The road to the White House, as the Beatles might have said, is long and winding -- and the 2008 contest is no exception. Campaigning started earlier than ever, with candidates running at a breakneck pace a year before any votes were cast. The road includes major stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, a semi-national primary on February 5, national party conventions in Denver, Colorado, and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, a national
Election Day in November and a meeting of the Electoral College in December -- with dozens of filing deadlines and thousands of fundraisers, chicken dinners and campaign stops along the way. And it all leads to Inauguration Day in January 2009, when the new president and vice president take office on the steps of the Capitol in Washington.
The early primary season did little to determine a solid front-runner for either party's nomination. Each of three Republican front-runners won somewhere in the early races, while Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton traded states, each seemingly capable of winning the party's nod.
Voters cast ballots in 24 states on Super Tuesday, but did not decide either party's nomination. On the Democratic side, Barack Obama won more states than Hillary Clinton, but Clinton won states with higher delegate counts. In the Republican race, John McCain gained an edge for his party's nomination but could not finish off his rivals.
Am. Samoa primary
1 of 3
New Jersey primaries
New Mexico primary
New York primaries
2 of 3
North Dakota caucuses
W. Virginia convention
3 of 3
February (other dates)
Following Super Tuesday, Democrat Barack Obama won a string of contests -- including primaries and caucuses in Virginia, Maryland, Washington and Maine -- and built a considerable lead among pledged delegates. Republican John McCain, meanwhile, closed in on his party's nomination.
Virgin Islands caucuses
1 of 2
Am. Samoa caucuses
N. Marianas convention
Puerto Rico convention
2 of 2
John McCain clinched the Republican Party nomination by winning Ohio and Texas with considerable margins on March 4. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won three of the four states on March 4 -- Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island -- giving her campaign a much needed boost. Her rival, Barack Obama, however, still held a substantial pledged delegate lead at night's end.
Democrat Hillary Clinton won the state of Pennsylvania by nearly 10 percentage points, casting doubts on rival Democrat Barack Obama's ability to close out the primary race. All eyes turned to early May, with contests scheduled in Indiana and North Carolina.
Democrat Barack Obama crushed fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton in North Carolina and kept it close in Indiana, bringing him to the brink of the party's nomination on May 6. He clinched the nomination on June 3, the final day of the Democratic primary season. His rival, Hillary Clinton, conceded the race a few days later.
Party conventions were once smoke-filled settings for backroom deals where the nominees emerged after long negotiations and multiple floor votes. See how conventions work
With nominations sewn up during the primaries and caucuses, the modern convention is essentially an opportunity for party activists to network and for the party to unify after the primary season and get its message out ahead of the final sprint to Election Day. See some memorable moments in convention history
Delegates wave signs during the Republican National Convention in August, 2004.
The presidential prize is in sight as the nation's registered voters head to the polls on the first Tuesday in November to decide who'll lead the country.
November 4 is Election Day in 2008, with polls opening as early as midnight in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, and finally closing in Hawaii and Alaska.
Although polls across the country are open on one day, the election is not a national poll
but a series of 51 state-level elections that decide the members of the Electoral College. Technically, voters aren't choosing a candidate but a slate of electors who have pledged to vote for that candidate when the Electoral College meets.
The candidate who wins the most votes in each state normally wins all of that state's electoral
1 of 2
votes. With 538 electors up for grabs, the candidate with more than half -- 270 -- wins the presidency. The number of electors from each state equals the number of senators and representatives the state sends to Congress. If no candidate receives 270 electors, the House of Representatives decides who the next president will be.
The Electoral College meets in December to formalize the election, although the results are usually known soon after the election, and
preparations already have begun for a presidential transition (if necessary) and the inaugural ceremony on the Capitol steps on January 20.
2 of 2
It's where you get a chance to predict the future of 2008 presidential politics. Start trading now!
Learn about the history behind presidential debates and see a calendar of this year's schedule.
Before you cast your ballot on Election Day, see where the candidates stand on the issues.
Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Electoral College.
Iowa caucuses 101
Because they take place before any primaries, the Iowa caucuses play a unique role in American politics.