Why 2012 Is Not 1996

A little history can be a dangerous thing, and in advance of Tuesday’s State of the Union Address by President Obama, political commentary will be focusing on Obama’s ability to replay 1995-96, when President Clinton rebounded from a similar rout in the midterm elections to more or less coast to re-election (while Clinton finished below 50% of the popular vote, it was only a “coming home” of Republicans in the campaign’s closing weeks that averted a more lopsided result; the outcome was not seriously in doubt).
Undoubtedly, Obama will have the opportunity to take advantage of many of the same dynamics that favored Clinton’s re-election, and he may succeed for those and other reasons. But history never repeats itself precisely. It is worthwhile to reflect on the many things that worked to Clinton’s benefit that Obama can’t count on:

1) The Democrats Still Hold The Senate: Clinton lost both Houses of Congress in the midterms, the third president of the past century to do so, the others being Truman in 1946 and Eisenhower in 1954. Both were re-elected; Truman used the GOP as a foil to confront, Eisenhower showed he could cooperate with the Democrats, and Clinton did some of both. Each was able in one sense or another to run on the same divided-government rationale that had helped them lose Congress in the first place.
Obama won’t have the same crisp contrast with Congress; the unpopular Harry Reid is still running the Senate, and sooner or later it will become impossible to conceal that fact. History suggests that this can matter: Obama’s the third President in the past century to lose only the House and keep the Senate in the midterms, and the other two – Taft and Hoover – both got slaughtered (Hoover carried just six states and drew 39.7% of the popular vote, Taft carried just two states, finished third in a three-way race and drew just 23.4% of the popular vote).
2) The GOP Candidate in 2012 Will Not Be A Leader of The GOP Congress: A hugely underrated factor in Clinton’s revival was the fact that his opponent was also one of the leaders of the Congressional Republicans across the table from him; in addition to Bob Dole’s other flaws as a candidate (his age, his status as an ideas-free compromise-driven moderate, his lack of executive experience), Dole couldn’t run a campaign independent of Newt Gingrich and the rest of the Congressional GOP, which not only tied him down on particular issues but also diminished him in the eyes of the public, as Clinton alone would negotiate with – and face down – a team of which Dole was only one representative. Whoever the GOP nominates in 2012 will have the ability a presidential candidate usually has to declare some level of independence from his or her Congressional party.
3) Obamacare passed; Hillarycare didn’t: As unpopular as the Clinton Administration’s health care plan was, it wasn’t a major issue in the 1996 campaign because it had failed and, with Republicans controlling both Houses of Congress, it wasn’t coming back. (Ditto Clinton’s destructive BTU tax). Not so Obamacare, which remains very much a live issue. There’s clearly a decisive majority supporting repeal right now in the House, and possibly a majority could be mustered in the Senate (certainly if the GOP gains more seats in 2012), but obviously not enough votes to override Obama’s veto. Unless Mitt Romney wins the nomination, the GOP will almost certainly run a presidential candidate who can and will mount a full-throated campaign in favor of repealing the bill. The same will be broadly true of a number of Obama’s big-spending, big-regulating initiatives.
4) The Economy: The unemployment rate is the most obvious of numerous economic indicators showing the U.S. economy in bad shape in 2011: unemployment, as low as 4.3% when voters elected the Democrats to control Congress in November 2006, was 6.5% when Obama was elected and 8.5% when he was inaugurated, and he expended much political capital arguing that his “stimulus” package would fix this with federal spending on “shovel-ready” projects; instead it peaked at 10.6% in January 2010, and remains above 9% a year later. These are very high numbers historically; since 1960, the unemployment rate has been above 6% on election day five times, and the only time the party in power wasn’t booted was 1984, when the 7.2% rate was the lowest it had been since before President Reagan took office and had plunged more than three points in two years. By contrast, the unemployment rate in 1996 was 5.4%, down from 7.4% when Bill Clinton was elected. If Obama can’t make the argument that Presidents Reagan and Clinton made – that they were not only making major headway on unemployment but in better shape than they were when elected (in Reagan’s case, the slight drop in unemployment was accompanied by an enormous drop in interest rates and inflation and a stock market boom) – he’ll face an electorate that is much more suspicious of entrusting him with the economy for four more years.
5) War: It is little remarked today, but a significant factor in Clinton’s loss of prestige in 1993-94 was as a result of his obvious unreadiness to be Commander-in-Chief and resulting series of fiascos in the deployment – or not – of American troops. The timeline of that period shows a straight line from Clinton’s indecsiveness in Somalia (the “Black Hawk Down” battle of Mogadishu) to the ignominious withdrawal of U.S. assistance from Haiti in the face of opposition armed mainly with machetes, to the genocide in Rwanda that followed when it was apparent that the U.S.-led “New World Order” would not have the will to back up its own rhetoric.
But to Clinton’s good fortune, other than the situation in the former Yugoslavia (the massacre at Srebrenica took place in July 1995), the overall global situation was unusually peaceful in 1995-96, as the world continued to reap the dividends of the end of the Cold War and associated boom in international trade. Even longstanding hotspots like Northern Ireland, Palestine and South Africa were making efforts at peace; it would be a few years before it was obvious to casual observers that the September 1993 Oslo accords were not a plausible foundation for peace. Most importantly, by 1996 there were few American troops in harm’s way. And the differences between Clinton and Dole on overall national security strategy were not dramatic. The election was fought almost entirely on domestic policy.
This will not be the case in 2012. America is still at war in Afghanistan, as well as maintaining a significant presence in brittle Iraq. It is possible that tensions with North Korea and the strategic rivalries with China and Russia could calm down, but the multifaceted issue of what do do about the threat of the political project of radical Islam remains a divisive issue, and the war in Afghanistan is specifically divisive within Obama’s party in a way that no foreign policy question was in 1996. It’s premature to predict how the national security issues will play out, but it’s hard to imagine them being as completely secondary as they were in 1996.
6) Money: In 1996, Bill Clinton was able to raise a massive warchest and start spending it very early, famously deploying direct TV ads in battleground states as early as July 1995. Obama, who is expected to raise a billion dollars for his re-election, will have no trouble doing the same, but ironically, the Republican nominee in 2012 may be helped at the front end by the chaos of the presidential field; it will be more difficult to hammer one front-runner with ads the way Clinton did to Bob Dolegingrich (as you’d have thought his name was from the ads). And it seems unlikely, in the current environment, that the opposition will simply run out of money the way Dole did between wrapping up the primaries and launching his general election campaign. I’ll be very surprised if the Republicans are as hobbled by a financial imbalance as they were in 1996.
7) Obama’s Not Clinton: This should be an obvious point. Obama has his strengths as a politician, notably his ability to deliver prepared speeches, but he lacks Clinton’s gifts as a retail politician, he’s prickly when questioned, and of course unlike Clinton – who learned triangulation as a way of regaining the governorship of Arkansas after his 1980 defeat – Obama has no real experience of moderate governance to fall back on. Clinton signed a longstanding conservative policy priority (welfare reform), and didn’t campaign against it; Obama’s most significant nod to the center so far was signing a temporary extension of the Bush income tax cuts, but he has promised to run against them.
8) No Oklahoma City: One of the fortuitous events that played into Clinton’s hands was the Oklahoma City bombing, and while Tim McVeigh was not in a conservative of any stripe, Clinton was able to slow the Right’s momentum by blaming Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh for encouraging “anti-government” sentiment. Obama’s allies tried the same thing with the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, but their palpable desire to score political advantage from the tragedy, combined with the fact that the shooter turned out to be a left-leaning nutjob with no connection whatsoever to conservatives, fatally undermined that argument, as subsequent polls have shown that solid majorities don’t blame political debate for the shootings.
All of this is before we observe other features of the landscape not existing in 1996, like blogs and the Tea Party movement, as well as the possibility that John Boehner, having lived through 1995, will not repeat all of the same mistakes made by Newt Gingrich. As I said above, none of this is an argument that Obama is necessarily doomed or can’t repeat some of the aspects of Clinton’s revival plus some new tricks of his own. But treating 2012 as a straight replay of 1996 is not just bad punditry, it’s bad history.

41 thoughts on “Why 2012 Is Not 1996”

  1. FWIW, Taft faced a very viable third party candidate emerging from his own party (Teddy Roosevelt), resulting in his third place finish in 1912, while Hoover was doomed after the crash in 1929. I’m not sure they offer strong parallels. On the other hand, Clinton was helped both times by third-party runs by Perot, that drew votes away from the Republican nominee (Bush in 1992, and Dole in 1996). If there is a significant third-party candidate in 2012, it will likely come from Obama’s left.

  2. Dan:
    How invested was the media in Clinton winning a 2nd term vis a vis Obama’s?
    You touched on the $$ issue. The amount of corporate donations that will come from the GEs and JPMorgan’s of the world will be pretty amazing. The GOP would be wise to run a candidate that is not beholden to those interests.

  3. And of course Crank omits several obvious historical differences which don’t “play” that well for conservatives. Historically bad unfavorable for the GOP, a very weak field of GOP candidates for 2012 with, a massive shift in Obama’s favor in polling over the last two months, the disappearance of any honeymoon polling period for the House GOP, the insistence by the House GOP on making unpopular gambles with social security cuts, the growing mobilization on the Left against the Tea party movement as catalyzed, rightly or wrongly, by the Giffords shooting.

  4. We’ll see. No matter what, the identity of the GOP challenger will be a big factor. Palin, while keeping her name alive and relevant, has not spent her time doing the kinds of things that would make her a more credible candidate. After her campaign gaffes, voters will want to see someone more seriously engaged on the issues rather than hosting a nature reality show.
    I notice that Giuliani is considering a bid for 2012, particularly if Palin runs.

  5. Even if many parts of your “analysis” were not divorced from reality, I have two words that make every word of it irrelevant — Sarah Palin.

  6. Magrooder, Agreed on Palin. Media and democrats have made asses of themselves attacking Palin and while hurting her, they have lost credibility and will ineffective smearing another republican when they try.
    Shakespalin will be effective in attacking failed Obama administration without spending much money using facebook & twitter. Remember the epic fail om linking Palin with left wing shooter.

  7. Ross Perot is often given the credit for Clinton’s win in 92 and 96. In neither election did he win anything close to the popular vote and most of the Perot probably would have went Republican in his absence.

  8. Agree with Shannon: the media’s credibility is shot. They smeared Palin, they managed to get their hits in on Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, but they could not face the onslaught that included Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, Kelly Ayotte, Marco Rubio, and Col. West. They beat Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, but not by much. They couldn’t even try the “Republicans don’t like women and are engaging in tokenism” thing against that.
    Good luck trying that in 2012. I predict that a similar pool of candidates will be trying for the House again; similar candidates will take aim at the Senate, governorships, and the Presidency. Try to smear the Republicans as stupid old white men when a sea of minorities, women, and left-handed Jewish lesbians all run around with their JDs and MBAs and run on the Republican ticket.

  9. seth soothsayer:
    Well, yeah, Crank left out similarities between 2012 and 1996. It’s almost as if he was trying to explain the differences between 2012 and 1996, or something like that. That having been said, it seems that the two years may be more similar that I would like.
    There isn’t much the GOP can do about its field. It’s not a glamorous bunch, but to be fair, no one is ever going to repeat Obama’s 2008 star power. The nominee won’t be as bland as Dole, but he won’t be particularly inspiring.
    War, economy: it’s all relative. The world is a more dangerous place now than it was in 1995, but compared to 2001-2008, it’s a hippie drum circle. Ditto the economy: it won’t be great, but there’s a possibility that it will be moving in the right direction for long enough for Obama to make the economy his ally, or at least not his enemy.
    Obama’s not Clinton, but he is Obama, at that may be enough. You don’t need to be a great politician or a convincing centrist when you have the media polishing your halo and telling everyone that you’re a pragmatic moderate who has grown in office. The 2012 campaign has begun, and the media have resumed their Obama-worship.
    Finally, I think the Giffords shooting will turn out to be Obama’s OKC. Obama’s poll numbers had been creeping back thanks to a few popular measures in the lame duck session and a media itching to write the “How-Barack-Got-His-Groove-Back” storyline, but his poll numbers have spiked since the shooting. Obama and his minions politicized the shooting, and although the right was effective in preventing blame from sticking to conservatives, Obama took maximum advantage of an opportunity to appear presidential and above the fray.
    And the truth is that as long as we’re still talking about “civility,” the Democrats are scoring political points. The establishment party always benefits from calls to bipartisanship. Of course Obama wants everyone to be more civil. The rancorous political environment chipped away at his popularity for two years. Saying “let’s be civil” is the incumbent’s way of saying “stop challenging me.”
    The election’s a long way away, of course, and I still feel pretty good about the GOP’s prospects. But one thing is clear: the media wants to write the Obama Comeback story, and they’ll write it whether it actually happens or they have to force it.

  10. The other factor here is Obama’s non-take charge personality. It’s one he had to have for real and not an act, in 2008 or he never would have been elected in the first place, but it was made possible by hundreds of other people on the left over the past 20 years being willing to submerge their own egos and give Obama credit for things he didn’t do, or shield Obama from tough decisions (all those “present” votes) that would have damaged his viability outside of Chicago’s liberal politics. The left was hoping in 2009-10 Obama was faking his personality in the same way he was faking his moderate positions, but he was never going to suddenly morph into a take-no-prisoners slayer of all things conservative — he didn’t even have the stomach to try and dominate his own party in Congress, which is why he hired Rahm as Chief of Staff in the first place.
    Obama’s never been the workhorse; he’s always been the show horse — the one to let others do the grunt work and then step forward to take the credit, as was the case with the health care bill (now looming as a potential albatross, since it’s too late to claim it was all Harry and Nancy’s doing). In this age of the internet and the immediate gratification left, will Obama have the courage to actually stand up to his loyalist supporters over a extended period by going out and actually doing something like Clinton did, in signing welfare reform (which led to the resignation back in ’96 of a few of the more hard-core, albeit only mid-level liberals in the administration). Or will he just try to fake it all the way through November 2012 and hope the big media can help bamboozle the moderates one more time?
    My guess is the latter, and you can probably talk moderation for a while and get the poll numbers up, because swing voters really are hoping Obama was just corrupted by Pelosi the past two years and will change his tune now that the Republicans control the House. But you can’t fake it for 21 months — sooner or later on ObamaCare, government spending cuts, energy issues, etc., even the swing voters are going to want to see Obama sign something into law that shows he’s learned at least a partial lesson. Talking a good game and then saying you can’t do anything because Harry Reid’s blocking you is unlikely to be a winning strategy (let alone the fact that most of the 23 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2012 aren’t going to take kindly to the idea that Obama’s going to try and make them the bad cops on the left, as part of a triangulation strategy between them and the GOP-controlled House).

  11. I guess I don’t see obama changing who he is. Mercifully he kept his trap shut for once right after the tucson shooting. But how long can he keep that up? There is a reason why his numbers where in the toilet and why they will wind up there again. He stinks as a politician. He says exactlty the wrong thing at the wrong time. Even the synchophants in the media can’t be there to manicure his image 24/7.

  12. Sorry, boys, but Obama will be President for a second term.
    1) Because he had 4 years to manufacture another 3 million fraudulent votes through SEIU, Acorn, etc. Every black person in Cleveland, Philly, Jacksonville, etc. will be counted as two votes due to Obama’s scheming.
    2) Whites are a smaller percentage of the population today than in 1996. Hispanics are a much larger share.
    We are stuck with Obama until 2016 (unless we can get him to resign after evidence of a stolen election comes out).

  13. Good post. Good points. I think your final point deserves just a tad more development: John Boehner is not Newt Gingrich and he won’t be as easy for Democrats to demonize as they did that last Republican Speaker to succeed a Democratic one.
    And John Boehner is not as much a show horse is Gingrich.

  14. The novelty factor will be missing in 2012. It was a major force in 2008.
    A lot of folks voted for Obama out of the belief that he represented the only credible black candidate for President they would ever see in their lifetimes. Obama offered voters — white women in particular — the chance to prove their lack of bias to themselves and so they willed themselves to ignore every objective fact of his lack of qualification.
    But Obama is now “been-there-done-that”. Obama is also a tremendously divisive figure. In 2012, far more so than in 2008, Obama will be judged on his record. If the Republicans nominate a Governor with minimum controversy and a strong record — a Mitch Daniels, for instance — the possibility of a 1972/1980 blow out is pretty good.

  15. The biggest factor will be Obama himself. If things start to look bad, he will crack like a rotten walnut. He has shown he can’t handle pressure or criticism. The GOP will hammer him (especially Palin) so even as the MSM tries to protect him, he will lose it and respond.
    Given everythng that can be used to defeat him, if the GOP doesn’t provide a winnable canidate (can’t be Palin), Obama will win.

  16. Harry Truman once said that elections are decided by the price of hogs in St. Louis.
    There are literally millions of unemployed factory workers across the industrial Midwest, Pennsylvania, and Upstate New York. Over 45,000 factories have been shut down in this country or have moved to Asia since Bush rode into town. Obama has done nothing to change that awful statistic. Those unemployed people voted for Obama in 2008. Hundreds of thousands more are unemployed now than they were when Bush left office, when they took a chance on Change We Can Believe In.
    Many of them were white males. Many were white females. Most of them won’t vote for Obama in 2012. The fatal conceit of the Democratic Party is that it still speaks for these people. It hasn’t spoken for these people since Clinton left town.
    I think that it’s a safe prediction to make that for all the ginned up, oversampled D polling that is showing the Ressurection of the Dead and the Life of the World to Come, the President will have a tough go getting reelected. I think that’s why the Chinese President looked like such an adult in comparison to Obama. Obama doesn’t know how to speak to working people like FDR and Clinton did. That has to come naturally to a politician. Palin has that, actually, which is something that scares a lot of Democrats about her.
    BTW, Bill, I like Daniels, but he’s about as magnetic as a sheet of stainless steel.

  17. I think the election is all going to hinge on the state of the economy.
    Unemployment will still be high next November, since it would defy any previous recovery for the economy to create jobs at a rate necessary to lower the unemployment rate that quickly.
    And energy costs will be a significant problem. Even if today the administration went full Palin – drill baby drill! – the domestic oil industry just could not gear up fast enough to bring sufficient oil to market to stop the latest oil price increases. We’ll see $4 per gallon gas nationwide this summer, and the administration will just have no answer for that.
    And if we have another harsh winter in 2011-2012, we’ll have folks freezing because they can’t affort to heat their homes.
    Obama will own the economy in 2012. Trying to blame Bush just won’t be believeable. There is just no way the press can protect him.

  18. You could make a decent case that the OK bomber had conservative ties, since he was afiliated with right wing malitia groups, and was a fan of the extreme right wing Turner Diaries. So the dem attampt then to tie it to right wing excesses worked to some extent.
    Dems though they could make the same claims with the AZ shooter, but they fell flat, since he had no credible right wing ties, and the charges have ended up discrediting the left wing collumnists that made them.

  19. The biggest problem for the GOP in 2012 will be coming up with a credible candidate. Huckabee and Romney are both RHINOS who will not draw much Tea Party support. Palin could get Tea Party and repub support, but may have trouble with independents in the general.
    Some repub governors like Pawlenty and Daniels, look to be right on the issues, and could win independents, but may not have enough charisma.

  20. The American public always burns presidents at the electoral stake when the economy is bad.
    If the unemployment rate is worse in 2012 than it was on inauguration day in 2009, Obama won’t be President.
    The standards with the American public for potential replacements for the current President are much lower.
    And the oft repeated by talking heads political strategy of scaring America into “voting against the replacement” assumes that the American people are going to be listening to the Mainstream Media transmitting that message in 2012 like they did in 2008.
    There is less chance of that then unemployment being less than 8% in 2012.

  21. I was looking at the 92 election numbers the other day and noticed something interesting. If 90% of Perot’s votes went to Bush, with Perot not in, Bush Would have been re-elected. It would have been amost a land-slide with 37 states going for Bush. We do have to remember that Bush had “Read my lips.” That killed him.

  22. jayjay, that’s an argument I’ve heard forever, but I don’t buy it. Because nobody will ever get 90% of someone else’s vote. And never ever ever count on polls for a damn thing. Not because of Truman against Dewey, but GHW Bush against the country. His approval rating after Desert Storm was over 90%. Do you have any idea how impossible that is (and he deserved it: his handling of our intergalactic coalition forces was great); yet he lost.
    For an incumbent to lose, he has to be a total incompetent like Carter, or so bad, like Pierce, nobody in his own party wanted him. W’s election was there to be lost, and who do the Dems hand it to? The most miserable campaigner on the planet. Incumbents who have any intelligence at all have way too much going for them.

  23. jayjay,
    If Al Gore had gotten 90% of Ralph Nader’s vote, he would have been President. These recapitulations are meaningless.

  24. Magrooder,
    These recapitulations are not meaningless when attempting to review past elections as a means of predicting a future election. It is of great relevance that a strong third-party candidate, pulling votes mainly from right-leaning voters, contributed to Bill Clinton’s victory in 1992. It doesn’t make Clinton’s win any less legitimate, it simply helps provide context when attempting to predict the upcoming election.
    By the same token, Nader’s much weaker campaign from the left still impacted Gore’s candidacy in 2000, so it would foolish to discount a potential challenger to Obama’s left in 2012. That doesn’t mean Obama will certainly face a challenge, or that such challenge would necessary contribute to an electoral defeat.

  25. Paul I think the problem is that Perot voters would have had to overwhelmingly broken in the GOPs direction to make up the gaps with Clinton in both elections. I dont think you’re on safe ground that they would have broken that far in the GOP direction. If you’re premise is correct that these were disaffected righties unwilling to vote for Bush, its not clear that all of them would even in a two man general election. While the right turns out at a higher rate, its far from universal. And disaffected with Bush they were.

  26. There’s no question that Perot had a major impact on the 1992 election, and that many of his voters were disaffected Bush ’88 voters; recall that Clinton got a smaller % of the vote than Dukakis. But it’s really impossible to know whether Bush would have won in a strict 2-man race, given his unpopularity as an incumbent and the many causes he’d given Republicans to be disenchanted with him.
    Either way, the relevant point for present purposes is that Perot had a negligible impact on 1996, so he’s not really a big factor in comparing 1996 to 2012.

  27. Excellent analysis as usual, and not too many simple-minded leftist comments. Almost all good, in other words.
    Re Clinton, had Gingrich not folded in the ’95 government shutdown battle (featuring Leon Panetta playing the part of Willy’s backbone) the whole story might have been different. It was Clinton’s first strong showing as a President… and Americans want a strong President. GHW Bushs’s weaknesses–failure to finish Saddam, surrendering to Dems on tax increases, his general demeanor in the ’92 campaign–primarily led to his defeat.

  28. This is going to sound insulting and abusive, well it’s meant to. GHW lost because Republicans are immature and childish. So much of, “I’m gonna take my ball and go home.” You see it’s one thing to say you have core values. It’s another to see EVERY FRIGGIN’ ONE as a core. And if you take away my core, I’m going home. Good politics is finding a compromise, and let’s face it, you guys don’t/won’t can’t. Like any other bully.
    Think of the primal party hates. Democrats hated Nixon, because he shredded the constitution (you know, the President’s real job). You hated Clinton, who pushed back, stole your thunder, and was unwilling to be scared of you.

  29. Daryl, there’s nothing “adult” about expecting people to keep voting for you if you don’t deliver what they want. I mean, look, I voted for Bush in 92, but I can understand why people got frustrated. He swore no tax hikes, then broke that promise. He put Souter on SCOTUS, and a few months before the election, Souter voted to uphold Roe v Wade. That’s two of the most central values of the GOP right there. The national security hawks were restive over leaving Saddam in power. The economy had been in rough shape, it was getting better rapidly but you’d never have known that from the news. Bush signed one piece of new and expansive legislation after another, like the ADA. He cut budget deals with the Democrats that he honored and they didn’t. It wasn’t just one thing, although those first two were huge, it was a whole battery of things big and small that just wore people out on the idea that they were going to get anything in return for supporting the man.
    It’s true that Democratic voters are much more apt to support their leaders blindly regardless of what they do, but that really should not be a point of pride.

  30. I’d also add that your comment is somewhat internally inconsistent – on the one hand you say Republicans should keep voting Republican even if their leaders don’t deliver, on the other you fault them for “primal party hates” for voting against Democrats because they don’t like them. Which is it? Let’s say you have an activist – somebody who believes really strongly in stopping abortion, or in low taxes. That person has pounded the pavement, licked envelopes, etc. for sixteen years for Reagan and then Bush. And you go to that person in 1992…what do you tell them? How do you convince that person that you’ve justified the time they put in, and ask them to do it again?

  31. Seth, I wasn’t trying to say that Perot was the sole reason GHWB lost in 1992, I was just trying to note the need to take the Perot factor into account when trying to use 1992 as a predictor for 2012. I also think the primary challenge from Buchanan hurt Bush, as he was seen as invincible going into the primaries (which is why big-name Dems like Cuomo sat out, leaving things open for Clinton), but was bloodied during them.
    Crank, I agree that Clinton wins in 1996 with or without Perot, but his impact was not negligible, as he got over 8,000,000 votes (8.4%). That number of votes is certainly enough to swing a close election.

  32. My point was just that he had a negligible impact on that election as it actually played out. By the end of 1995, if not earlier, Clinton had basically locked in the conditions of his victory.

  33. ‘Let’s say you have an activist – somebody who believes really strongly in stopping abortion, or in low taxes. That person has pounded the pavement, licked envelopes, etc. for sixteen years for Reagan and then Bush. And you go to that person in 1992…what do you tell them? How do you convince that person that you’ve justified the time they put in, and ask them to do it again?”
    This is so simple, I can’t believe you missed it.
    You change the name of your party without changing anything else about the party including the mantra and who funds it. Then you promise that THIS TIME we’ll really do what we promise. Recent history (hello Tea Party) shows you can fool some of the people ALL OF THE TIME.
    Lather, rinse, repeat.

  34. I’ve got a bad feeling I’m going to be disappointed (again) with the 2012 slate. I just read Obama’s speech, and I felt like banging my head against the wall. Eighty percent of the country with access to high speed rail?? And no pat-downs at train stations? Both are ridiculous. The rest were an incoherent set of priorities.
    Luckily for him, I can care less about speeches. I know he has to pay lip service to the hard left, at the least, so here’s hoping that legislates like a moderate.

  35. MVH – The hard left hated the speech, and the sad thing is, Obama thought he was being Mr. Triangulation with it.
    Who wants to be the one to break the news to Berto that it’s not still 1992?

  36. Well, the left wanted more lip service then he gave them, that’s for sure. I’m sure they didn’t like to hear he was willing to lower business taxes (minus banks and oil companies apparently). I have to think the high speed rail was the bone he threw to the left (which really ought to be satisfied with the lame duck session). Rail has its place in the mix, but not a big place, and not necessarily high speed rail and certainly not for 80% of the population. I agree the government should invest in infrastructure, but it has to be a sensible investment, and it has to be fiscally realistic. Unfortunately, his goals miss both those marks.
    I know what you are saying, the speech was supposed to appeal to voters like me, but it just came across as going in nine different directions at once, and at the end of the day, the math doesn’t add up.
    I’ve got a better question: who’s going to break the news to Berto that it’s not 1968?

  37. Obama’s SOTU speech was ridiculous. Unless he’s referring to executing the retarded, he’s sadly mistaken about America being No. 1.
    If it was 1992 (or 1968), one could use plausible deniability to argue conservative policies are sustainable. But after the economic crash of 2008, those who argue it is are showing themselves to be painfully ignorant (a very small percentage, in my view) or bald-faced liars who couldn’t care less about the people of this nation and are just rooting for their “team”.
    I get your main point though, Crank. The GOP is no longer being led by a moron who thought video games, but not guns, kill people. So yes, the GOP may be in a better position now than they were then.
    However, I’d advise you not to count your chickens yet. There are still a lot of conservatives pushing obviously moronic policies—like privatizing Social Security, for instance.
    Dog forbid they get their way. The best educated financial geniuses on Wall Street crashed the world economy to the tune of needing to be bailed out with trillions of government dollars, but somehow Eddie the car mechanic and Mary the diner waitress are going to better invest their retirement funds.
    Are these conservatives stupid, or are they just lying to the American public again?

  38. Obama will not even make it to Nov of 2012, folks. That’s right. The sharks (Dems) are already circling him now. These sharks will get him before Nov of 2012…. I dont know if it will be due to his birth certificate issue or why, but his own will knock him out.
    Republicans need a person who speaks truth with passion and conviction~ that is a formidable opponent.
    Palin? DeMint? Christie? Pence? Rubio? Ryan?
    Some of the above individuals would make better VPs on the Republican ticket than possible presidents. However, those 6 are interesting politicians who have potential in 2012 to win the race.

  39. Obama will not even make it to Nov of 2012, folks. That’s right. The sharks (Dems) are already circling him now. These sharks will get him before Nov of 2012…. I dont know if it will be due to his birth certificate issue or why, but his own will defeat him.
    Republicans need a person who speaks truth with a burning passion and conviction that is unstoppable.
    Palin? DeMint? Christie? Pence? Rubio? Ryan?
    Some of the above would make better VPs on the Republican ticket than possible presidents. However, those 6 are interesting politicians who have potential in 2012.

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