Secrets of Past Elections Revealed! (1992)

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After every presidential election since 1984, Newsweek has printed the best gossipy stories, revealing all the whining and backbiting of America's greatest spectacle. Linda Rodriguez has gone through Newsweek's archives to pick out some memorable moments from recent elections, and we'll be posting her stories throughout the week.

George Bush the elder had just spent four years trying to refashion America into a "kinder and gentler" nation. But by the 1992 election, the American people didn't so much feel like being kinder or gentler with George Bush, especially with the economy in the crapper, rising violence in the nation's urban centers, and high deficit spending. Clinton had such a lock on the election that Newsweek didn't wait until after the votes were in to publish their behind-the-scenes, inside-the-campaign tell-all, instead publishing on November 1st.

No really, there was a nefarious plot"¦

When Texas billionaire Ross Perot abruptly dropped out of 1992 presidential election, his surprisingly numerous supporters felt blindsided, disappointed and a little angry. It wasn't until a few months later that they found away why Perot had walked away from what was becoming a real campaign. During an interview on 60 Minutes, Perot claimed that he did it to protect his daughter. According to Perot, his daughter Carolyn's wedding was in danger of being disrupted by a nefarious Republican plot to embarrass her with lurid and ostensibly doctored photographed. And this same nefarious plot included some sort of disruption of the wedding day itself. And there was this other nefarious plot to tap his phones. Perot had no proof that either plot existed, but hey, a man can't be too careful with his daughter's happiness, now can he? (It was later discovered that the man who told Perot about the plots actually made it up, in an effort to discredit Bush.)

Perot jumped back in the race in September, after he was able to get his name on ballots in 50 states, but he was never able to regain the momentum he had in July. Still, Perot was a real candidate: He was the first third-party candidate to participate in the final televised presidential debate and he ultimately carried 18.9 percent of the popular vote.

I'd like to thank the Academy

After Bill Clinton won the election, the third call he took—after George Bush's concession and Dan Quayle's congratulations—was from Whoopi Goldberg. Still, you can't accuse Clinton for being entirely a slave to celebrity—when Ivana Trump dropped by the Arkansas Governor's Mansion to pay an unannounced visit to the President Elect, she was politely turned away.

The original flip-flopper?

clinton-sax.jpgDespite their dissatisfaction with President George Bush, voters still had a little difficulty getting on board with the Clinton campaign. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some voters felt that they couldn't trust him and Clinton's campaign knew it. Clinton's handlers had conducted a covert operation they called the "Manhattan Project" in which they asked a series of focus groups what they didn't like about the candidate. Reactions from Allentown, PA, included: "Two-faced"; "He just goes with the flow"; and, "If you asked his favorite color, he'd say, "˜Plaid.'"

Even Clinton's lead strategist, the Ragin' Cajun James Carville, reportedly said once, "I've had blind dates with women I've known more about than I know about Clinton." (On another James Carville-related note, it was just after this election that he married Mary Matalin "“ lifelong Republican and one of Bush's chief strategists.)

Bush almost didn't run for re-election

Bush very sincerely considered not running for re-election. His 1988 campaign had left him battered and scarred, primarily by his own campaign's meanness and willingness to go for the jugular. Barbara didn't exactly love White House life and Bush hated the burden his presidency had put on his family. Bush not only hadn't started campaigning, but he hadn't even decided whether or not to run by January 1992; all the while, Democrats were landing broadsides, publicly taking Bush to task for the declining state of the economy (of course, voters of 2008 might teach the voters of 1992 a thing or two about a declining economy).

The dynamic duo of Waffle Man and Ozone and Bush's last stand

During the last weeks of the campaign, Bush seemed to be closing the gap on Clinton, who for most of the campaign season had boasted polling points far and away above Bush's. After months of being so far down, the President was jazzed like a 10-year-old on Red Bull at a Hannah Montana concert. He traveled around the country, railing against Clinton and Gore, referring to them respectively as "the Waffle Man" and "Ozone," at one campaign stop, even calling the candidates "those two bozos." Barbara and Bush's handlers thought that last one might have gone too far. "Jeez, you guys, lighten up," Bush replied. "I was just being funny."

Bush, by this time, was in revolt. He was tired of losing, tired of being told what to do "“ especially since it didn't appear to be winning any elections for him "“ and ready to get petulant. His favorite bumper sticker at this point: ANNOY THE MEDIA: RE-ELECT BUSH. He even refused to let his hair grow out, even though his team said it looked better on television a little longer, and refused to give up his favorite, so loud it was shrieking red, white and blue necktie. "You're in full-throttle handler revolt," one of his handlers told him one day.

Bush's reprieve from loser-land lasted only a short time "“ after an Iran-contra case court filing indicated that Bush had supported the American hostages for weapons swap, Clinton soared ahead again, and the rest is political history.

Previously: 1988, 1984

January 7, 2009 - 8:30am
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