Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Perot Didn't Cost Bush the '92 Election

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Perot Didn't Cost Bush the '92 Election

Article excerpt

Several people have asked me how I arrived at my often-stated conclusion that Ross Perot did not cause George Bush to lose the 1992 presidential election.

The prevailing view among Republicans seems to be that voters who deserted Bush to support Perot were the deciding factor in Bill Clinton's victory. If Perot had stayed out of the race, these folks believe, Bush would have been re-elected.

I have no idea how this Perot-cost-Bush-the-election theory got started, but many Republicans cling to it as gospel. But even Perot knows that it's malarkey.

Perot would like nothing better than to believe that his mere presence on the political landscape can determine the outcome of presidential elections: If he can't win, he'll sure as heck decide who does.

But when this subject came up in a TV interview during Perot's recent political talkfest in Dallas, Perot stopped the interviewer dead in his tracks.

"I wish you people would quit saying that," he said in typically snappy fashion.

Look at the exit polls, Perot advised the interviewer; he affected both candidates equally.

Here's what happened, according to the exit polls.

Perot won 19,741,065 of the 103,751,662 votes that were cast for the top three finishers in the '92 election. That amounted to a fraction more than 19 percent of the vote.

Clinton finished first with 44,908,254 votes, or 43 percent. Bush finished second with 39,102,343 votes, nearly 38 percent.

These vote totals, by the way, come from the Federal Election Commission via the World Almanac and Book of Facts 1995.

OK. Are we all in agreement here? Clinton won with 43 percent of the vote, Bush was second with 38 percent and Perot finished third with 19 percent.

This is where the numbers get tricky.

According to exit polls released shortly after the '92 election, about 4 million of the 19 million-plus voters who went for Perot were hard-core Perotistas who would not have voted if their man hadn't been on the ballot. …

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