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Bush vs Dukakis The 1988 Presidential Election On November 8, 1988, Republican Presidential candidate Vice President George H. W. Bush was elected as the forty-first President of the United States of America. Bush defeated Democratic challenger Governor Michael Dukakis by a ratio of a bout six-to-five. 49 million people voted for Bush, netting him 426 electoral votes while 42 million voted for Dukakis getting him 112 electoral votes.
Strangely, a man not even running for President received an electoral vote; Lloyd Bentsen (Democratic Vice President Nominee) received one electoral vote from the state of West Virginia. Bush's victory was also a victory for the Republican Party, but the Democrats received a similar victory in that they retained control of both the House and the Senate. The presidential election as a whole was a negative race, with an abundance of personal attacks (mainly instigated by Bush). The election of Bush in 1988 confirmed the Republican domination of presidential politics for another four years. The Republican Primary was a race between Vice President George Bush and Senator Bob Dole because President Reagan had reached his term limit and could not run again. Bush was Reagan's Vice President, so he started the race as the Republican front-runner.
Bush's campaign was startled after its loss to Dole in the Iowa Caucus. Bush stepped up the campaigning, uttering his famous line, "Read my lips, no new taxes." Dole soon ran out of steam when Vice President Bush won every state in the Super Tuesday Primaries. Bush's strong victories are attributed to his ability to gain the support of the religious fundamentalists, mainly in the South. Bush's ability to establish a strong Southern base helped him in both the primary and general elections.
The Democratic Primaries were more competitive than the Republican Primaries. There were five strong candidates heading into the primaries; Senator Gary Hart (D-CO), Congressman Richard Gephardt (D-MO), Senator Al Gore (D-TN), Jesse Jackson, and Governor Michael Dukakis (D-MA). Senator Gary Hart started the primary season as the favorite of many of the party leaders and the Democratic public as a whole. Suspicions of extramarital affairs dogged the Hart camp to the point in which Hart had to address the rumors.
Hart challenged the media to investigate him, thinking that they would not pick up the challenge. The Miami Herald followed Senator Hart and reported that Hart was cheating on his wife with model Donna Rice. Hart pulled out of the race, but only briefly. Hart reentered the race in late December 1987, but he never recovered in the polls. Congressman Richard Gephardt started the primary season strong, with a decisive victory in Iowa. However, Gephardt ran into money because he spent the bulk of his funds in Iowa.
He soon dropped out of the race. Senator Al Gore can attribute his lose to a weak start in the campaign. Gore lost many early primaries, but he rebounded somewhat when he won six states on Super Tuesday. Nevertheless, Gore lost because he failed to have a national base. The final blow to Gore's presidential aspirations came when he lost the New York Primary. When Gore dropped out, two strong candidates were left, Jesse Jackson and Governor Dukakis.
Jackson ran a strong campaign throughout the primary season. Jackson did not receive the Democratic bid for President because he lacked a sufficient number of delegates to be nominated. Many Democrats agreed with Jackson's views, but most did not consider him electable. Dukakis won the Democratic nomination because of his strong national base and solid funding. He was now able to tackle Vice President George Bush in the presidential election. At the Republican National Convention, George Bush selected Senator Dan Quayle (R-IN) as his running mate.
The selection of Quayle as a running mate undoubtedly hurt Bush because many people considered Quayle ill equipped for the job of Vice President. Governor Dukakis, at the Democratic Convention, chose Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX). Bentsen was a good choice for a running mate because Bentsen appealed to a wide array of Democrats. Quayle's adverse effect on Bush's campaign can be seen most clearly in the Vice Presidential debate. Senator Quayle said to Bentsen that he (Quayle) had as much experience in Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he ran for President. Senator Bentsen replied, "Senator, you " re no Jack Kennedy." George Bush's campaign concentrated on attacking Dukakis, especially on his stances on crime and the death penalty.
The campaign was one of the most negative campaigns of all time. The most famous ad and most malicious ad released by Bush was the Willie Horton ad. The ad concerned Willie Horton, who was a convicted murder in the state of Massachusetts. While Dukakis was governor, he started a furlough program that gave weekend passes to prison inmates. While out of prison, Horton kidnapped a couple, killed the man, and raped the woman.
Dukakis responded to the mean ad with attacks on Bush's halfway house program in Texas, but to no avail. Dukakis repeatedly accepted criticism by the Bush campaign with little or no protests. Dukakis revealed little emotion in the campaign, including when Bush made personal attacks. The media jumped on his lack of emotion and used it against him. Bush also attacked Dukakis' membership in the ACLU. Dukakis decided to attack Bush at the end of the campaign, but it was too late.
His pledge to protect average Americans failed to win the support he wanted. Bush was helped throughout the campaign by his association with President Reagan. The President constantly helped the Vice President, by saying how qualified Bush was. Bush was also associated with the relatively good economy under Reagan. Bush's tough stance on helped him as well. Bush was pro-death penalty and that was the prevailing opinion in the United States at that time.
People also believed Bush would be better at holding his own against the USSR. Bush's slogan (let's make the United States a "kindle r, gentler nation") was exactly what the public wanted to hear. Bush's victory was achieved because of a successful coalition originating in the South. Bush swept the South, relying on support from the religious fundamentalists. Bush won the Southern vote by 3-to-2.
Men supported Bush at a 3-to-2 ration while women gave Dukakis a slight majority. Bush received the support of the rich by a large margin while Dukakis received the support of the poor. Blacks voted overwhelmingly for Dukakis, with about 870 f black votes going to Dukakis. Conservatives voted for Bush 4-to-1 while liberals voted for Dukakis 4-to-1. Unfortunately for Dukakis, there were about twice as many conservatives as liberals. Dukakis was hurt also by the low voter turnout.
About 510 f the voting age public voted in the 1988 Presidential election, the lowest post World War 2 percentage. The low voter turnout helped Bush immensely. The 1988 election established the Republican dominance of the Presidency. After the victory in 1988, the Republican Party had won five of the last six Presidential elections. Vice President George Bush was the first incumbent Vice President to be elected President since Martin Van Buren. Operation Desert Storm highlighted Bush's Presidency.
Bush ran again in 1992, but lost to Arkansas Governor William Clinton.
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