A South Indian town prays for Obama
Jan 3, 2008 - Primary race opens in western state of Iowa, where Obama surprises with 37.5 percent Democratic win. For Republicans, former governor and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee grabs an unexpected 34 percent.
Jan 7 - Emotions get the better of Clinton, who shows unaccustomed public tears in explaining to voters in a cafe why she wants to be president. She beats Obama, against projections.
January - Former president Bill Clinton stirs racial resentment in the South Carolina vote, saying civil rights activist Jesse Jackson had won South Carolina during the 1980s without winning the nomination. The implication was that black voters supported Obama because of his skin colour.
Feb 5 - Super Tuesday saw party elections in 24 states. The Obama-Clinton race tightens and raises fears of a divided party.US polls 2008: Lasting images
Former Republican Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney drops out.
March - After another four primaries, McCain emerges the winner in Republican race. Huckabee drops out.
March - YouTube shows clips of Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, railing against white people, claiming they infected blacks with AIDS and saying "God damn America" from the pulpit. Obama holds a highly praised speech about racism, in which he says blacks as well as whites are responsible for the continuing racial divide. In the end, he breaks with Wright.
April - Obama provokes religious voters by implying the reason white working men in Pennsylvania supported Clinton was because they cling to their guns and religion in economic hard times.
April/May - Obama appears ahead, but Clinton wins states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia, extending uncertainty yet drumming up interest in the race between two "firsts" - the first black and female in contention for a major party nomination.
June 3 - Obama seals the Democratic nomination with wins in South Dakota and Montana.The Obama Generation
July 24 - Obama travels to the Middle East and Europe, speaking to 200,000 people in Berlin and promising change for the whole world.
Aug 16 - McCain, Obama meet at a mega church in California to answer questions from the pastor. Obama sidesteps a question about when life begins. The Democratic platform supports legalized abortion.
Aug 23 - Obama, now 47, picks foreign policy heavyweight senator Joe Biden as his running mate to answer charges that McCain has stronger national security credentials.
Late August - Hillary and Bill Clinton give strong support at the Democratic Convention in Denver, Colorado, to Obama, presenting a unified party front.
August/September - Surprise coup by McCain, now 72, who nominates the little known Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Obama is ahead, but not by much margin.
September - Palin becomes the butt of parodies on comedy shows through the look-alike comedian Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live, for example. Liberal America may laugh, but fellow cultural conservatives form bigger crowds for her on the campaign trail than for McCain.
Sep 11 - Palin, a strong cultural conservative, gives her first television interview, and falls short in the eyes of critics in terms of her knowledge about national security and other issues.
Mid-September - The finance crisis, with bank collapses looming and government bailouts, hits the campaigns like a tidal wave, buoying Obama's support. McCain insists the fundamentals of the economy are strong.
Sep 24 - McCain puts his campaign on hold to rush back to Washington to help "fix" the crisis, but fails to secure support for the $700-billion rescue plan for Wall Street in the lower house of Congress.
Sep 26 - First Obama-McCain debate. Obama gets good marks, critics call him the winner.
Early October - Obama starts pulling ahead in the race.
Oct 2 - Palin-Biden debate. The young governor manages to avoid making big mistakes, which wins her positive reviews.
Oct 7 - Second Obama-McCain debate, where McCain is seen as cramped, bitter and angry while Obama is seen as presidential and calm.
Oct 15 - Final Obama-McCain debate. McCain gets good marks for being aggressive and lively, and introduces "Joe the Plumber" as the final icon of the election race.Six Handicaps For John McCain
The Ohio citizen rose to fame after a recorded campaign trail encounter with Obama, where he complains Obama's plans to remove Bush's tax cuts for the very rich might hurt his plans to own his own business.
End of October - Republicans charge Obama is a socialist because he wants to remove the tax cuts.