The United States presidential elections of 1992 featured a battle between incumbent President Republican George H. W. Bush; Democrat Bill Clinton, the Governor of Arkansas; and independent candidate Ross Perot, a Texas businessman. Bush had alienated much of his conservative base by breaking his 1988 campaign pledge against raising taxes, the economy was in a recession, and Bush's perceived greatest strength, foreign policy, was regarded as much less important following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the relatively peaceful climate in the Middle East after the defeat of Iraq in the Gulf War. Clinton won a plurality in the popular vote, and a wide U.S. Electoral College margin.
Republican Party nominationEdit
George H. W. Bush, President of the United States from Texas
Pat Buchanan, conservative columnist from Virginia
Conservative journalist Pat Buchanan was the primary opponent of President Bush. However, Buchanan's best showing was in the New Hampshire primary on 2/18/1992 - where Bush won by a 53-38% margin. President Bush won 73% of all primary votes, with 9,199,463 votes. Buchanan won 2,899,488 votes; unpledged delegates won 287,383 votes, and Duke won 119,115 votes. Just over 100,000 votes were cast for all other candidates, half of which were write-in votes for H. Ross Perot  President George H. W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle easily won renomination by the Republican Party. However, the success of the conservative opposition forced the moderate Bush to move further to the right than in 1988, and to incorporate many socially conservative planks in the party platform. Bush allowed Buchanan to give the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Houston, and his culture war speech alienated many moderates. David Duke also entered the Republican primary, but performed poorly at the polls. With intense pressure on the Buchanan delegates to relent, the tally for president went as follows:
- George H. W. Bush 2166
- Pat Buchanan 18
- former ambassador Alan Keyes 1
Vice President Dan Quayle was renominated by voice vote.
Democratic Party nominationEdit
- Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas
- Former Governor Jerry Brown of California
- Former Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts
- Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska
- Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa
- Governor Douglas Wilder of Virginia
After the successful performance by U.S. and coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush's approval ratings were 89%. His re-election was considered very likely. As a result, several high profile candidates such as Mario Cuomo refused to seek the Democratic Nomination for President. In addition, Senator Al Gore refused to seek the nomination due to the fact his son was struck by a car and was undergoing extensive surgery as well as physical therapy. However, several candidates such as Tom Harkin, Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown, Bob Kerrey, and Bill Clinton chose to run. U. S. Senator Tom Harkin (Iowa) ran as a populist liberal with labor union support. Former U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas (Massachusetts) highlighted his political independence and fiscal conservatism. Former California Governor Jerry Brown, who had run for the Democratic nomination in 1976 and 1980 while he was still Governor, declared a significant reform agenda, including Congressional term limits, campaign finance reform, and the adoption of a flat income tax. Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey was an attractive candidate based on his business and military background, but made several gaffes on the campaign trail. Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton positioned himself as a centrist, or New Democrat. He was still relatively unknown nationally before the primary season. That quickly changed however, when a woman named Gennifer Flowers appeared in the press to reveal allegations of an affair. Clinton rebutted the story by appearing on 60 Minutes with his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The primary season began with U. S. Senator Tom Harkin winning his native Iowa as expected. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts won the primary in New Hampshire on February 18 but Clinton's second place finish, helped by his speech labeling himself “The Comeback Kid," energized his campaign. Jerry Brown won the Maine caucus and Bob Kerrey won South Dakota. Clinton won his first primary in Georgia. Tsongas won the Utah and Maryland primaries and a caucus in Washington. Harkin won caucuses in Idaho and Minnesota while Jerry Brown won Colorado. Bob Kerrey dropped out two days later. Clinton won the South Carolina and Wyoming primaries and Tsongas won Arizona. Harkin dropped out. Jerry Brown won the Nevada caucus. Clinton swept nearly all of the Super Tuesday primaries on March 10 making him the solid front runner. Clinton won the Michigan and Illinois primaries. Tsongas dropped out after finishing 3rd in Michigan. Jerry Brown, however, began to pick up steam, aided by using a 1-800 number to receive funding from small donors. Brown scored surprising wins in Connecticut, Vermont and Alaska. As the race moved to the primaries in New York and Wisconsin, Brown had taken the lead in polls in both states. Then he made a serious gaffe by announcing to an audience of New York City's Jewish community that, if nominated, he would consider the Reverend Jesse Jackson as a Vice-Presidential candidate. Jackson, who had made a pair of anti-Semitic comments about Jews in general and New York City's Jews in particular while running for president in 1984, was still a widely hated figure in that community and Brown's polling numbers suffered. Clinton won dramatically in New York (41%-26%) and closely in Wisconsin (37%-34%). Clinton then proceeded to win a long streak primaries leading up to Jerry Brown's home state of California. Clinton won this primary 48% to 41% and secured the delegates needed to clinch the nomination. The convention met in New York City, and the official tally was:
- Bill Clinton 3,372
- Jerry Brown 596
- Paul Tsongas 289
- Robert P. Casey 10
- Pat Schroeder 5
- Larry Agran 3
- Al Gore 1
Clinton chose U.S. Senator Albert A. Gore Jr. (D-Tennessee) to be his running mate on July 9, 1992. Choosing fellow Southerner Gore went against the popular strategy of balancing a Southern candidate with a Northern partner. Gore did serve to balance the ticket in other ways, as he was perceived as strong on family values and environmental issues, while Clinton was not. Also, Gore's similarities to Clinton allowed him to push some of his key campaign themes, such as centrism and generational change. Perot candidacy The public's concern about the federal budget deficit and fears of professional politicians allowed the independent candidacy of billionaire Texan Ross Perot to explode on the scene in dramatic fashion - at one point Perot was leading the major party candidates in the polls. Perot crusaded against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), internal and external national debt, tapping into voters' potential fear of the deficit. His volunteers succeeded in collecting enough signatures to get his name on the ballot in all 50 states. In June, Perot led the national public opinion polls with support from 39% of the voters (versus 31% for Bush and 25% for Clinton). Perot severely damaged his credibility by dropping out of the presidential contest in July and remaining out of the race for several weeks before re-entering. He compounded this damage by eventually claiming, without evidence, that his withdrawal was due to Republican operatives attempting to disrupt his daughter's wedding..
The 1992 campaign also marked the entry of Ralph Nader into presidential politics as a candidate. Despite the advice of several liberal and environmental groups, Nader did not formally run. Rather, he tried to make an impact in the New Hampshire primaries, urging members of both parties to write-in "none of the above." As a result, several thousand Democrats and Republicans wrote-in Nader's own name. Despite supporting mostly liberal legislation during his career as a consumer advocate, Nader received more votes from Republicans than Democrats. The Libertarian Party nominated Andre Marrou, former Alaska representative and the Party's 1988 vice-presidential candidate, for President. Nancy Lord was his running mate. The Marrou/Lord ticket made the ballot in all fifty states plus Washington, D.C. and received 291,627 votes (0.28% of the popular vote). Former United States Army Special Forces officer and Vietnam veteran Bo Gritz was the nominee of the Populist Party. He received 106,152 votes nationwide (0.10% of the popular vote). Psychotherapist and political activist Lenora Fulani, who was the 1988 presidential nominee of the New Alliance Party, received a second consecutive nomination from the Party in 1992. Fulani and running mate Maria Elizabeth Munoz received 73,622 votes (0.07% of the popular vote). The U.S. Taxpayers Party ran its first presidential ticket in 1992, nominating conservative political activist Howard Phillips. Phillips and running mate Albion Knight, Jr. drew 43,369 votes (0.04% of the popular vote). The newly formed Natural Law Party nominated scientist and researcher John Hagelin for President and Mike Tompkins for Vice President. The party's first presidential ticket appeared on the ballot in 32 states and drew 39,000 votes (0.04% of the popular vote).
=Campaig=n After Bill Clinton secured the Democratic Party's nomination in the spring of 1992, polls showed Ross Perot leading the race, followed by President Bush, with Clinton in third place after a grueling nomination process. But as the economy continued to grow sour, the President's approval rating continued to slide, and the Democrats began to rally around their nominee. On July 9, 1992, Clinton chose Tennessee Senator and former 1988 Presidential candidate Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. to be his running mate. As Governor Clinton's nomination acceptance speech approached, Ross Perot dropped out of the race, convinced that staying in the race with a "revitalized Democratic Party" would cause the race to be decided by the U.S House of Representatives. Clinton gave his acceptance speech on July 17, 1992, promising to bring a "new covenant" to America, and to work to heal the perceived gap that had developed between the rich and the poor during the Reagan/Bush years. The Clinton campaign received the biggest convention "bounce" in history which brought him from 25 percent in the spring, behind Bush and Perot, to 55 percent versus Bush's 31 percent. After the convention, Clinton and Gore began a bus tour around the United States, while the Bush/Quayle campaign, in panic mode, began to hammer at Clinton's character, highlighting accusations of infidelity and draft dodging. The Bush campaign emphasized its foreign policy successes such as Desert Storm, and the end of the Cold War. Bush also contrasted his military service to Clinton's lack thereof, and criticized Clinton's lack of foreign policy expertise. However, as the economy was the main issue, Bush's campaign floundered across the nation, even in strongly Republican areas, and Clinton maintained leads with over 50 percent of the vote nationwide consistently, while Bush typically saw numbers in the upper 30s. As Bush's economic edge had evaporated, his campaign looked to energize its socially conservative base at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas. At the Convention, Bush's primary campaign opponent Pat Buchanan gave his famous "culture war" speech, hammering at Clinton and Gore's social progressiveness, and voicing skepticism on his "New Democrat" brand. After President Bush accepted his renomination, his campaign saw a small bounce in the polls, but this was short lived, as Clinton maintained his lead. The campaign continued with a lopsided lead for Clinton through September, until Ross Perot decided to re-enter the race Ross Perot's re-entry in the race was welcome by the Bush campaign, as Fred Steeper, a poll taker for Bush, said, "He'll be important if we accomplish our goal, which is to draw even with Clinton." Initially, Perot's return saw the Texas billionaire's numbers stay low, until he was given the opportunity to participate in a trio of unprecedented three-man debates. The race narrowed, as Perot's number's significantly improved as Clinton's number's declined, while Bush's numbers remained more or less the same from earlier in the race as Perot and Bush began to hammer at Clinton on character issues once again.
Many character issues were raised during the campaign, including allegations that Clinton had dodged the draft during the Vietnam War, and had used marijuana, which Clinton claimed he had pretended to smoke, but "didn't inhale." Bush also accused Clinton of meeting with communists on a trip to Russia he took as a student. Clinton was often accused of being a philanderer by political opponents. Allegations were also made that George H. W. Bush had engaged in a long-term extramarital affair with Jennifer Fitzgerald, who had been his secretary throughout the 1970s. Bush denied ever having an affair with Fitzgerald.
On November 3, Bill Clinton won the election to be the 42nd President of the United States by a wide margin in the U.S. Electoral College, receiving 43 percent of the popular vote in the three man race against Bush's 38 percent and Perot's 19%. It was the second largest electoral vote shift in American history (517 vote shift), after Jimmy Carter's victory in 1976 (560 vote shift). It was the first time since 1968 that a candidate won the White House with under 50 percent of the popular vote. Only the District of Columbia and the state of Arkansas, which is Clinton's home state, gave the majority of their votes to a single candidate in the entire country; the rest were won by pluralities of the vote. Independent candidate Ross Perot received 19,741,065 popular votes for President. The billionaire used his own money to advertise extensively, and is the only third-party candidate ever allowed into the nationally televised presidential debates with both major party candidates (Independent John Anderson debated Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980, but without Democrat Jimmy Carter who had refused to appear in a three-man debate). Speaking about the North American Free Trade Agreement, Perot described its effect on American jobs as causing a "giant sucking sound." Perot was ahead in the polls for a period of almost two months - a feat not accomplished by an independent candidate in almost 100 years. Perot lost much of his support when he temporarily withdrew from the election, only to declare himself a candidate again soon after. Perot's almost 19% of the popular vote made him the most successful third-party presidential candidate in terms of popular vote since Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 election. Also, Ross Perot's 19% of the popular vote was the highest ever percent of the popular vote for a candidate who did not win any electoral votes. Although he did not win any states, Perot managed to finish ahead of one of the two major party candidates in two states: In Maine, Perot received 30.44% of the vote to Bush's 30.39% (Clinton won Maine with 38.77%); in Utah, Perot received 27.34% of the vote to Clinton's 24.65% (Bush won Utah with 43.36%). This was the last time Georgia and Montana ever voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. 1992 was also the first time a Democrat won the White House without winning the state of Texas and the second time that a Democrat won without winning the state of Florida (John F. Kennedy in 1960 was the first). He was also the only Democrat at that point to win every electoral vote in the Northeast except for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Every Democrat since Clinton has repeated this result, except for Al Gore, who narrowly lost New Hampshire in 2000. Also, this was the first time since 1964 that many states voted Democratic, such as California, Colorado, Illinois, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Vermont.
Several factors made the results possible. First, the campaign came on the heels of an economic slowdown. Exit polling shows that 75% thought the economy was in Fairly Bad or Very Bad shape while 63% thought their personal finances were better or the same as four years ago. The decision by Bush to accept a tax increase adversely affected Bush's re-election bid. Pressured by rising budget deficits, Bush agreed to a budget compromise with Congress. Clinton was able to condemn the tax increase effectively on both its own merits and as a reflection of Bush's honesty. Effective Democratic TV ads were aired showing a clip of Bush's infamous 1988 campaign speech in which he promised "Read my lips ... No new taxes." Most importantly, Bush's coalition was in disarray, for both the aforementioned reasons and for unrelated reasons. The end of the Cold War allowed old rivalries among conservatives to re-emerge and meant that other voters focused more on domestic policy, to the detriment of Bush, a social and fiscal moderate. The consequence of such a perception depressed conservative turnout. Unlike Bush, Clinton was able to unite his party behind his candidacy. Despite a fractious and ideologically diverse party, Clinton was able to court all wings of the Democratic party successfully, even where they conflicted. To garner the support of moderates and conservative Democrats, he attacked Sister Souljah, a little-known rap musician whose lyrics Clinton condemned. Clinton could also point to his centrist record as Governor of Arkansas. More liberal Democrats were impressed by Clinton's 1960's era political record and support for social causes such as a woman's right to abortion. Supporters remained energized and confident, even in times of scandal or missteps. The effect of Ross Perot's candidacy has been a contentious point of debate for many years. In the ensuing months after the election, various Republicans asserted that Perot had acted as a spoiler, enough to the detriment of Bush to lose him the election. While many disaffected conservatives may have voted for Ross Perot to protest Bush's tax increase, further examination of the Perot vote in the Election Night exit polls not only showed that Perot siphoned votes equally among Clinton, Bush, and those staying home if Perot had not been a candidate, but of the voters who cited Bush's broken "No New Taxes" pledge as "very important," two thirds voted for Bill Clinton.] A mathematical look at the voting numbers reveals that Bush would have had to win 12.2% of Perot's 18.8% of the vote, 65% of Perot's support base, to earn a majority of the vote, and would have needed to win nearly every state Clinton won by less than five percentage points.Perot appealed to disaffected voters all across the political spectrum who had grown weary of the two-party system. NAFTA played a role in Perot's support, and Perot voters were relatively moderate on hot button social issues. Clinton, Bush and Perot did not focus on abortion during the campaign. Exit polls, however, showed that attitudes toward abortion "significantly influenced" the vote, as pro-choice Republicans defected from Bush.