I ran as Edwards in a modified version of the 2008 game, where I majorly upped the starting cash for all the candidates to more realistic numbers. As I get sick of Guliani and McCain always winning the GOP nod, I turned them off. On the GOP side, Gingrich, Romney and Brownback were in the running. On the Democratic side, Clinton, Edwards, Biden and Vilsack were the contenders. I turned Badnarik on, as well.
The primaries were an interesting challenge. By using early turns to build ads and throw CPs into endorsements, I was able to go into January 08 with a ton of cash, footsoldiers and three pro-me and one anti-Clinton ad in my arsenal. I got most of the relevant Iowa, Arizona and New Hampshire endorsements, ran a set of newspaper ads to build momentum nationwide, and poured effort into the Arizona, Iowa and New Hampshire trifecta. I pulled ahead in Iowa and Arizona, and was closing the gap with Clinton in New Hampshire when Biden won Iowa in an upset (something like 75% of undecideds swung to him), throwing my momentum for a loop. Quickly, Clinton won New Hampshire with Biden in second, and Biden won Arizona, followed by Vilsack, then Clinton, then me.
I continued to lose primaries, but by churning through ads and working myself to a collapse, I kept some positive momentum going. Leaks against Clinton had brought me up to even with her in the polls, and I was able to knock Vilsack out by giving him PIPs for an endorsement. This finally gave me the push I needed to start winning primaries. I swept most of Super Tuesday, and in mid-March Biden dropped out and endorsed me. I was now projected to win around 1900 delegates, with Clinton coming in with the rest. But as we pushed through to the end of the primaries, my momentum turned negative, and my margin kept closing. It didn't close fast enough, though, and I still won the nomination. I couldn't convince Hillary to drop out or support me, but by mid-June I was able to get her to sign on as my Veep, giving me an uncontested convention. Yay for dramatic primaries!
The Republican side was interesting, as well. Gingrich and Romney started out neck and neck, both at about 30% with Brownback trailing badly. They traded off in terms of polling leads and primary wins until the southern primaries hit in March, at which point Gingrich pulled out ahead. Brownback endorsed Gingrich and the former speaker had driven off Governor Romney by early April. I had bumped all their money for the primaries up, but only Gingrich was aggressive about spending his cash.
Going into the general, I had about a 44-40 lead throughout most of the summer. States wobbled about in terms of electoral support, but I had a majority edge the whole time. After the conventions, the Republicans got more of a bounce than I did, but only electorally. I was still a few points ahead, about 47 to 42. In the scramble to win my nomination, I'd focused a lot on organization building, fundraising and issue knowledge, but I'd lagged in debate preparation. This would prove costly.
Gingrich spent money heavily in September, but I held back for October, building a full arsenal of three pro-me, one anti-Gingrich TV spots. Since I can't target "fair" states in the new game for ads, I just kept redoing my "strategy states" every week to include all states I was leading in by less than five points or trailing in by less then eight. In October, I ran hard with ads, which offset my repeated debate losses to Gingrich. I had saved up three medium-damage scandals against Gingrich, and let them all go one week at a time starting in mid-October. Gingrich never got a bounce out of his debate wins, began running low on cash, and i kept rotating in ads and stomping across the nation. It was clear I was going to win -- all the "swing" states were in Republican territory. I ran my campaign into debt and myself to the edge of collapse by the last day, but things looked great!
However, it's clear that despite running ahead, i never really closed the deal -- 10.6% of folks continued to be undecided up until the last day. That's probably what caused the crazy results:
It was a very decisive victory in my favor on election day. However, the results were often very surprising. Despite the fact that undecideds appeared to break heavily for me, Gingrich picked up all but one of the last-day "swing" states. Also, five states swapped columns at the last moment.
Polls showed me ahead in Oregon, but Gingrich won by 27,495 votes (49.7% to 47.8%).
Polls showed me ahead in Nevada, but Gingrich won by 1,455 votes (49.1% to 48.9%).
Polls showed me ahead in South Carolina, but Gingrich won by 93,561 votes (51.7% to 46.1%, not even close).
Polls showed Gingrich ahead in Kentucky, but I won by 45,358 votes (49.2% to 46.6%).
Polls showed Gingrich ahead in Alaska, but amazingly I won by 16,897 votes (49.5% to 43%).
Some might think these results are "problematic," but I'm thrilled -- it's realistic in my mind that per-state polling should be wrong, and aside from Alaska, none of these mostly-narrow wins are beyond the realm of reality. Clearly what was happening was that Republican voters weren't moving towards Gingrich as fast as Democrats moved to me, but eventually they did come home. And while I won the undecided voters at the last minute nationwide, those voters must have been clustered in the heavily-Democratic states that I won by landslides, because they surely weren't the deciding factor in the swing states or Nevada or Oregon!
Also, when states started to break in unexpected, but realistic, ways, it added drama to an election night that was expected to be (and, truly, ended up being) a blow-out.
The closest state was Mississippi, where I took 561,693 votes, and Gingrich beat me with 561,768 votes -- a 75-vote margin of victory, less than 1/1000 of the number of votes taken by the Libertarian.
The one bug I think is present in the game and in play here is that too many last-minute deciders go with a third party candidate. Badnarik's vote percentage nearly doubled between the last day polls and the final results. That shouldn't happen.