December 6, 2021

1988 Election | H.W. Bush vs. Dukakis

1988 Election | H.W. Bush vs. Dukakis

As the campaign rolled through the summer months of 1988 Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis maintained a sizable lead over his opponent, Vice President George H.W. Bush. Bush was seeking to become only the fourth vice president to be elected directly to the presidency and the first in over 150 years. By the time of the National Conventions the tide was beginning to turn. On the floor of the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Vice President Bush emphatically declared in front of a rousing audience of supporters and delegates, “read my lips, no new taxes”. This phrase became a rallying cry for conservatives across the nation and gave him the bounce needed to overtake the Governor of Massachusetts and propel himself to the higher office. 

As with McGovern 16 years prior, Dukakis’ liberal leanings proved to be his Achilles heel in a country that was still not ready for a cultural shift. George H.W. Bush was able to capitalize on the Governor’s opposition to the death penalty and leniency toward mandatory sentencing. In an attempt to strengthen his persona and bolster his credibility on defense, Michael Dukakis staged a photo op that ranks as one of the worst political maneuvers in campaign history.  While at a General Dynamic’s plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, the diminutive Governor posed for pictures inside an M1 Abrams tank in full military getup and with a gigantic helmet labeled Michael Dukakis. The helmet was icing on the cake and by the time the laughter subsided, the Republican Party had succeeded in winning a third straight presidential term.