In an election that saw many leading Democrats remain on the sideline due to President Bush’s high approval rating during the Persian Gulf War and his perceived inevitability in winning a second term, the “Boy-Governor” from Arkansas was able to play the spoiler. Bill Clinton, who 14 years earlier had become the youngest Governor in the country at the age of 32, became the first “Baby-boomer” elected president ending 12 consecutive years of Republican rule.
As the campaign kicked into high gear, the economy began to exhibit signs of a slowdown and domestic policy was on the minds of the electorate. Rising budget deficits also took center stage leading President Bush to renege on his infamous promise, “read my lips, no new taxes” and compromise with the opportunistic Democrats. Placating the opposition was seen as political treason among his conservative base and the president’s approval rating spiraled downward.
With a weakened President and a young governor dogged by rumors of infidelity, space suddenly opened for a third-party candidacy. During the 1992 election, the country was introduced to an unconventional “outsider” from Texas named Ross Perot and his trusty sidekick “I didn’t have my hearing aid on” James Stockdale. Perot’s soap opera style candidacy ended up winning almost 20% of the popular vote, one of the most successful runs for an independent in the nation’s history. While some have argued that Ross Perot’s entrance into the race propelled Bill Clinton to the office of the President, exit polls showed that his supporters were split 50/50 between Clinton and Bush as their second choice.