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October 24, 2007 12:09 AM UTC

Pretending Ross Perot Never Happened

  • 9 Comments
  • by: davidsirota

Working in Democratic political circles out west, one of the most irritating and annoying memes that tends to pop up is the myth of Bill Clinton’s supposed resounding victories out here in 1992. This is most recently being regurgitated by Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s top campaign aide (and, incidentally, the head of a PR firm that helps corporations crush unions). Here’s what I’m talking about:

“And because of her unique ability to take advantage of changing demographics, Hillary can also turn Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and Montana from Red to Blue. Bill Clinton was the only Democrat since 1968 to win these states, and Hillary Clinton is the only Democrat positioned to win them in 2008.”

If you can get past the laughable claim that “Hillary Clinton is the only Democrat position to win [the West] in 2008,” take a look at these two election maps side-by-side, one from 1992 and one from 1996 from Dave Leip’s Election Atlas:

In this map, red is Democrat and blue is Republican. You will note that the Western states Clinton lost the Western states that Penn referred to in 1996, after winning them in 1992. That’s because of Ross Perot – the guy every Clinton triumphalist wishes we would all forget so that we just think that Bill Clinton was the most awesome candidate with the most incredible cross-regional appeal in the history of politics.

In fact, the data suggests something far more mundane. In 1992, Perot received 23% in Colorado, 24% in Arizona, 26% in Nevada and 26% in Montana. That’s how Clinton became “the only Democrat since 1968 to win these states” – not because he was some kind of amazingly newfangled candidate with Western appeal, but because a third-party candidate took a huge chunk out of the Republicans. And if Democrats don’t appreciate that fundamental truth and why a populist candidacy like Ross Perot was so potent in this region, then they telegraph that they don’t really appreciate how this region’s unique politics really works.

This isn’t to say a Democrat – or even Hillary Clinton – cannot compete in some Western states in 2008. But her strategists should stop propagating such absurdly overstated spin and revisionist history. It just makes them look like a bunch of two-bit hacks.

Comments

9 thoughts on “Pretending Ross Perot Never Happened

  1. That is the first thing I have heard you say (write) since you started posting here.

    I for one voted for Perot becuse I did not like either other candidate. I knew it was throwing away my vote but there was always the long shot chance.

  2.   If Dr. Dobson makes good on his threat and runs someone like Sam Brownback as a third party, Right-to-Life candidate against Hillary and Rudy, 1992 could happen all over again.  Or am I just dreaming?
      But Dave’s analysis is absolutely correct.  As much as I respect and admire Bill Clinton as the best president we’ve had since F.D.R., he only carried the western states courtesy of Ross Perot.
      One thing that Hillary will have is greater Latino voter turnout in the southwest, esp. thanks to Tom Tancredo’s efforts to energize that base for her.

    1. I’ve came across more than a couple newspaper articles over the last few days that report evangelical leaders are rallying around Romney to blunt Giuliani.  I think that the Dobson type leaders are going to try and get someone-anyone-other than Giuliani to win the nomination.  If that’s the case, Dobson would be the odd man out to support a third party candidate

      1. as just full enough of his own crap that he would try to go it alone in backing a third party candidate. If so, we’d get to see how much power he really wields with the social cons.

        BTW, is there anything wrong with Huckabee (from a social con POV, or more specifically an evangelical one) that they don’t try to boost him? I thought his credentials there were impeccable in comparison to the GOP frontrunners (e.g, no pro choice comments on the record or other “liberal” positions). Is it just because he’s so far back in the field?

        1. Or lack thereof.  I think that Schaffer raised more than Huckabee did, and that’s not a good sign for Huckabee.

          Also, I’ve heard things about how “Huckabee supported tax increases”, but who knows if that’s true or not.  But even if it was, I think the major issue with Huckabee is his lack of fundraising, and slow reaction to capitalize on events that go his way

          1. But most of the tax increases were actually revenue neutral (he cut other taxes) and were actually an attempt at tax simplification.

            If I were a social conservative I would be all over Huckabee.  I think the guy has real integrity–probably explains why he can’t raise money from traditional GOP sources. (Just kiddin)

    2. The “Latino Vote” is more imagination than distinct.  Latinos that vote, which is disappointingly small, vote pretty much just like their white Anglo neighbors.  Not even a statistical variation. 

      (Might be not true in TT’s district!)

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