Having participated in every Presidential election since 1960 as a reporter, commentator, Congressional assistant, delegate or activist, I am in a position to state without contradiction that there has been no election like this one in the past half century.
Think about it. This election is the first since 1952 without either a President or Vice President as a candidate. That was the year that General Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated former Governor Adlai E. Stevenson, which brought back the Republicans for the first time in 20 years. That fact alone caused the late NBC political guru Tim Russert to declare that he was so fortunate to be alive for this 2008 election which is in and of itself precedent-setting. Unfortunately Russert didn't live to see the outcome.
Secondly, it is difficult to remember that as the electoral season began before the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary all the pundits knew that the Democratic nominee would be Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and if she had a serious opponent it would be perhaps New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. The Republican nominee would be former New York Mayor Rudolph (Rudy) Giuliani. Who would be Giuliani's real challenger? Why, it would be former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. A funny thing happened on the way to the cutting-room floor, as we used to say.
Of course, the Democrats would have a woman on their ticket. The so-called women's groups were front and center in Hillary's campaign. Republicans never would have a woman on their ticket, we were led to believe. After all, to be a real woman you had to be liberal. The Democrats put forth an interesting cast of potential nominees. Former Senator Mike Gravel, of Alaska, emerged from obscurity to embarrass his fellow candidates. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, of Ohio, took the prize for taking the most far-out positions. Other candidates such as Senators Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Christopher J. Dodd were rather typical Democrats. They thought they could do well against Hillary because poll data showed she had high negatives. And then there was a freshman Senator with the unusual name of Barack Hussein Obama. He was a Black. Blacks had run for President before in Democratic primaries. They didn't do well. So how would a freshman Senator who only had been in federal office for a couple of years before he declared for the Presidency possibly survive against the heavyweights?