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presidential election of 1992 was a tight race, compared to others in history. The struggle between the Clinton camp, which focused on a platform involving the economy, the Bush camp, who focused on a platform whose basis was trust and taxes, and the Perot camp, who relied on a business-style economic platform, all combined to form one of the most interesting and changing races in recent years. This paper will discuss how Clinton used his economic platform to win a difficult election, and how the Bush campaign's overconfidence and faulty pre-election strategy helped Clinton to win what some believed was an unwinnable race for the Democratic Party.
It is important to first understand the incumbent's reliance on his popularity in the era of a victory in Iraq, and in the post-cold war atmosphere. In 1992, the American population found themselves in a changed world, where the Berlin Wall and intercontinental missiles no longer existed. The Soviet Union was no longer united, Germany had become united, and the threat of nuclear conflict, so long a staple of the American psyche, had disappeared. Bush had recently completed a successful military attack in Iraq, showing the power and force of the American military.
In this unheard of political environment, the election was bound to be a unique. Throughout the first three years of the Bush Administration, the president's popularity was unshakable, generally due to military actions. According to Gallup Polls, Bush's popularity was 80% following the 1990 invasion of Panama, 76% following the 1990 initial invasion of Kuwait, and 89% following the close of the Gulf War. The Gallup polls, in fact, showed the highest approval rating for a president in a post-war period ever recorded (Gallup Organization, 2005).
In light of this post-war approval rating, a win for Bush should have been an easy victory. However, William Clinton, the Democratic challenger, brought to the campaign a straightforward economic campaign, which appealed to the voters. Following the Iraq war, the United States found themselves in a deep recession. Clinton, realizing this issue was vital to the election, built his campaign on economic theory, and planned reforms. His platform included a series of taxation and job creation proposals, as well as tax credits for business investments and tax cuts for the struggling post-war middle-income Americans. He proposed plans and promises to reduce the deficit by cutting defense spending by $60 billion, citing the end of the cold war and the post war era, while creating new jobs for the struggling economy by boosting public works spending by $20 billion a year (Kranish, A1).
Clinton's economic platform, summed up by the phrase "The economy, stupid," seemed to appeal to the American population (Rosenthal, A31). The response of the Bush campaign was less than ideal. Convinced that Clinton was not as much of a threat for the Republicans as Perot, who was also harshly criticizing the deficit problems, the Bush campaign fought to prove Bush's solidarity. This tactic succeeded. However, Gallup Polls showed soon after that the issue pressing the president was not that of Republican solidarity, but the impression that he was unconcerned over the state of the economy in post-war America. Clinton's camp furthered this idea with a campaign commercial showing clips of Bush denying the country was even in a recession (Wines, 1:26).
However, Bush was still popular, based on the after-effects of the Iraq War, and his campaign soon became one used by incumbents throughout history, focusing on ideas such as experience and trust. Bush could successfully discuss his experience with the handling of foreign affairs, as well as domestic issues. Further, Bush brought Clinton's credibility into question, in terms of his lack of military service, and other issues. The strategy seemed to work. Whereas polls had showed Clinton leading by 12 points, the tide began to change. With only three weeks left in the campaign, Bush had regained his popularity to tie in the polls with Clinton (Wines, 1:26).
However, the debates against turned the tide of the race. Perot, while considered one of the most popular independent runners in history, was only maintaining 7% of the votes until the debates. But a strong presence created a rise in his popularity, forcing some voters away from both Clinton and Bush. Forty-three percent of voters stated the debates had influenced…[continue]
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