THE CAMPAIGN OF 1992
Bill Clinton easily defeated the leading Democratic contenders in the 1992 primaries, despite charges about having avoided the Vietnam draft and his rumored affairs with women. He dealt with the infidelity issue on national television in an interview in which he admitted to having caused "pain" in his marriage. Although he said he had smoked pot as a college student, he added that he "didn't inhale," which struck his critics as disingenuous. Most voters seemed unconcerned with his private life or his stand on a war that had ended many years before. His opponent, President George H.W. Bush, ran a lackluster campaign that failed to convert his great successes in foreign affairs into a convincing argument to reelect him. Republican die-hards never forgave Bush for having broken his 1988 promise to not raise taxes. Middle-class Americans, moreover, had grown increasingly upset over Bush's refusal to act on the economic recession that had settled on the nation.
Clinton pounded hard on the advantages given to the rich by the Reagan revolution, the Reagan-Bush $300 billion deficit, and the dire economic prospects that faced America's younger generation. His campaign handlers, led by political strategist James Carville, posted a sign at Clinton headquarters that sprightly summarized the Clinton message: "It's the economy, stupid."
The Bush campaign was not helped by the emergence of billionaire Ross Perot's independent candidacy, which Perot personally financed. His "United We Stand, America" citizens group promised a White House dedicated to patriotism, candor, honesty, and a balanced budget. Dissatisfied voters of all stripes flocked to his call, creating one of the most powerful third-party movements in American history. Although Perot drew support from both Republicans and Democrats, he probably hurt Bush disproportionately more than Clinton, owing to his harsh attacks against the incumbent and the timing of both his departure and re-entry into the 1992 campaign. But ultimately Perot's candidacy was damaged beyond repair by his own inconstant commitment to running—a posture that benefited the Clinton challenge.
On November 3, Clinton received more than twice the number of Electoral College votes than did Bush. Perot drew support from both parties, winning approximately 19 percent of the popular vote but no electoral votes. Clinton had delivered on his promise to do well in traditional Democratic strongholds, to win back large numbers of Reagan Democrats, and to attract middle-class Republicans. However, when his vote is compared to the combined Bush and Perot totals in 1992, it is clear that Clinton was a minority President. On the other hand, a larger percentage (55 percent) of the electorate voted in 1992 than in 1988, 1984, and 1980. And when the Clinton and Perot popular vote totals are combined (62 percent), the 1992 election amounts to a dramatic vote for change.
Source: Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. “Bill Clinton: Campaigns and Elections.” Accessed May 24, 2016. http://millercenter.org/president/biography/clinton-campaigns-and-elections.
Anonymous. 1992. "Bush Quayle '92." Printed Poster. Bush/Quayle '92 General Committee, Inc.
Tom Tomorrow. 1992. "At the Democratic Convention." This Modern Life. Comic strip. Published September 15, 1992. Accessed: May 24, 2016. http://www.thismodernworld.com/pages/arc1/1992arc.html
Anonymous. 1992. "Clinton-Gore For New Leadership: 1992." Campaign button.
Charles Tasnadi. 1992. "Ross Perot." Color Photograph. Associated Press. From "Prospects Dim for Third-Party Presidential Run in Mold of Ross Perot Dim." Wall Street Journal. Accessed: May 24, 2016. http://www.wsj.com/articles/prospects-dim-for-third-party-presidential-run-in-mold-of-ross-perot-1458690244