1992 Presidential Elections
Ravinder S. Arneja
The outcome of the 1992 presidential elections was surprising for multiple reasons. First, at the beginning of the year, President George H.W. Bush was the incumbent President and he enjoyed high approval ratings following operation Desert Storm ("Presidential Approval for President Bush (G.H.W.)", n.d.). Consequently, this meant that the more “serious” Democratic presidential contenders bowed out of the race early believing they did not stand a chance against Bush (Samels & Burns, 2003). Second, the candidate selection process for the Democrats was a messy affair. Initially, New York Governor Mario Cuomo was the frontrunner. Governor Cuomo, however, never formally entered the race (Samels & Burns, 2003). As a result of the length of time that it took for Governor Cuomo to make his decision, many other potential candidates waited to get into the race. This left the Democratic Party’s nomination wide open (Grant 1993). Finally, the third party candidate Ross Perot running as an Independent was a wild card. Perot ended up stealing enough popular votes from the major party candidates to affect the outcome of the election. He had enough popular votes to have a significant impact, but not enough electoral votes to matter at all ("270 To Win", n.d). The Candidates & Campaigning Styles
The Democrats: Clinton & Gore
Leading into the 1992 presidential election season, the Democrats had difficulty choosing a nominee, as many of the first tier candidates were deterred because of President Bush’s high approval ratings and “look of invincibility” (Grant 1993, 240). Ultimately, a small group of Democratic candidates contested the primary, including Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, California Governor Jerry Brown, and former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas ("1992 Presidential Democratic Primary", 2008). The three candidates that ran for the primary were widely considered the party’s “second division” (Grant 1993, 240). Clinton was a little known Southerner with the experience of governor of a conservative state, who presented himself as a centrist “New Democrat” (Di Salvo, 2008, p.2). The concept of New Democrats was developed from the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in the 1980’s after the landslide in which Reagan won (Di Salvo, 2008, p.3). After the Democrats lost in a landslide a group of prominent Democrats thought the Party was out of touch with average suburban Americans (Di Salvo, 2008, p.3). The DLC sought to shift their Party’s platform to more centrist policies to regain the “Reagan Democrats” (Di Salvo, 2008, p.3). The Reagan Democrats are traditional Democratic voters (white working class Northerners) who voted for Reagan in both the ’80 and ’84 elections and Bush in lesser numbers in ’88 (Di Salvo, 2008, p.3). Clinton was recruited by Al From to become the DLC’s president in 1990, and two years later he would run for president calling himself a New Democrat (Di Salvo, 2008, p.3). He was an ideal New Democrat, because he understood the technical nature of the issues and policy debates and could translate these complicated issues into language understandable to the average voter (Di Salvo, 2008, p.4). Heading into the 1992 election Clinton was a 45 year old governor of Arkansas serving his fifth term. He was a Rhodes Scholar, obtaining his Bachelor’s from Georgetown, his Juris Doctorate from Yale ("Bill Clinton for President 1992 Campaign Brochure", 2000). He was the former chairman of the National Governors association; co-chair of the President’s Education Summit and as previously stated the chairman of the DLC. On the campaign trail he mostly followed the DLC line by pursuing moderation ("Bill Clinton for President 1992 Campaign Brochure", 2000). He took a strong stance supporting the death penalty, he promised fiscal responsibility and to “end welfare as we know it” ("Bill Clinton for President 1992 Campaign...