The United States presidential election of 1992 took place on November 3 and was won by Bill Clinton, who became the 42nd President of the country. The election had three main opponents – incumbent President George H. W. Bush of the Republican Party, Democratic Arkansas Governor Bull Clinton and Ross Perot, an independent businessman from Texas.
Clinton won the election with a wide margin in the United States Electoral College with support of 43 percent of the popular vote against 37 percent for Bush and 19 percent for Perot. The vote shift of Clinton was 517, which make it the second largest electoral vote shift after Jimmy Carter's 560 vote shift in 1976.
Several factors had an impact on the results of the election. The country was affected by economic slowdown. Although Bush had promised no tax rises during his campaign in 1988, later he had to accept a tax increase due to rising budget deficits. Clinton managed to use effectively the tax issues in his own campaign. Clinton was able to get the support of some southern states that the Republicans had been winning for almost two decades. The New England states also supported the candidacy of the Democrats. Moreover, Clinton got the support of significant number of young voters and he was successful among the African Americans. His record on abortion and affirmative action impressed more liberal Democrats.
Besides Clinton, the Democratic Party had several candidates who decided to run in the primary election. Tom Harkin, a Senator of Iowa, chose to seek the Democratic nomination with labor union support. Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska had interesting business and military background which made him an attractive candidate. Jerry Brown, a former California Governor, focused on various reforms including flat income tax, Congressional term limits and campaign finance reform. Former Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts pointed out his political independence and focused his campaign on fiscal conservatism.
After winning the primary election of the Democratic Party, Clinton chose Senator Albert A. Gore Jr of Tennessee to be his running mate on July 9, 1992. Gore's strengths in the campaign were his commitment to environmental issues, family values and foreign policy experience. He also was active in themes like generation change and centrism. On July 17, Clinton and Gore, at the ages of 45 and 44, respectively, accepted the nomination at the Democratic National Convention. Later, they became the youngest team to enter the White House.
As for the Republican Party primary election, President Bush had as his main opponent conservative journalist Pat Buchanan. Bush, however, succeeded with 73 percent of all primary votes or 9,199,463 votes, while Buchanan received 2,899,488 votes. Then, the Republicans re-nominated President Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle for a second presidential run.
The candidacy of Texan Ross Perot came to the political arena using fears of professional politicians and concerns about the federal budget deficit. The independent candidate was attracting voters with his views on internal and external debt and opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement. On several occasions, Perot had led the national public opinion polls.
Clinton and Gore started a bus tour around the United States, while Bush and his running mate focused their campaign on criticizing Clinton's character, pointing out allegations of infidelity and draft dodging. The campaign of Bush highlighted the President's foreign policy experience like Desert Storm and the end of the Cold War, in contrast with Clinton's lack of military service and foreign policy expertise. However, the economy of the United Stated continued its weak growth and the President's approval rating kept going down. Meanwhile, the Democrats started to rally around their nominee. Bush's campaign floundered even in strongly Republican areas, while Clinton managed to lead with over 50 percent of the vote nationwide.
Clinton's victory on November 3 was the first time since 1968 that a candidate succeeded in the election with under 50 percent of the popular vote. Only the District of Colombia and the state of Arkansas supported a single candidate by a majority of the votes. The 37.4 percent President Bush won, in turn, was the lowest result for an incumbent president seeking re-election since 1912 when William Howard Taft won 23.2 percent. The support for independent candidate Perot was 18.9 percent of the popular vote. He was also the only third-party candidate who could speak nationally during the TV debates alongside the two major party opponents.