challenger Crit Luallen by ten points. Maine’s second district is projected as a win for Governor Bush.

8:45 PM: The Senate race in Virginia is called for former Governor Jim Gilmore, who beats former Richmond Mayor Tim Kaine 50%-45% with 60% of precincts counted. Gilmore's victory is largely attributed to higher turnout in rural areas as well as depressed turnout in the increasingly liberal parts of northern Virginia near Washington. The presidential race in Virginia remained too close to call.

8:55 PM: The North Carolina Senate race is called for Senator Elizabeth Dole over her Democratic challenger, State Senator Kay Hagan by a 52%-44% margin. The state of Connecticut is called for John Kerry after his lead over Jeb Bush increases.

9:00 PM: Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Governor Bush is declared the winner in Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Texas. Similarly, Kerry is projected to win New Mexico, New York and Rhode Island. The rest are too close or early to call.

Jeb Bush: 129 Electoral Votes.
John Kerry: 102 Electoral Votes.

9:05 PM: Wyoming is called for Governor Bush. With results now pouring in from the panhandle, and with most of the votes counted statewide, Florida is projected to go into Bush's column. Missouri is also called for Governor Bush.

9:10 PM: Senator Dennis Daugaard is declared victor in the South Dakota Senate race, defeating challenger Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin. Georgia is called for Governor Bush.

9:23 PM: Senator Jay Rockefeller is projected to be defeated by Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito by a ten point margin, ending the Senators decades long career in Washington.

9:30 PM: Ohio is called for Governor Bush. The mood at Kerry's headquarters in Washington begins to change. Though ahead of the President in both the popular and electoral vote, the Bush campaign is still hesitant to express anything beyond cautious optimism.

9:45 PM: John Sununu is projected to have beaten back former Education Secretary and Governor Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire's Senate race, though the presidential election remains tight in the Granite State. On a brighter note for Democrats, the President's lead in New Jersey is strong enough for the state to be called for the President.

10:00 PM: Another wave of poll closings. The southern portion of Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, as well as parts of both North Dakota and Oregon. Iowa is too close to call, as is Nevada, while Montana is projected for Governor Bush even though incumbent Governor Brian Schweitzer is reelected.

Jeb Bush: 223 Electoral Votes
John Kerry: 134 Electoral Votes

10:11 PM: Congresswoman Heather Wilson is projected winner over Tom Udall in a closely watched Senate race. Though New Mexico voted for Kerry in the presidential election, many crossed over to back Wilson, who ran as a technocratic moderate focused on efficiency and reform.

10:15 PM: Senator Mary Landrieu is defeated by Republican challenger John Neely Kennedy, a former conservative Democrat turned Republican. This ensures that the Republican Party will hold a super majority in the Senate, much to the horror of Democrats. The atmosphere at Kerry headquarters goes from grim tension to outright resignation. Win or lose, commentators begin predicting that the President will now be a lame duck even if he pulled off a miraculous victory.

10:20 PM: New Hampshire is projected to be won by Governor Bush who holds off John Kerry by just a little less than 2%. Kerry is also projected to win Maine's second congressional district by the thinnest of margins.

10:45 PM: Pennsylvania remains too close to call, though Iowa and Wisconsin are projected for Bush, pushing him closer to the 270 needed to win.

11:00 PM: Idaho, North Dakota, and Utah are called for Bush. California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington are called for Kerry. For Kerry to win, he'd need to carry all remaining states spare Alaska.

Jeb Bush: 252 Electoral Votes.
John Kerry: 215 Electoral Votes.

11:15 PM: Arizona is called for Bush, while Nevada is called for President Kerry. This is a trend that seems to be the inverse of what happened in Arizona and Florida, where Hispanic voters supported Governor Bush at higher than expected levels, a sign that the bilingual Republican nominee's pitch to Spanish speaking voters throughout the campaign is paying off.

11:16 PM: President Kerry calls the President-elect from the Oval Office to concede the race.

11:20 PM: Virginia and Colorado are projected to be won by Governor Bush, pushing him over 270 votes. Jubilant cheers from Bush supporters in Miami flood the ballroom as Fox News becomes the first to project Jeb Bush as the 45th President of the United States. Kerry's campaign confirms the President will deliver his concession speech at midnight.

11:30 PM: Pennsylvania is at last called for Bush, who ebbs out a 51-48% victory over the President in the keystone state. Minnesota is called for President Kerry by a margin of 50-47%.

11:45 PM: Colorado is projected for Governor Bush, while most media outlets predict that Alaska, the last state out, will also be a Bush state.

12:00 AM: President Kerry concedes the race at a speech to supporters in Boston, in which he encourages the country to unite around Jeb Bush.

12:35 AM: Governor Bush delivers his victory speech to a crowd of supporters in Miami, where he thanks President Kerry for his service before outlining his vision for a new agenda moving forward in times of great uncertainty.

Former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL)/Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN): 308 Electoral Votes, 52.0% of the popular vote.
President John Kerry (D-MA)/Senator Barack Obama (D-IL): 230 Electoral Votes, 45.6% of the popular vote.
Former Governor Jesse Ventura (G-MN)/Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (G-GA): 1.1% of the popular vote.
Former Governor Bill Weld (L-MA)/Former Judge Jim Gray (L-CA): 0.9% of the popular vote.
Author Jerome Corsi (C-NJ)/Attorney Darrell Castle (C-TN): 0.2% of the popular vote.
Other (Socialist Workers, Peace & Freedom, Prohibition): 0.2% of the popular.

Chapter 50, containing an epilogue, an election infobox, and the full Senate and House of Representatives results will be released tonight/tomorrow. Hope you enjoyed Part I of this! I can't thank you all enough for your support, comments, contributions, and encouragement. This was very fun to write!

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Game Change Infobox.png
Game Change is a 2010 book detailing the 2008 presidential election; written by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, the book is based on interviews with over 300 people with firsthand knowledge or involvement in the Bush and Kerry campaigns, as well as those of the Republican primary candidates. It discusses factors such as Vice President John Edwards's extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter, the relationship between President John Kerry and Senator Barack Obama, the cutthroat behind-the-scenes war between Senator Obama and Clinton for the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination, as well as Jeb Bush's rocky path to the nomination, and the implosion of the Rick Perry campaign, amongst other topics.
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Excellent chapter! Sorry to see Kerry go as I thought he was fine, with some goods wins and some expected losses.

Excited to see a Jeb Bush Presidency. Maybe he’ll break the Bush trend here and become a two term president.

What are Bush’s policies/agenda? Is he going to touch Kerry’s Kiddycare?
Oh wow, excellent update! It will be interesting to see how Jeb! fares as president, I hope that whatever policies he implements, can help America heal after these two-one term presidents.
Well...that's it then. Super-Majority for the Republicans and Bush wins. Can't wait to see how what happens next!