Will Old Formula Beat the Bushes? Democrats Used a Struggling Economy and a Large Field of Candidates to Knock George H.W. Bush out of Office in 1992. Will the Same Strategy Work against His Son?

By Heieck, Adam | Insight on the News, August 19, 2003 | Go to article overview

Will Old Formula Beat the Bushes? Democrats Used a Struggling Economy and a Large Field of Candidates to Knock George H.W. Bush out of Office in 1992. Will the Same Strategy Work against His Son?


Heieck, Adam, Insight on the News


Byline: Adam Heieck, INSIGHT

President George W. Bush raised more than $40 million during the first seven weeks of a GOP presidential campaign that has dwarfed the efforts of all nine Democratic presidential candidates combined. Bush's approval ratings had been in the 60 percent and above range for months and showed little indication that a significant drop might be imminent something the leaders of the Democratic Party and their friends in the liberal press ignored or denied. Again and again they claimed the president was politically vulnerable, citing reaction to their own front-page complaints about sending troops to Liberia, a failure to turn up an active nuclear program in Iraq and alleged lying about Iraq buying uranium from Niger. So ugly did this calumny become that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said it stopped just short of accusing the president of treason.

No day passed in which the Washington Post, the New York Times or the TV networks and CNN did not show Democratic presidential nominees blasting the president and his decisions concerning war with Iraq. Then, Post columnist David Broder cited July 10 as the day the Bush campaign first saw "the shadow of defeat." According to Broder, the headlines announced that night on all three major TV networks were so pointedly hostile to Bush that a spillover was sure to begin filtering into the views of the general public. "The CBS Evening News that night was [senior Bush adviser] Karl Rove's worst nightmare," Broder announced. But the left's bitter attacks on the president had reached such depths that former president Bill Clinton stepped in publicly to warn his party that it was going way too far.

Republicans saw irony in this, recalling that a similar effort to discredit a popular sitting president had been run against Bush's father in 1992 by an all but unknown Democratic challenger named Bill Clinton. Although the two efforts to unseat Bush presidencies are separated by nearly 12 years, similarities have become the subject of considerable comment. At the time of the first smear, George H.W. Bush was pulling the United States out of the Middle East after a hugely successful war against the Iraqi army and had enjoyed approval ratings of near 90 percent. This time, the younger Bush has engineered the defeat and ouster of Saddam Hussein after many months of high approval ratings stemming from his leadership following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and having quickly defeated al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, where all the might of the Soviet Union had been stalemated and defeated.

The younger Bush's approval ratings have gone down since the occupation of Iraq, say his supporters, mainly because of a drumbeat of Democratic complaints about the failure to find hidden weapons of mass destruction, allegations that he tricked the United States into the war and the continued resistance by Ba'athist terror cells on the ground in Iraq.

Two similarities between the 1992 and 2004 presidential campaigns are being cited by Democrats claiming that they will defeat George W. Bush for re-election just as they defeated his father. They point both to the large field of Democratic candidates and the sluggish economy, claiming the economic situation is virtually the same as 12 years ago. The unemployment rate sits at a little more than 6 percent, but well below most of the rest of the world, and while the stock market slowly is improving it isn't anywhere close to what the White House would like to see. Meanwhile, the GOP insists that instead of helping to turn things around the Democrats resisted the president's economic package, delaying multibillion-dollar tax legislation that the Bush administration said it needed quickly to bolster economic prosperity. "The best thing the Bush administration can hope for is for the public to perceive the economy is on an upswing at this time next year. ... The No. 1 issue is not terrorism but the economy," warns Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll. …

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