Fate of the Union: America's Rocky Road to Political Stalemate

By Robert Shogan | Go to book overview

4
The Contenders: Who Else Is There?

THIS IS NOT YOUR NORMAL RUN of Democratic candidates," former Massachusetts senator Paul E. Tsongas said of himself and the five other seekers after the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination early in the competition. "There are a lot of free thinkers, a lot of people who are unpredictable." He also might have added that in the view of most politicians and journalists, there were a lot of unknowns, like Tsongas himself, and a lot of unelectables.

After agonizing over his decision all summer and fall, Mario Cuomo, the one Democrat who had the prestige and resources to become the instant front-runner if he announced his intention to run, finally decided in midDecember that he could not break away from his duties as governor to run for the presidency. The vagaries and consequences of Mario Cuomo's thinking are perhaps worth a separate book. But in regard to the 1992 campaign, all that needs to be said is that although some of Clinton's advisers claimed they hoped the New Yorker would enter the race, providing a contrast with their own "New Democrat" candidate, "there was," in the words of pollster Stan Greenberg, "a universal sigh of relief even from those people with bravado who said they wanted him in."

With Cuomo out, the only two candidates who were considered to have the stature to compete vigorously against Clinton were the two senators in the race, both from the Midwest -- Tom Harkin of Iowa and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska. And by the time Clinton himself officially entered the field in October 1991, each appeared to have a special advantage. This was because, just as Clinton's pollster Stanley Greenberg had predicted, the political environment had markedly changed since spring, when Clinton had first begun to seriously contemplate his candidacy. The national sense of eupho

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