Organization, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and no clear McCain message. These are the major factors in the Obama victory.
Barack Obama had the best ground game we may have ever seen in a Presidential campaign. He built his organization much the same way Howard Dean had done in the 2004 Presidential Primaries ---- through the internet. This organization registered voters in record numbers, they knocked on doors, they made phone calls, they held house parties, and they raised money $5, $10, and $20 at a time. They kept in touch through Obama's version of Myspace (mybarachobama.com).
Obama raised more money than any other candidate in US history. He did this through millions of individual donors. Yes, he had his fair share of max donors ($2300.00 per person,) but the vast majority of his donors gave donations of under $200. Through the October 1, 2008, 3.1 million people had donated to the Obama campaign.
There was a lot of discussion during the primaries that centered on whether or not the long primary campaign against Hillary Clinton would help or hurt Obama. There is now no question that he was helped by that long primary campaign. It allowed Obama to create an organization in every state. That organization was never disbanded, and continued to exist and work all the way through November 4th. It allowed Obama to continue voter registration, continue fundraising, continue making phone calls, continue knocking on doors, and most importantly to get out the vote in early voting and on election day. The extended primary also made Obama grow as a candidate. Hillary threw everything at him, and he withstood the onslaught. It just goes to prove that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
George W. Bush was also the heavy weight anchor that McCain could never shake. He was a constant thorn in the McCain change mantra. Bush so damaged the Republican brand that he was not part of the McCain effort nor the effort of any major Republican candidate seeking election or re-election. McCain was the GOP's best hope, because he had on occasion broken from Bush or at least had an image of breaking with the President.
George W. Bush left us with a $10 trillion national debt, two never-ending wars, an economy in shambles, a terrible image abroad, and an aura of incompetence not seen since the Grant administration. We do not believe any Republican could have won in that environment.
SarahPalin. What can we say about her that hasn't already been said. Palin was a train wreck. Although she invigorated the base, she alienated everyone else by her utter lack of knowledge. She was everything they used to say about Obama --- an empty suit. McCain took away one of his strongest arguments against Obama by choosing Palin. McCain's questions on Obama's experience came right back to him with Palin.
After the initial fascination with Palin, she became a serious drag on the ticket. Even conservatives like George Will and David Brooks questioned Palin's readiness. She never attracted the disgruntled Hillary voters, and who besides a deluded conservative ever thought she would. She was the anti-Hillary. She was on the wrong side of almost every issue which Hillary held dear. Her stance on abortion was enough to turn the stomach of mos Hillary supporters.
Finally, we turn to the lack of a coherent message. McCain went from "Obama's a celebrity" to "I'm suspending my campaign" to "Obama's a socialist." Every week, if not every news cycle we saw a reinvention of the McCain campaign. The original message of experience versus inexperience rang hollow with the choice of Palin.
Obama, on the other hand, stayed on-message and appeared calm, cool, and Presidential through it all.