How Hillary won and other unwritten campaign victory stories.

Dubious and far-fetched ideas.
Oct. 31 2008 4:31 PM

How Hillary Won

And other unwritten campaign victory stories.

Hillary Clinton. Click image to expand.
What a Hillary win might have looked like

No matter who wins Tuesday, within 48 hours, the newsmagazines will publish special issues explaining how he did it. That's right—even as you read this, reporters and editors for major national publications are working under the assumption that [your candidate here] lost! But that doesn't mean they're biased. It just means that they're planning ahead. Which got us to wondering: When a candidate loses, what happens to the story about how that candidate won? Below are a few stories that will never see the light of print.

How Hillary Won
Hillary Clinton's historic victory over John McCain was due largely to unprecedented turnout among women, who resented McCain's frequent use of the phrase "lipstick on a pig"—which, according to polls, many voters saw as a reference to Clinton. Meanwhile, McCain's selection for vice president, a little-known African-American police lieutenant from Bowie, Md., backfired, as the officer failed to attract disaffected African-Americans after Clinton's victory over Barack Obama. Clinton's victory followed a hard-fought primary, in which Democratic insurgent Obama racked up hundreds of delegates but ultimately faltered after Florida and Michigan were counted in full. Obama was also hampered by his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who rejected Obama's attempt to denounce him and launched a national "Damn America, Vote Obama" bus tour.

How Romney Won
It was one of the biggest reversals in election history: Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama in all 50 states. The collapse of the credit market was initially expected to help Obama, who promised a clean break from eight years of Republican economic policies. But Romney's business acumen, plus his new campaign slogan—"Money for Everyone"—gave him a boost among cash-strapped voters. Ultimately, Romney's decision to suspend his campaign and buy the U.S. Treasury sealed his victory.

How Huckabee Won
Mike Huckabee's victory can only be called miraculous. In February, pundits dismissed a Huckabee win as mathematically impossible. But by early March, McCain's lead had narrowed to 40 delegates. By late March, they were even. News media and official campaign delegate-counters were baffled. "He's not even winning states," said NBC's Chuck Todd at the time. "But he's still getting all their delegates." At one point, CNN's John King marveled at how his hands felt "guided" on the touch screen. Likewise, last night's tally showed Barack Obama winning 46 out of 50 states, yet according to every count, Huckabee somehow won more electoral votes.

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How Edwards Won
John Edwards' path to victory began with a stunning biographical video that aired during the Democratic National Convention, which depicted the candidate as a caring father, husband, and trial lawyer. The video and its sequels, produced by then-unheralded campaign consultant Rielle Hunter, became hugely popular on YouTube. Edwards has already said that he will allow Hunter "unprecedented access" to his administration and will post raw footage on her Web site.

How Paul Won
Ron Paul's victory over Barack Obama was made possible by a little-noticed rider Paul attached to a defense spending bill in September, which allowed voters to cast their ballots online. While Obama won an impressive 60 million votes, Paul racked up 7.18 x 1016 votes, more than all candidates in every past presidential election combined. In his acceptance speech, which Paul decided to let his supporters write by wiki, he said, "Tonight, Barack Obama got epic fail pwnage because he's a wangnut noob. w00t!"

How Giuliani Won
Rudy Giuliani can thank Osama Bin Laden for his victory over Barack Obama. When the most wanted terrorist alive released a new video in late October, the former mayor of New York City instantly recognized his surroundings as the basement of a Chelsea nightclub. Giuliani then led federal authorities to the hot spot, where he personally tackled Bin Laden. Footage of the raid was aired endlessly in the campaign's closing days, and the Giuliani campaign even bought a 30-minute block on Election Eve devoted to a play-by-play analysis of the incident.

How Gravel Won
Call it the first postmodern presidential campaign. Mike Gravel became the first person ever to win the presidency without uttering a single word at an election rally, interview, or debate. The strategy was adopted after the success of an early Gravel ad in which the candidate simply stared into the camera. The campaign's most memorable moment took place at the Democratic Convention in Denver, where a crowd of more than 90,000 sat in rapt attention as Gravel held the podium for 37 minutes while the party platform slowly scrolled across the large screen behind him. Voters said they preferred Gravel's cold stare to John McCain's health care plan by a 2-to-1 margin.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

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