From The Wiki Trail
Creators Verbluffen


Genre Historical
  • Barack Obama (D-IL)
  • John McCain (R-AZ)
  • Bob Barr (L-GA)
  • Ralph Nader (Ind.-CT)
IRL Result
  • 365 D
  • 173 R
2008, based on the real-life 2008 United States presidential election, is a mod for The New Campaign Trail created by u/Verbluffen and u/campaigntrailaccount. Released in its finished form on November 22nd, 2021, the mod pits Democratic senator from Illinois Barack Obama against Republican senator John McCain. Widely acclaimed upon release, the mod went on to win the Best Gameplay Award at the first annual Acceptance Speech.[1]

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

Candidates[edit | edit source]

The mod begins by offering the players a choice between youthful Illinois senator Barack Obama on the Democratic side, and respected maverick Arizona senator John McCain. Obama enters the mod with a moderate lead over McCain, one that significantly increases after the advent of the 2008 global bank failures. Bob Barr and Ralph Nader are featured as unplayable third-party candidates, and typically have no major effect on gameplay.

Running Mates[edit | edit source]

Both McCain and Obama are given a selection of five running mate options, with Sarah Palin and Joe Biden as each candidates' real-life choice respectively. Along with Biden, Virginia governor Tim Kaine, Connecticut senator Chris Dodd, Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, and Indiana senator Evan Bayh are all running mate options for Obama. Each represent a different area of appeal for Obama; Kaine helps play up his outsider status with a ticket of two young civil rights attorneys, Dodd appeals to the activist left wing of the party with support for marijuana legalization and opposition to the Iraq War, Sebelius is popular among moderate, bipartisan voters in the heart of the nation with a taste for pragmatic leaders, and Bayh appeals to older Clinton voters who've become increasingly conservative since the '90s, and could use a prominent figure of that era to rally around. Similarly for McCain, Palin appeals (initially) to women voters and younger people, Tom Ridge to moderate establishment Republicans, Joe Lieberman to hawkish Democrats and former Clintonites, Romney to socially liberal, fiscally conservative voters, and Pawlenty to voters in the typically Democratic Upper Midwest.

Campaign and strategy[edit | edit source]

Obama[edit | edit source]

Having just narrowly defeated long-time frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the brutal 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Obama comes in with a significant lead over McCain, who is hampered by the unpopular incumbent Bush administration, the Wars on Terror, and the collapsing economy. As a result, Obama can either adopt a moderate image than he had in the primary, in order to win in as big of a landslide as possible, or hone in on his left flank, and run as a progressive Democrat. Due to the national environment being extremely favorable to the Democratic Party, traditional swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Iowa are now firmly in the Democratic column, while typically safe Republican states like North Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana are much more competitive than usual. Consequently, Obama can make a more extensive effort to win over those states, which VPs who hail from those states, like Kaine, Sebelius, and Bayh, can help you with.

As a side effect of the Great Recession, the economy and healthcare have become two of the most defining issues. The mod openly notes that a bold plan for both rescuing the economy and significantly reforming healthcare are quite popular, and would significantly boost Obama's campaign. However, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are also major issues in the mod, as Obama made himself a nationally known figure for his opposition to the wars. Ultimately, the mod recommends a slight softening of your policy regarding the wars, while still being semi-dovish.

Every running mate in the mod has at least three questions dedicated to them: the initial announcement for picking them at the convention, the VP debates, and a specific scandal or controversy of some sort. Biden, who has the least severe scandal of Obama's running mates, is hampered by his gaffes; Kaine is challenged by his personal pro-life stance; Dodd is faced with rape allegations (the most severe scandal of all); Sebelius is accused by Palin of being a token to women and voters; Bayh is questioned and criticized for his conservative voting record in the Senate. The mod gives an option to drop Dodd as running mate following the rape allegations (though, unlike Midnight 64, an option to choose who to replace him with is never given), which is immensely damaging to your campaign.

Other issues featured in the mod, though not as important as the economic crash or foreign wars, include abortion, same-sex marriage, and the environment. The mod notes that while same-sex marriage was not widely popular at the time, civil unions were generally accepted, and recommends a moderately liberal course on the issue. The issues of abortion and the environment are best being firmly pro-choice and pro-environment.

McCain[edit | edit source]

McCain, hampered by the unpopular Bush administration and the economic collapse, enters the campaign at a considerable disadvantage. Firstly, with the Republicans widely being blamed for the Recession, McCain will have to concrete promises on how he will solve the current economic crisis, whilst toeing the line away from openly criticizing the Bush administration, whose support he will need to win. Whilst walking this tightrope, several traditionally solid red states such as North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, and Indiana have become unexpectedly competitive, with the Republican core at risk of being won by Obama. McCain can either run a respectable, moderate campaign, maintaining his previous political positions, or he can try to turn out the base as much as possible, adopting as hard right-wing stances as possible.

On the other hand, McCain's OTL running mate Sarah Palin, while initially seeming like the conservative equivalent of Hillary Clinton, ultimately proves to be a major controversy magnet and a poor speaker, severely damaging McCain's campaign. As a result, Palin is widely regarded as the worst of McCain's running mates, with Lieberman in second. Joe Lieberman, an Independent (formerly Democratic) senator from Connecticut, was McCain's preferred choice OTL. A hawkish Democrat who was forced out of the party as a result, Lieberman's otherwise liberal stances seriously depresses the Republican base, while not actually winning over that many moderates. Conversely, Ridge, Romney, and Pawlenty are widely regarded as the better running mate options, with a mixture of base appeal and moderate crossover. Of course, each option has downsides: Ridge's pro-choice stances, Romney's Bain Capital layoffs, and Pawlenty's illegal campaign practices. However, overall, they are the only choices coming with a significant chance of victory.

Furthermore, previous scandals and personal histories for both candidates play a major role in the mod, particularly on McCain's side. The mod gives McCain the option to either hammer in on Obama's personal history, particularly his connections to Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, or to maintain a respectful attitude towards these issues. Similarly, McCain will be met with attacks from the left about his past in the Keating Five and will be forced to become defensive on such topics. As McCain, you are forced to fight an uphill battle, with virtually every major factor in the national environment working against you. However, the mod is quite winnable, and there are multiple paths to victory.

Background[edit | edit source]

Further information: [1]

The Wars On Terror[edit | edit source]

Following the September 11th attacks on the United States in 2001, president George W. Bush launched a U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden, the leader Al-Qaeda, the group responsible for 9/11. Eighteen months later, on March 20th, 2003, the United States launched an invasion of Iraq, after repeatedly accusing the nation's dictator, Saddam Hussein, of secretly harbor weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), which ultimately were not present. Although the invasions were initially popular with the general American populace, they began to lose their popularity in 2004, before public support in the nation's foreign policy collapsed in 2005. As a result, Bush's approval ratings collapsed along with public support in the wars, leading to a massive Democratic wave in 2006. This unpopularity peaked in 2007, with the troop surge of that year proving to be a breaking point for many Americans and further plummeting Bush's popularity. McCain found himself entering the 2008 presidential election with the albatross of the most unpopular presidency hung tight around his neck, already crippling his campaign.

The Great Recession[edit | edit source]

Thanks to neoliberal economic reforms passed under the Bill Clinton administration, namely the partial repeal of Glass-Steagal, the housing market became much more deregulated, resulting in housing prices becoming increasingly high. Compounded with banks increasing the number of loans given out to customers, a major housing bubble was created that was quickly reaching its breaking point by 2005. The housing market began to show signs of imminent crisis in 2006, before completely collapsing in 2007. With some of the largest banks of the time, namely Lehman Brothers, collapsing, the public's trust in the George W. Bush administration, particularly after early efforts to mitigate the economic downfall failed, went into freefall and saw his presidency reach an all-time low in approval ratings. The Democrats heavily capitalized on this, deriding the Republicans and their failure to properly handle the crisis, leading the massive Democratic wave in the Senate in 2008. With this, unable to openly attack the Bush presidency, McCain once again finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place, being forced into an impossible dilemma; support Bush, or lose the base?

2006 Midterm elections[edit | edit source]

Capitalizing on the historic unpopularity of the Republican party in the mid-to-late 2000s, the Democrats went all in on every statewide election in 2006. The Dems gained five Senate seats in 2006, winning in several ruby red states like Montana, Missouri, and Virginia, and took control of both the Senate and the House for the first time since 2001 and 1992 respectively. Similarly, in the gubernatorial elections, the Democrats picked up six governorships and held the rest, taking the majority of America's governorships for the first time since 1993. With massive momentum in the Dems' favor, the party entered the build-up to the 2008 presidential election with more hype than ever before, particularly after as the primary season started. Republicans, on the other hand, were mostly despondent, dealing with a demotivated base, widespread unpopularity and a despised administration.

Development[edit | edit source]

I wasn't a part of the development process for 2008, nor was I a part of the community at the time, so if someone more knowledgeable about that could fill in this section, that'd be great.

Release and Reception[edit | edit source]

Same as above.

References[edit | edit source]