Election 2004 Timeline

Dean Enters Year Ahead
Jan. 1
The year began with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean having a seemingly insurmountable edge in money and momentum toward the Democratic presidential nomination. With just 17 days before the Iowa caucuses and the first votes of the 2004 campaign, both public surveys and private polls gave Dean an edge in the first all-important contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Rivals Hone Their Stop-Dean Strategies
Dean Works to Smooth The Edges

Kerry Wins Iowa
Jan. 19
Riding a late surge of support, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) scored a commanding come-from-behind victory in the Iowa Democratic caucuses with 38 percent of the delegates. Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) finished in a surprisingly strong second place with 32 percent. Former front-runner Howard Dean finished as a distant third with 18 percent. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) got only 11 percent of the vote, leading him to drop out of the race.
Kerry Scores Comeback Iowa Victory
Kerry Gets a Lift Into New Hampshire

Bush's State of the Union Address
Jan. 20
President Bush devoted his State of the Union address to a vigorous and sometimes combative defense of his record as president, calling the United States a "nation with a mission" that has made the right decisions to invade Iraq, cut taxes, and reshape its education and health care laws.
Bush Defends Iraq War, Economic Policy
More Coverage of the State of the Union

Kerry Wins Another in New Hampshire
Jan. 27
Kerry scored a decisive victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary, easily defeating Howard Dean in a state where he was virtually written off barely a month earlier. In the coming weeks, continuing primary wins by Kerry would push Dean, Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) out of the race in February.
Kerry Wins New Hampshire as Dean's Rebound Falls Short
Winner Drew Strength From Study of Weakness

Bush's National Guard Service Attacked
Early February
Democrats attacked Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. Bush's campaign mounted a vigorous defense against the charges. A slew of documents on the president's military record - some obtained by the press and some released by the White House - became public, sustaining the controversy for most of the month.
Bush's Guard Service In Question
Bush's Military Record Defended
Guard Records On President Are Released
1973 Document Puts Bush on Guard Base
Many Gaps In Bush's Guard Records
Few Can Offer Confirmation Of Bush's Guard Service

Mass. Court Backs Gay Marriage
Feb. 4
The high court in Massachusetts declared that the state legislature may not offer "civil union" instead of marriage for same-sex couples, which paved the way for the first state-recognized same-sex marriages in U.S. history. Previously in November, the court ruled that gay marriage is a right but had not clarified whether civil unions satisfied the ruling.
Mass Court Backs Gay Marriage
Gay Marriage Is A Right Massachusetts Court Rules (Nov. 19, 2003)

Bush Meets the Press
Feb. 8
In an hour-long interview by Tim Russert, on NBC's "Meet the Press," Bush, acknowledged that he was apparently wrong in stating on the eve of war with Iraq that there was "no doubt" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He also defended as his Vietnam-era service in the National Guard and committed to the release of additional records to quell a renewed controversy over whether he fulfilled his military obligation.
Bush Was Surprised at Lack of Iraqi Arms

Bush Supports Gay Marriage Ban Amendment
Feb. 24
Less than two weeks after gay couples began marrying in San Francisco, Bush called for a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of men and women, asserting that gay marriage would weaken society.
Bush Backs Amendment Banning Gay Marriage
Transcript of Bush’s Speech
San Francisco Opens Marriage to Gay Couples
Full Coverage of the Debate Over Gay Marriage

Kerry Wins Democratic Nomination
March 2
With a coast-to-coast string of Super Tuesday victories, Kerry locked up the Democratic presidential nomination. Kerry's last significant challenger, Edwards, then ended his campaign and the general election race kicked-off between Kerry and President Bush.
Kerry Locks Up the Nomination
Bush-Kerry Battle Begins

Bush Campaign Begins
March 3
Bush kicked off his general-election campaign at a $2,000-a-plate dinner in Los Angeles. The president mentioned Kerry by name for the first time and launched a two-day, $5 million fundraising spree in the nation's largest state.
President Launches Reelection Campaign
The Challenger Gets Mentioned Early
In Private, Bush Sees Kerry as Formidable Foe

Poll Track
March 4-7
Bush: 48
Kerry: 44

Clarke’s 9/11 Commission Testimony
March 24
Richard A. Clarke's appearance before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States climaxed days of furor over claims in his book that the Bush administration did not do enough to pursue al Qaeda before Sept. 11, 2001, and has neglected the war on terrorism since then because of an obsession with waging war on Iraq.
Ex-Aide Recounts Terror Warnings
White House Counters Ex-Aide
The Book On Richard Clarke
Transcript: Clarke Testimony
Bush's Efforts to Offset Clarke Stymied
More Testimony, Reports From the 9/11 Commission

Rice’s 9/11 Commission Testimony
April 8
In the wake of the allegations by Clarke, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice staunchly defended President Bush's efforts to combat terrorism in a long-awaited appearance before the 9/11 panel.
Rice Defends Pre-9/11 Anti-Terrorism Efforts
Transcript: Rice Testimony
More Testimony, Reports From the 9/11 Commission

Bush’s Press Conference
April 13
In Bush's first prime-time news conference since the war in Iraq began, Bush signaled that he expects to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and vowed that insurgents leading a violent uprising against the American occupation will not "run us out of Iraq."
Bush Acknowledges 'Tough' Weeks
Shales: A Prime Time to Ask The President Questions

“Plan of Attack”
April 16
In a new book on the origins of the Iraq war, Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward described an intensive war plan throughout 2002 that created its own momentum, fueled in part by the CIA's conclusion that Saddam Hussein could not be removed from power except through a war and CIA Director George J. Tenet's assurance to the president that it was a "slam dunk" case that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Excerpts from "Plan of Attack" by Bob Woodward:
Part One: Deciding on War
Part Two: Making the Case
Part Three: Cabinet Divided
Part Four: The Special Relationship
Part Five: Countdown to War

Poll Track
April 15-18
Bush: 48
Kerry: 43

Abu Ghraib
April 28
CBS's "60 Minutes II" first exposed details of abuses to prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In the following weeks, more documents and photos would be uncovered and several soldiers would be charged in connection with the acts.
U.S. Tries to Calm Furor Caused by Photos
Prisoner Abuse Probe Widened
Bush Apologizes for Abuse of Prisoners
Kerry Challenges Bush on Iraq Abuse
Terry M. Neal: The Politics of Abu Ghraib

More on Abu Ghraib Prison:
Photos | Video | Timeline | Documents | More Coverage

9/11 Panel Questions Bush and Cheney
April 29
The commission questioned President Bush and Vice President Cheney for more than three hours in a historic Oval Office meeting. Bush described the session as "wide-ranging" and "very cordial.
9/11 Panel Questions Bush and Cheney
More Testimony, Reports From the 9/11 Commission

Spheres of Influence: The Bush Campaign Pioneers
May 16
A Washington Post series examined the connections between President Bush and his campaign Pioneers-- those who raised at least $100,000 for the campaign from people in increments $1,000 or less.
Interactive Graphic: Spheres of Influence
Part 1: Pioneers Fill War Chest, Then Capitalize
Part 2: Fundraiser Denies Link

Gay Couples Wed In Mass.
May 17
Massachusetts formally became the first state to allow same-sex marriages as more than 600 gay couples rushed to town halls and courthouses across the state.
Gay Couples Marry In Mass.
Video Feature: Massachussetts Redefines Marriage
Full Coverage of the Debate Over Gay Marriage

Bush Gives Speech on Iraq
May 24
In an address to the nation, Bush called for demolishing Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and vowed that the United States would succeed in turning Iraq from violence and chaos to democracy and peace.
Bush Seeks to Reassure Nation on Iraq

Poll Track
May 20-23
Bush: 46
Kerry: 46

Bad Signs For Bush In History

George Tenet Resigns
June 3
Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet, who presided over intelligence failures and successes of historic proportions, announced that he would resign effective July 11. Bush named deputy director John E. McLaughlin as acting director.
Tenet Resigns as CIA Director

Ronald Reagan 1911-2004
June 5
Former president Ronald Wilson Reagan died at age 93, ten years after he announced that he had Alzheimer's disease. His death put the campaign on hold for a week of remembrances in California and Washington.
Ronald Reagan Dies
Actor, Governor, President, Icon
Reagan Events Put Race on Brief Hold
Reagan Hailed as Leader for ‘the Ages’
Words of Praise From Father and Son
More Coverage on Reagan

Poll Track
June 17-20
Kerry: 48
Bush: 44

Bill Clinton’s Book
June 22
Bill Clinton's long-awaited memoir, "My Life," is released with an unprecedented publicity rollout that turned the political focus on Clinton's presidency and personal problems.
Clinton's Memoir Ushers In Different Wave of Nostalgia
Bill Clinton's Very Personal Reflections
Clinton's Book Tells of Strains on Marriage
Clinton's Focus on Personal May Have a Cost

"Fahrenheit 9/11" Opens
June 25
"Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's scathing attack on Bush and the administration's response to 9/11, opened to record weekend for a documentary.
Terry M. Neal: Buzz Around Moore's Movie May Be Able to Shake the Election
Incendiary 'Fahrenheit' Is No Box Office Bomb
'Fahrenheit 9/11' Is a Red-Hot Ticket

Transfer of Sovereignty in Iraq
June 28
The United States transferred political authority to an interim Iraqi government in a five-minute surprise ceremony, accelerating the planned handover by two days
U.S. Hands Authority To Iraq Two Days Early
A Grand Mission Ends Quietly
Kerry Urges More Effort On Iraq Aid

Kerry Picks Edwards
July 6
Kerry tapped his one-time rival Sen. John Edwards as his running mate at a rally in Pittsburgh. The announcement ended a long and secretive process in which Kerry and his team scoured through a list of about 25 names and consulted about 300 people before settling on the man whom many Democratic activists considered the obvious and most politically popular choice from the beginning.
Kerry Picks Edwards as Running Mate
Analysis: Two on Democratic Ticket Have Similar Records
Under Relaxed Exterior, a Complex Man
More on Edwards

Poll Track
July 8-11
Kerry: 46
Bush: 46

Senate Iraq Intelligence Report
July 9
A bipartisan Senate investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report saying the U.S. intelligence community gave lawmakers debating whether to wage war on Iraq a deeply flawed and exaggerated assessment of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
Panel Condemns Iraq Prewar Intelligence
Text of the Report Chapter by Chapter

Release of the 9/11 Commission Report
July 22
The 9/11 panel released a 567-page final report that said the U.S. government was utterly unprepared on Sept. 11, 2001, to protect the American people from al Qaeda terrorists, who outwitted and outmaneuvered a bureaucracy that had never seriously addressed them as a threat and had never fathomed the possibility of such a calamitous assault on U.S. soil. Adoption of the recommendations from the panel sparked debate between the campaigns and in Congress.
9/11 Panel Chronicles U.S. Failures
The 567-Page Story Of a Humbled America
Text: The Full Report
Timeline of 9/11 Commission Testimony

Poll Track
July 22-25
Bush: 48
Kerry: 46

The Democratic Convention
July 26-29
Kerry formally accepted the Democratic presidential nomination after a four-day convention in Boston highlighted by speeches from former president Bill Clinton, Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama and vice presidential candidate John Edwards. In Kerry's acceptance speech, he declared 'America Can Do Better,' repeatedly challenged Bush's credibility, and charged that the Republican incumbent presents a pose of strength but not the reality.
Kerry: 'America Can Do Better'
Edwards Tells Democrats 'Hope Is on the Way'
More From the Convention

Poll Track
July 30 – Aug. 1
Kerry: 50
Bush: 44

Kerry’s Military Record Attacked
A veterans group, known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, released a campaign ad and book that sought to discredit much of Kerry's war record in Vietnam. The accusation set off controversy that was difficult for the Kerry campaign to counteract.
Swift Boat Accounts Incomplete
Records Counter a Critic of Kerry
After Decades, Renewed War On Old Conflict
Kerry Says Group Is a Front For Bush
McCain Criticizes Ad Attacking Kerry

Bush Picks Goss for CIA
August 10
Bush nominated Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), a CIA officer-turned-politician, as director of central intelligence to replace Tenet who resigned in June. The Senate confirmed Goss on September 22.
Bush Nominates Rep. Goss to Run CIA
Bush to Seek Widening of Intelligence Job
Goss Hailed as Old Pro, Assailed as Partisan
Senate Confirms Rep. Goss as Intelligence Director

McGreevey Resigns as New Jersey Governor
Aug. 12
N.J. Gov. James E. McGreevey surprised New Jersey and the nation by announcing his resignation after stating that he was a "gay American" who had an affair with a man.
N.J. Governor Resigns Over Gay Affair

Poll Track
Aug. 26 – 29
Kerry: 48
Bush: 48

The Republican Convention
Aug. 30 – Sept 2
Bush formally accepted the Republican presidential nomination after a four-day convention in New York. Featured speakers at the convention included Sen. John McCain, former New York Major Rudy Giuliani, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) and Vice President Cheney. In Bush's acceptance speech, he promised "a safer world" and framed his reelection as crucial to the spread of democracy across the world and to the security of Americans at home.
Bush Promises 'a Safer World'
Cheney Calls Kerry Unfit
More From the Convention

Bill Clinton’s Heart
Sept. 3
The day after the Republican convention, former president Bill Clinton was hospitalized in New York after tests revealed he is suffering from dangerous blockage of his coronary arteries. He underwent heart bypass surgery three days later, but his recovery made him unable to campaign for Kerry as originally planned.
Clinton Set For Bypass Operation
Clinton's Heart Bypass Surgery Called A Success

Poll Track
Sept 6-8
Bush: 50
Kerry: 44

CBS Documents Controversy
Sept. 9
After CBS's "60 Minutes Wednesday" aired a report on Bush's National Guard service, critics raised questions about the authenticity of documents used in the story. CBS News and anchor Dan Rather later apologized for the report.
Original Story: Records Say Bush Balked at Order
Some Question Authenticity of Papers on Bush
Rather Concedes Papers Are Suspect
In Rush to Air, CBS Quashed Memo Worries
Rather Admits 'Mistake in Judgment'

First Presidential Debate
Sept. 30
The first debate between Bush and Kerry focused mostly on Iraq, with the senator charging that the war was a diversion from the more important war against al Qaeda and the president defending the conflict as crucial to the nation's security.
Iraq Takes Center Stage in Debate
Debate Referee: Video, Transcript and Fact Check
Full Debate Coverage

Poll Track
Oct. 1-3
Bush: 51
Kerry: 46

Washington Post Tracking Poll Begins

Vice Presidential Debate
Oct. 5
The only debate between Cheney and Edwards was hard-hitting and sometimes personal, with Iraq and terrorism dominating the discussion. Cheney accused the Democratic ticket of lacking the judgment to lead and Edwards responded by saying that Cheney and Bush lacked credibility.
Cheney and Edwards Go Toe to Toe
Debate Referee: Video, Transcript and Fact Check
Full Debate Coverage

Iraq Survey Group Report
Oct. 6
The chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles A. Duelfer, released a report that contradicted many prewar assertions made by top administration officials about Iraq. Both campaigns used the report to further their arguments over the Iraq war.
Report on Iraq Contradicts Bush Administration Claims
Text of the Report
Candidates Use Arms Report to Make Case

Second Presidential Debate
Oct. 8
In a 90-minute town-hall-style debate, Bush and Kerry sharply disagreed on a wide range of issues from national security and the economy to health care and stem cell research.
A Debate on Iraq and the Home Front
Debate Referee: Video, Transcript and Fact Check
Full Debate Coverage

Third Presidential Debate
Oct. 13
Bush and Kerry's final debate focused on domestic issues with Kerry charging that the president has compiled a record of failure on the economy and health care, and Bush accusing Kerry of a Senate record that is both out of the mainstream and lacking in accomplishment.
A Deep Divide on Domestic Front
Debate Referee: Video, Transcript and Fact Check
Full Debate Coverage

Compiled by Kevin Hechtkopf, Ed O'Keefe and Mike Santa Rita

© 2004 The Washington Post Company