Who Barack Obama Has Run Against And What Happened

Barack Hussein Obama was the 44th president of the United States and served in that position from January 20, 2009 to January 20, 2017. Before serving as president, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate representing Illinois. Offices and position that Obama has run for include the U.S. Congress, Illinois State Senate, U.S. Senate, the Democratic nomination for president, and for President of the United States.

Obama ran for office against David Whitehead and Yesse Yehudah (Illinois State Senate seat), Bobby Rush (U.S. Congress), Daniel Hynes and Alan Keyes (U.S. Senate), Hillary Clinton (Democratic Presidential Nomination), and John McCain and Mitt Romney (President of the United States).

What follows is an overview of all the candidates Barack Obama has run against in all his political campaigns and the outcome of those elections.

Barack Obama Election Opponents

YearMain OpponentOfficeElection ResultOutcome for Obama
1996David WhiteheadIllinois State SenateObama 82.15%, Whitehead 12.61%Obama elected to Illinois State Senate
1998Yesse YehudahIllinois State SenateObama 89%, Yehudah 11%Obama re-elected to Illinois State Senate
2000Bobby RushIllinois 1st Congressional District Democratic PrimaryRush 61.03%, Obama 30.36%Obama lost nomination to Bobby Rush
2002UnopposedIllinois State SenateObama 100%Obama re-elected to Illinois State Senate
2004Daniel HynesU.S. Senate (IL) Democratic PrimaryObama 52.8%, Hynes 23.7%Obama won Democratic nomination
2004Alan KeyesU.S. SenateObama 70%, Keyes 27%Obama elected to U.S. Senate
2008Hillary ClintonDemocratic Presidential NominationObama 48.1%, Clinton 48%Obama won Democratic nomination
2008John McCainU.S. Presidential ElectionObama 52.9%, McCain 45.7%Obama elected President of the United States
2012UnopposedDemocratic Presidential NominationObama 88.9%, Uncommitted 6.1% Obama re-nominated as Democratic presidential nominee
2012Mitt RomneyU.S. Presidential ElectionObama 51.1%, Romney 47.2%Obama re-elected President of the United States
Barack Obama's election opponents and the results of those elections

1996 Illinois State Senate Campaign

Obama first ran for Illinois State Senate in 1996. That election was Obama’s first political campaign and first win. He ran for the seat in Illinois’ 13th Legislative District. Obama ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination and won it on March 19, 1996.

His main opponent in the general election was David Whitehead who ran with the Harold Washington Party. Also running in the 1996 race was Republican Party candidate Rosette Caldwell Peyton.

In the general election on November 5, 1996, Obama won with 82.15% of the vote (48,592 votes). Whitehead received 12.61% of the vote (7,461 votes) and Peyton won 5.22% of the vote (3,091 votes).

Obama was sworn in to office on January 8, 1997.

1998 Illinois State Senate Campaign

On March 17, 1998, Obama won the Democratic nomination for the senate seat in Illinois’ 13th Legislative District, running unopposed. In the general election, his primary opponent was Yesse Ben Yehudah, a Republican.

Obama defeated Yehudah, earning 89.17% of the vote (45,486 votes) while Yehudah received 10.83% of the vote (5,526 votes).

2000 U.S. Congress Campaign

While still serving as a state senator, Obama chose to run against Rep. Bobby Rush for the U.S. Congress in Illinois’ 1st Congressional District. Rush defeated Obama in the Democratic primary and is the only candidate to ever beat Obama in an election. In the primary which was held on March 21, 2000, Rush received 61.03% of the vote (59,599 votes) and Obama received 30.36% of the vote (29,649 votes).

2002 Illinois State Senate Campaign

Obama ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the senate seat in Illinois’ 13th Legislative District and won. In the general election, Obama also did not have an opponent and won, receiving 48,717 votes.

2004 U.S. Senate Campaign

Obama ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, defeating Daniel Hynes for the Democratic nomination and Republican nominee Alan Keyes in the general election.

On March 16, 2004, Obama received 52.8% of the vote in the Democratic Senate primary (655,923 votes) while Daniel Hynes, his top competitor, got 23.7% of the vote (294,717 votes). After winning this election, Obama became the Democratic Party’s official nominee.

Barack Obama debating Alan Keyes in 2004
Barack Obama debating Alan Keyes in 2004

In the general election, Obama faced former Reagan administration official and conservative pundit Alan Keyes, the Republican Party’s nominee. Keyes became the nominee after Jack Ryan, who had won the nomination, withdrew from the race after court documents filed in divorce proceedings with Star Trek actress Jeri Ryan included allegations that he had forced her to perform sexual acts on him in public.

2008 Democratic Presidential Nomination

Hillary Clinton - 2008 Democratic Convention Speech
Hillary Clinton – 2008 Democratic Convention Speech

Obama ran for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008, defeating all the other candidates, most notably Hillary Clinton, who was then a U.S. Senator representing New York.

The major candidates that Obama defeated while seeking the nomination were Hillary Clinton, and Sen. John Edwards.

During the Democratic primary, Obama received 48.1% of the votes cast (17.5 million votes) while Clinton received 48% of the votes (17.4 million votes) and Edwards won 2.7% of the votes (1 million votes).

Obama earned the most delegates during the primary, securing the support of 2,272.5 delegate votes (1,794.5 pledged delegates and 478 superdelegates) and Clinton had 1,978 delegate votes (1,731.5 pledged delegates and 246.5 superdelegates).

After losing to Obama, Clinton was nominated by Obama to serve as Secretary of State for the United States and served in that position after being confirmed by the Senate from 2009 to 2013.

2008 Presidential Election

John McCain - 2008 Election Concession Speech
John McCain – 2008 Election Concession Speech

In the 2008 presidential election, Obama defeated Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

Obama’s running mate was Senator Joe Biden while McCain ran with Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska.

On November 4, 2008, Obama received 52.9% of the popular vote (69.4 million votes) while McCain earned 45.7% of the vote (59.9 million votes).

Obama secured 365 electoral votes of the 270 required to win. He did this by winning the electoral votes of 28 states, Washington, D.C. and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. McCain came up short, winning 173 electoral votes by winning election races in 22 states.

Obama’s victory over McCain led to the leadership of the White House switching from Republican (George W. Bush) to Democratic. Obama was sworn in as President of the United States of America on January 20, 2009. When Obama was sworn in he became the first Black person to hold the office.

2012 Presidential Election

Mitt Romney - 2012 Election Concession Speech
Mitt Romney – 2012 Election Concession Speech

In the 2012 presidential election, Obama defeated Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

Obama’s running mate was Vice President Joe Biden and Romney’s running mate was Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

On election day on November 6, 2012, Obama won 51.1% of the popular vote (65.9 million votes) while Romney earned 47.2% of the vote (60.9 million votes).

Obama won 332 of the 270 electoral votes required to win the election. He won the race in 26 states and Washington, D.C. Romney won 206 electoral votes after winning the presidential race in 24 states.

After defeating Romney, Obama was sworn in for his second and final term as President of the United States on January 20, 2013. Obama served as president until January 20, 2017 when he was succeeded by President Donald Trump.

After losing to Obama, Romney ran for the U.S. Senate for Utah in 2018 and won.

Can Obama Run For Office Again?

Barack Obama - Second Inauguration 2013
Barack Obama – Second Inauguration 2013

Obama cannot legally run for the office of President of the United States again. The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that a president can only serve for two four-year terms. Obama served his two terms from 2009 to 2013 and then from 2013 to 2017.

Obama is eligible to run for other positions like the U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress, though he is unlikely to do so. There is historical precedent for running for office after holding the presidency. William Howard Taft served as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court after serving one term as president (from 1909 to 1913). Andrew Johnson served as president (from 1865-1869) and then was elected to the U.S. Senate and John Quincy Adams was elected to the U.S. Congress after serving as president (from 1825 to 1829).

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