The Media and Neo-Populism: A Contemporary Comparative Analysis

By Gianpietro Mazzoleni; Julianne Stewart et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter Eight
Ross Perot's Outsider Challenge:
New and Old Media in American
Presidential Campaigns

Jonathan Laurence


INTRODUCTION

An oversized silver microphone sat atop a CNN studio desk, broadcasting the banter between Larry King, the "infotainment" talk-show host, and H. Ross Perot, a retired entrepreneur and champion of armed forces veterans. This was King's fourth interview with Perot in one year, and Perot had used each occasion to challenge President George H. W. Bush's administration on the national debt, trade imbalances, and Persian Gulf policy. Two days had passed since the 1992 New Hampshire primary, the official start of the long presidential race. Bush had not done very well in this Republican poll, and prominent Democrats—Mario Cuomo, Richard Gephardt, Al Gore—were making weekly headlines by announcing their intentions not to run. This latest CNN interview turned to what Perot would do were he in charge, and the Texas billionaire slowly gained rhetorical momentum, prodded by King's repeated posing of the hypothetical leadership question. "I "felt" like Mark Antony, offering Caesar the crown three times," King later recalled (1993, 26). Finally, upon his fifth "So, you'd run as an independent?", the answer came as a surprise: "If you, the people, are that serious","… you register me "on the ballot" in all 50 states","… and between now and the convention we'll get both parties' heads straight" (King 1995, 149). Perot could not have meant his party's convention: it was taking place on Larry King Live at that very moment.

The "people" met their half of the bargain, and Perot, with slight equivocation midway, met his. Perot's third-party effort, from that Feb

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