Midway through 1988, Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, and Bob Teeter, the iron triangle of the Bush campaign, traveled to a shopping mall in Paramus, New Jersey. James Pinkerton, director of opposition research, joined them. They had gathered a group of Catholic Democrats who had voted for Reagan, but were leaning to Dukakis, to test out several issues that Pinkerton had felt that Dukakis might be vulnerable on. The issues, which Atwater had placed on an index card, were as follows: “(1) High tax, high spending, (2) To the left of Carter-Mondale in opposing every defense program, and (3) Social Issues. For example, he was a Kennedy/McGovern/Jackson liberal, was for prison furloughs, was a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and had vetoed a Pledge of Allegiance piece of legislation for Massachusetts schools.” 1 As the men watched through a one-way mirror, more than half of the Dukakis leaners shifted to Bush. They decided that it was to be a negative campaign.
This paper will address the issue of what effects, if any, presidential campaign rhetoric, that is, conduct of the 1988 Bush campaign for the White House, had on the ability of the new administration to govern successfully in the ensuing four years. The 1988 Bush/Dukakis matchup has been judged by many observers to be one of the most negative and dirtiest campaigns in modern political history. This paper will contend that the method in which George Bush won the White House in 1988 negatively affected his ability to govern and wage his bid for reelection in 1992. The nature of the 1988 campaign will first be addressed, followed by a brief evaluation of the following four years, and finally, George Bush's failure to achieve reelection in 1992.
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Publication information: Book title: Honor and Loyalty: Inside the Politics of the George H.W. Bush White House. Contributors: Leslie D. Feldman - Editor, Rosanna Perotti - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 333.
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