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HowStuffWorks Elections & Politics Guide   Tags: america, ballot, candidates, clinton, elections, electoral, liden, mccain, obama, palin, politics, president, presidental, vote, voting  

Brush up on your knowledge about the presidential candidates, the debates, electoral college or the voting system with the Elections & Politics Guide.
Last Updated: Oct 14, 2008 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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  • Image Gallery: John McCain
  • Quiz Corner: John McCain
    Sen. John McCain is a retired Navy veteran, a supporter of the war in Iraq and the Republican Party's nominee for president. What is his past voting record, and what will he do if he's elected?
  • How John McCain Works
    Sen. John McCain is a retired Navy veteran, a supporter of the war in Iraq and the Republican Party's nominee for president. What is his past voting record, and what will he do if he's elected?
  • Image Gallery: Barak Obama
  • Quiz Corner: Barak Obama
    If there's one clear message Sen. Barack Obama wants to get across to the voters, it's that he represents change. He also wants America to know that he's the candidate who can unite the U.S. government. So how will he do it if he's elected president?
  • How Barak Obama Works
    If there's one clear message Sen. Barack Obama wants to get across, it's that he represents change. He also wants America to know that he can unite the U.S. government. So how will he do it if he's elected president?
  • Image Gallery: Sarah Palin
  • How Sarah Palin Works
    Sarah Palin's combination of femininity and toughness has captured the admiration of supporters among what had been a divided and stale Republican base in the 2008 presidential campaign. What are her goals for the vice presidency?
  • Image Gallery: Joe Biden
  • How Joe Biden Works
    Joe Biden's combination of tough-talk and 35 years of Senate experience made him Barack Obama's VP pick for the 2008 presidential campaign. What are his goals for the vice presidency?
  • How Hillary Clinton Works
    Sen. Hillary Clinton came closer than any other woman to securing the nomination for president. How did she arrive at that point, and what did she want to accomplish if she had been elected?
  • Obama Picks Biden as Democratic VP (Video)
    Watch this Reuters video to learn more about the Presidential Election. Barack Obama returned to the State House in Springfield, Illinois where he announced his vice presidential running mate - Delaware Senator Joe Biden.
  • McCain Picks Palin as Republican VP (Video)
    Watch this video from Reuters to learn more about Sarah Palin, the somewhat surprise pick to run as John McCain's VP. See McCain's first appearance on stage with his Vice Presidential running mate ,Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
  • Profile of Sen. Joe Biden (Video)
    Watch this Reuters video that discusses whether Joe Biden was a wise selection by the Democrats and Barack Obama to fill the VP slot on the Democratic ticket. Learn more about Senator Joe Biden in this video.
  • Profile of Gov. Sarah Palin (Video)
    Watch this Reuters video to learn more about Sarah Palin. Palin is the Republican Vice Presidential candidate and also a pro-life, NRA supporting, hockey mom of five. Oh yeah, she's also the most popular governor in the country.

Regional Map of the United States

Find the location of major cities and regions as the candidates campaign around the U.S. by viewing more United States Maps.

The Election & Voting Process

  • How the Electoral College Works
    Every four years, millions of U.S. citizens go to local voting booths to elect the next president and vice president. But those votes may not matter. How can the electoral college change the vote?
  • How the Swing States Work
    States in which the majority of voters vote for the same party in every election are all but ignored by presidential candidates. Instead, they spend their time and effort in the swing states. What are they?
  • Why is Super Tuesday so super?
    Candidates drool over it. Campaign managers turn gray from it. Super Tuesday is the second-most important Tuesday in the American election process. What is Super Tuesday? And why aren't all the states involved?
  • Why is the Iowa caucus so important?
    Every four years, the state of Iowa becomes a political hotbed when it hosts its caucuses. Each state has its own nominating contests, so why does Iowa mean so much to the candidates and the media?
  • Do special interest groups hurt candidates?
    Some special interest groups exist solely to level negative attacks at political candidates. How do these groups work? And can they be stopped?
  • How can someone tamper with an electronic voting machine?
    Instead of "Democrat or Republican," the more pressing question has become "accurate count or complete debacle?" With e-voting, the entire setup is electronic, not just the actual casting of the vote.
  • How do caucuses work?
    A caucus, like a primary, is held to determine the party's nomination for president. Those nominees face their first big test during the Iowa caucuses. Why is it such an unusal piece of the election process?
  • How E-Voting Works
    Would you be more willing to vote if you could sidestep the nuisances of finding the correct polling location and standing in line for hours increase voter participation? E-voting could make it possible.
  • How Political Primaries Work
    Presidential primaries let the voters choose who they want to represent their political party for president. But not everyone is happy with the process. What are the problems, and can they be fixed?
  • What are super-delegates?
    Before the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, relatively few people had heard of superdelegates. What role did these powerful politicians play in the Democratic nomination? And what makes a superdelegate so super anyway?
  • How does the Electoral College Work?
    In the U.S. presidential election system, the Electoral College plays an extremely important role in determining who the next president will be. Learn about the Electoral College system in this article.
  • Superdelegates Explained (Video)
    Getting the most popular votes is not enough for the Democratic Primary. Winning the most delegates is often not enough either. Watch this Reuters video to better understand how the Superdelegate system works in the Democratic Primary process.
  • Do Attack Ads Really Work? (Video)
    Watch this Reuters video to see why attack ads are becoming more commonplace as the U.S. Presidential Election nears. Both parties are running negative ads in an attempt to garner attention and sway voters to their side. But will it work?
  • What are "Lipstick Politics"? (Video)
    Gov. Sarah Palin's "hockey mom" ad lib about pitbulls and lipstick made Republican conventioneers go wild. But now Barack Obama's reference to "putting lipstick on a pig" comment is drawing criticism as sexist. Was it a veiled attack?
  • The Importance of Community Service (Video)
    Watch this Reuters video to see Barack Obama and John McCain answer questions about the importance of serving your country. Both candidates answer the same general questions from the two moderators.

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The Campaign Trail

  • How Presidential Debates Work
    This American institution began with Abraham Lincoln following Stephen Douglas on the campaign trail and heckling him from the crowd. Today, the presidential debate is one of the most informative and anticipated markers of candidates' campaigns.
  • How Political Conventions Work
    In an election year, political conventions take over the U.S. media for days, filling TVs, radios and newspapers with political-party platforms and propaganda. But what real purpose do the conventions serve?
  • McCain's RNC Acceptance Speech (Video)
    Watch this Reuters video to hear portions of John McCain's speech to the Republican National Convention. McCain told delegates that if he is elected president he will bring his maverick reputation to the White House and overcome partisan politics.
  • Obama's DNC Acceptance Speech (Video)
    Barack Obama entered Denver's outdoor Invesco Field through giant pillars that resembled a Greek temple. Obama, the former community organizer and current first-term Illinois Senator, officially accepted his party's nomination and promised change.
  • Palin's Speech at the RNC (Video)
    Watch this Reuters video to hear highlights from Gov. Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention. Palin portrayed herself as a Washington outsider and touted her small-town roots, and took a few jabs at the news media and Barack Obama.
  • Hillary's Speech at the DNC (Video)
    Watch this Reuters video to learn more about how and why one-time Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stressed unity at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

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