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1992 Presidential Elections - History

1992 Presidential Elections - History

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1992 Elections Bush vs Clinton

As the election campaign of 1992 neared, the incumbent President, George Bush, held a commanding lead in the polls, over any and all potential rivals. Bush had been the Commander-In-Chief presiding over the most decisive American military victory since World War II, the Gulf War. He had also directed American Foreign Policy as the Soviets Union fell apart. As a result, most of the leading Democratic candidates declined to run.

The Democrats held a long primary process. At the close of the primary process, Bill Clinton, the sitting governor of Arkansas, emerged as the leading Democratic presidential candidate. Clinton was favored, despite charges, he dodged the draft and was unfaithful to his wife. His wife, Hilary Rodham Clinton stood by him, throughout the barrage of allegations. As a result, Clinton was able to secure and obtain the presidential nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic Convention.

From the time of the Democratic convention, Governor Clinton held a commanding lead in the polls over President Bush. The troubled economy hobbled Bush's campaign. The campaign revolved primarily around economic issues. The ending of the cold war, for which Republicans took credit, perversely worked against them. No longer could they claim superiority by pushing Americans to question: "Do you trust the Democrats to stand up to the Russians?"

The third-party candidacy of Ross Perot was a genuine wild card in the campaign. Perot, a self-made billionaire, ran a one-issue campaign; deficit reduction. Early polls showed Perot as a leading candidate. However, his decision to first withdraw from the campaign and then reenter it, caused him to lose much of his early support.

Bush ran a rather listless campaign that failed to connect with voters. He seemed utterly disconnected from the needs of the average American.

Clinton's image of youth convinced enough Americans looking for change to vote for him. For the first time in a decade, many voted for a Democrat, sealing Clintonís victory.

State results in 1992

Electoral Results in 1992

AlabamaBill Clinton690,08040.9George Bush804,28347.6
AlaskaBill Clinton78,29430.3George Bush102,00039.5
ArizonaBill Clinton543,05036.5George Bush572,08638.5
ArkansasBill Clinton505,82353.2George Bush337,32435.5
CaliforniaBill Clinton5,121,32546.0George Bush3,630,57432.6
ColoradoBill Clinton629,68140.1George Bush562,85035.9
ConnecticutBill Clinton682,31842.2George Bush578,31335.8
DelawareBill Clinton126,05443.5George Bush102,31335.3
FloridaBill Clinton2,072,69839.0George Bush2,173,31040.9
GeorgiaBill Clinton1,008,96643.5George Bush995,25242.9
HawaiiBill Clinton179,31048.1George Bush136,82236.7
IdahoBill Clinton137,01328.4George Bush202,64542.0
IllinoisBill Clinton2,453,35048.6George Bush1,734,09634.3
IndianaBill Clinton848,42036.8George Bush989,37542.9
IowaBill Clinton586,35343.3George Bush504,89137.3
KansasBill Clinton390,43433.7George Bush449,95138.9
KentuckyBill Clinton665,10444.6George Bush617,17841.3
LouisianaBill Clinton815,97145.6George Bush733,38641.0
MaineBill Clinton263,42038.8George Bush206,50430.4
MarylandBill Clinton988,57149.8George Bush707,09435.6
MassachusettsBill Clinton1,318,66247.5George Bush805,04929.0
MichiganBill Clinton1,871,18243.8George Bush1,554,94036.4
MinnesotaBill Clinton1,020,99743.5George Bush747,84131.9
MississippiBill Clinton400,25840.8George Bush487,79349,7
MissouriBill Clinton1,053,87344.1George Bush811,15933.9
MontanaBill Clinton154,50737.6George Bush144,20735.1
NebraskaBill Clinton216,86429.4George Bush343,67846.6
NevadaBill Clinton189,14837.4George Bush175,82834.7
Now HampshireBill Clinton209,04038.9George Bush202,48437.6
New JerseyBill Clinton1,436,20643.0George Bush1,356,86540.6
New MexicoBill Clinton261,61745.9George Bush212,82437.3
New YorkBill Clinton3,444,45049.7George Bush2,346,64933.9
North CarolinaBill Clinton1,114,04242.7George Bush1,134,66143.4
North DakotaBill Clinton99,16832.2George Bush136,24444.2
OhioBill Clinton1,984,94240.2George Bush1,894,31038.3
OklahomaBill Clinton473,06634.0George Bush592,92942.6
OregonBill Clinton621,31442.5George Bush475,75732.5
PennsylvaniaBill Clinton2,239,16445.1George Bush1,791,84136.1
Rhode IslandBill Clinton213,29947.0George Bush131,60129.0
South CarolinaBill Clinton479,51439.9George Bush577,50748.0
South DakotaBill Clinton124,88837.1George Bush136,71840.7
TennesseeBill Clinton933,52147.1George Bush841,30042.4
TexasBill Clinton2,281,81537.1George Bush2,496,07140.6
UtahBill Clinton183,42924.7George Bush322,63243.4
VermontBill Clinton133,59246.1George Bush88,12230.4
VirginiaBill Clinton1,038,65040.6George Bush1,150,51745.0
WashingtonBill Clinton993,03743.4George Bush731,23432.0
West VirginiaBill Clinton331,00148.4George Bush241,97435.4
WisconsinBill Clinton1,041,06641.1George Bush930,85536.8
WyomingBill Clinton68,16034.0George Bush79,34739.6
Dist. of Col.Bill Clinton192,61984.6George Bush20,6989.1


1992 Kenyan general election

General elections were held in Kenya on 29 December 1992. Voters elected the President, and members of the National Assembly. They were the first multi-party general elections in Kenya since independence and the first to feature a direct vote for the President, who had, in 1964, been elected by the National Assembly, and, following a 1969 constitutional amendment, been automatically declared winner of non-held popular elections, held alongside parliamentary elections, in 1969, 1974, 1979, 1983, and 1988.

The results were marred by allegations of large-scale intimidation of opponents, harassment of election officials, and ballot-box stuffing, as well as targeted ethnic violence in the Rift Valley Province. Human Rights Watch accused several prominent Kenyan politicians, including President Daniel arap Moi and then-VP George Saitoti of inciting and co-ordinating the violence. [1] Voter turnout was 69.4%. [2] [3]


1992 United States presidential election in Utah [3]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage Electoral votes
Republican George H. W. Bush 322,332 43.36% 5
Independent Ross Perot 203,400 27.34% 0
Democratic Bill Clinton 183,429 24.65% 0
Populist James "Bo" Gritz 28,602 3.84% 0
Libertarian Andre Marrou 1,900 0.26% 0
Natural Law Dr. John Hagelin 1,319 0.18% 0
Democrats for Economic Recovery Lyndon LaRouche 1,089 0.15% 0
New Alliance Lenora Fulani 414 0.06% 0
Taxpayers’ Howard Phillips 393 0.05% 0
American Feimer Smith 292 0.04% 0
Socialist Workers James Warren 270 0.04% 0
Independent/Peace and Freedom Party Ron Daniels 177 0.02% 0
Socialist J. Quinn Brisben 151 0.02% 0
Totals - 100.00% 5
Voter turnout (Voting age population)

Results by county Edit

County George Herbert Walker Bush
William Jefferson Clinton
Henry Ross Perot
James “Bo” Gritz [4]
Various candidates [4]
Other parties
Margin [b] Total votes cast
# % # % # % # % # % # %
Beaver 1,040 49.27% 668 31.64% 330 15.63% 52 2.46% 21 0.99% 372 [c] 17.62% 2,111
Box Elder 7,712 49.58% 2,186 14.05% 4,507 28.97% 1,013 6.51% 137 0.88% 3,205 20.60% 15,555
Cache 15,971 51.98% 4,973 16.19% 8,032 26.14% 1,511 4.92% 238 0.77% 7,939 25.84% 30,725
Carbon 2,038 23.11% 4,480 50.81% 2,002 22.71% 235 2.67% 62 0.70% -2,442 [c] -27.70% 8,817
Daggett 172 38.91% 122 27.60% 117 26.47% 30 6.79% 1 0.23% 50 [c] 11.31% 442
Davis 39,087 48.05% 14,924 18.35% 24,105 29.63% 2,723 3.35% 510 0.63% 14,982 18.42% 81,350
Duchesne 1,983 43.44% 772 16.91% 1,229 26.92% 537 11.76% 44 0.96% 754 16.52% 4,565
Emery 1,643 36.43% 1,349 29.91% 1,138 25.23% 364 8.07% 16 0.35% 294 [c] 6.52% 4,510
Garfield 1,235 62.28% 309 15.58% 355 17.90% 79 3.98% 5 0.25% 880 44.38% 1,983
Grand 1,100 32.91% 1,160 34.71% 991 29.65% 44 1.32% 47 1.41% -60 [c] -1.80% 3,342
Iron 5,616 59.88% 1,537 16.39% 1,693 18.05% 440 4.69% 92 0.98% 3,923 41.83% 9,378
Juab 1,237 42.73% 823 28.43% 616 21.28% 209 7.22% 10 0.35% 414 [c] 14.30% 2,895
Kane 1,241 57.14% 295 13.58% 534 24.59% 85 3.91% 17 0.78% 707 32.55% 2,172
Millard 2,496 52.33% 742 15.56% 1,064 22.31% 417 8.74% 51 1.07% 1,432 30.02% 4,770
Morgan 1,339 45.54% 520 17.69% 851 28.95% 225 7.65% 5 0.17% 488 16.60% 2,940
Piute 429 56.97% 169 22.44% 146 19.39% 9 1.20% 0 0.00% 260 [c] 34.53% 753
Rich 525 59.93% 154 17.58% 187 21.35% 10 1.14% 0 0.00% 338 38.58% 876
Salt Lake 117,247 36.79% 100,082 31.40% 91,968 28.85% 6,444 2.02% 2,920 0.92% 17,165 [c] 5.39% 318,731
San Juan 2,004 46.23% 1,639 37.81% 576 13.29% 111 2.56% 5 0.12% 365 [c] 8.42% 4,335
Sanpete 2,995 44.80% 1,302 19.48% 1,742 26.06% 575 8.60% 71 1.06% 1,253 18.74% 6,685
Sevier 3,160 50.50% 1,039 16.60% 1,671 26.70% 329 5.26% 59 0.94% 1,489 23.79% 6,258
Summit 3,133 33.33% 3,013 32.06% 3,060 32.56% 128 1.36% 65 0.69% 73 0.78% 9,399
Tooele 3,676 35.79% 3,270 31.84% 3,011 29.32% 224 2.18% 90 0.88% 406 [c] 3.95% 10,271
Uintah 3,505 45.09% 1,374 17.67% 2,250 28.94% 589 7.58% 56 0.72% 1,255 16.14% 7,774
Utah 61,398 56.76% 14,090 13.02% 24,558 22.70% 7,410 6.85% 722 0.67% 36,840 34.05% 108,178
Wasatch 1,822 42.02% 1,042 24.03% 1,234 28.46% 178 4.11% 60 1.38% 588 13.56% 4,336
Washington 11,310 52.66% 3,364 15.66% 4,623 21.53% 2,037 9.49% 142 0.66% 6,687 31.14% 21,476
Wayne 706 57.63% 236 19.27% 251 20.49% 30 2.45% 2 0.16% 455 37.14% 1,225
Weber 26,812 39.30% 17,795 26.09% 20,559 30.14% 2,564 3.76% 486 0.71% 6,253 9.17% 68,216
Totals 322,632 43.36% 183,429 24.65% 203,400 27.34% 28,602 3.84% 5,935 0.80% 119,232 16.02% 744,068

Technically the voters of Utah cast their ballots for electors: representatives to the Electoral College. Utah is allocated five electors because it has three congressional districts and two senators. All candidates who appear on the ballot or qualify to receive write-in votes must submit a list of five electors, who pledge to vote for their candidate and his or her running mate. Whoever wins a plurality of votes in the state is awarded all five electoral votes. Their chosen electors then vote for president and vice president. Although electors are pledged to their candidate and running mate, they are not obligated to vote for them. An elector who votes for someone other than his or her candidate is known as a faithless elector.

The electors of each state and the District of Columbia met in December 1992 to cast their votes for president and vice president. The Electoral College itself never meets as one body. Instead the electors from each state and the District of Columbia met in their respective capitols.

All electors from Utah were pledged to and voted for George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle.

1992 Presidential Elections - History




The American Presidency Project
John Woolley and Gerhard Peters

The campaign

Typically, incumbent presidents face little opposition in securing renomination, but Bush faced a stiff early challenge from conservative commentator Pat Buchanan. At the Republican National Convention in 1988, Bush had pledged to the delegates that he would resist any tax increases, giving his famous “read my lips” pledge. But in 1990, in an attempt to cope with a soaring budget deficit, Bush reneged on that pledge, earning him the enmity of his conservative supporters and the distrust of many voters who had backed him in 1988. Buchanan led an insurgent campaign against Bush, capturing nearly 37 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary. Despite the challenge, Bush went on to win the Republican nomination, though his candidacy was wounded.

The Democratic race was intense. With Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin running, the major Democratic candidates skipped the Iowa caucuses. The front-runner appeared to be Clinton, but other candidates, in particular former California governor Jerry Brown and former Massachusetts senator Paul Tsongas, hoped to secure the nomination. Just before the New Hampshire primary, Clinton’s campaign was nearly derailed by widespread press coverage of his alleged 12-year affair with an Arkansas woman, Gennifer Flowers. In a subsequent interview watched by millions of viewers on the television news program 60 Minutes, Clinton and his wife admitted to having marital problems. Clinton’s popularity soon rebounded, and, though Tsongas won in New Hampshire, Clinton scored a strong second-place showing—a performance for which he labeled himself the “Comeback Kid.” Clinton would nearly sweep the Southern primaries held on March 10—the so-called Super Tuesday—and by mid-March Tsongas would withdraw from the contest. Still, Brown continued to challenge Clinton, who had not amassed the requisite number of delegates to secure the Democratic nomination until June 2, when he defeated Brown in California and several other states.

With Clinton suffering from personal scandals and facing a tough primary race and with Bush weakened by a faltering economy, the conditions were ripe for a third-party bid. In February, while a guest on CNN’s Larry King Live, billionaire businessman Ross Perot announced that he would run for president if supporters would file petitions enabling him to be on the ballot in all 50 states. Perot initially earned widespread popularity, particularly among voters dissatisfied with traditional party politics. He reached out to both Democrats and Republicans, hiring former operatives from each party to advise his campaign. Polls in May and June showed Perot leading both Clinton and Bush, but in July, with Clinton’s support increasing on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, Perot unexpectedly dropped from the race.

Clinton chose as his running mate Tennessee Sen. Al Gore—a curious choice, as both hailed from the South. But, with Gore’s centrist credentials added to those of Clinton’s, the move was politically astute, inoculating the Democrats against charges of being tax-and-spend liberals and, in particular, weak on defense (Gore had been one of only 10 Democratic senators to authorize the use of force against Iraq in 1991 in the Persian Gulf War). The campaign seemed likely to be a battle between the Clinton-Gore team and that of Bush and his vice president, Dan Quayle, and Clinton-Gore maintained a sizeable lead over the incumbent ticket. In September, however, Perot returned to the campaign trail and selected former admiral James Stockdale as his vice presidential running mate. Although Perot’s support began low—particularly as many former supporters did not warm to his second candidacy—Perot, spending $65 million of his own money and with his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (supported by both Bush and Clinton), his focus on eliminating the country’s budget deficit and national debt, and his nontraditional campaign, in which he focused on 30-minute infomercial-style advertisements and appeared on the stump to deliver speeches only rarely, saw his support increase as election day neared.

Clinton, on the strength of his middle-of-the-road approach, his apparent sympathy for the concerns of ordinary Americans (his statement “I feel your pain” became a well-known phrase), and his personal warmth, ultimately was able to defeat Bush and Perot, winning 43 percent of the vote to Bush’s 37.4 percent and Perot’s 18.9 percent. In the electoral college, Clinton’s victory was more dramatic: he captured 370 electoral votes to Bush’s 168, thus ending 12 years of Republican control of the presidency.

For the results of the previous election, see United States presidential election of 1988. For the results of the subsequent election, see United States presidential election of 1996.

1992 Presidential Election

The 1992 U.S. presidential election saw Democratic Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton defeat incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush and independent Ross Perot. The election was notable for the presence of three major candidates as well as the centrality of economic issues to the campaign.

The 1992 election was the first presidential election since 1968 in which a third party candidate garnered a significant percentage of the popular vote. Although billionaire Texas businessman Ross Perot failed to win any Electoral College votes, his presence had an important effect on the election. For one, Perot's concerns about free trade, federal budget deficits, and the U.S. national debt helped solidify economic issues as one of the primary concerns of the campaign. Moreover, although there remains some debate about Perot's impact on the outcome of the election, most analysts conclude that his presence (Perot won 18.9% of the popular vote) drew support away from incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush (who won 37.5%) and helped swing the election to Democratic Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas (43%). The 1992 election was also significant in that it ended twelve years of Republican control of the White House and marked just the fourth time in the twentieth century that a sitting President was denied re-election.

Many observers have blamed Bush's defeat on his reneging on his 1988 campaign pledge to refrain from raising taxes. However, the most important factor in Bush's defeat was discontent with the state of the nation's economy. The sluggish recovery from the 1990-91 recession created an anti-incumbency mood that Bush proved unable to overcome. The importance of economic conditions in the 1992 presidential election was famously summed up by Clinton campaign adviser James Carville's quip that "it's the economy, stupid."

George Bush's failure to address concerns about the nation's economy effectively—particularly when contrasted with Bill Clinton's ability to do so—was exemplified in the following exchange from the second Presidential debate of October 15, 1992. The video also demonstrates the ways in which the federal budget deficit and national debt were important campaign issues—even though these issues were often poorly understood and articulated.

Gene Brown, The 1992 Election (Turtleback Books, 1999).

Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover, Mad as Hell: Revolt at the Ballot Box, 1992 (Warner Books, 1993).

Peter Goldman, Thomas M. DeFrank, Mark Miller, Andrew Murr, and Tom Matthews, Quest for the Presidency 1992 (Texas A&M University Press, 1994).

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Republicans: President Bush ran on his military record and his successful foreign policy while pointing out the Democratic candidate Bill Clinton had burned his draft card for Vietnam, protested the war, and would not be successful in foreign policy. Bush, for the most part, focused on his Democratic rival rather than the independent Ross Perot despite Perot polling higher than him.

Democrats: Bill Clinton ran on a balanced budget and also positioned him as a centrist. He chose Al Gore as his running mate who was seen to be strong on Family Issues. With the economy faltering, Clinton specifically targeted key states and demographics which seemed to aid him.

Independent: Ross Perot, the billionaire, came into the race as the lead candidate. Many disenfranchised Republicans and Southern Democrats liked his approach to the economy and his conservative values. His business sense resonated with many Americans who feared deficit spending and he also argued against NAFTA which he believed to be a terrible trade deal.

1992, Presidential incumbent George H.W. Bush handed over the responsibility of running the nation to the 42 nd president, Bill Clinton. Only 10 times in the countries 52 elections has a presidential candidate beat out an incumbent. George H.W. Bush had served his 4 years after winning in 1988 against Michael Dukakis. While Clinton did not sweep the presidency, he did win by a formidable amount. His charisma, combined with a weak economy led voters against giving Bush a second term.

President Bush’s downfall began before he even took office. During his 1988 campaign, his slogan was “Read my lips. NO new taxes.” At the time I’m sure he believed that wholeheartedly however as the economy began to fall after nearly a decade of tax cuts under Reagan, Bush was forced to go back on his promise and raise taxes. Taxpayers were outraged that taxes would go up after such a long period of prosperity under Reagan. On top of this, it seemed that just as taxes increased the economy tanked (though Bush was not the cause, but rather the solution here as the economy rose soon after he left office). Usually the President at the time has an easy sweep to take the nomination of his party, but Bush faced some minor struggles in the form of Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot (who later ran as a third party candidate).

The Democratic nomination was a sweep for Bill Clinton, winning 3,372 of the 4,276 primary votes. Bill Clinton had everything thing that a party was looking for. About 20 years younger than nearly 70 year old current president, he was a Rhodes Scholar, a graduate of Yale law school, and a Governor of his home state Arkansas. A strong resume and an over-the-top air of confidence sealed the deal. He ate at fast food restaurants and loved rock and roll Clinton’s charisma and connection to the common man helped earn him his place as the Democratic nominee.

The main campaign for the presidency came down between Bush and Clinton (third party candidate Ross Perot did win some of the popular vote but no electoral votes). Statisticians took polls and predicted who would win. Early into the campaign, polls showed Bush and even Perot leading Clinton. However, as the year progressed the economy fell further and further. American’s lost hope in their Republican president and turned their support towards Clinton. After a convention speech, his popularity swung from 25% to 55% topping Bush’s 35%. Although he faced a variety of character bashes ranging from controversy over dodging the draft to extramarital affairs, he still pulled through to win 32 electoral votes and 43% of the popular vote.

1992 Presidential Elections - History

Welcome to the
Timeline of U.S. Presidential Elections!

This simple timeline is a presentation of popular and electoral voting data from all U.S. Presidential elections. The source of this data is a series of Wikipedia articles grouped under the name

which may be viewed by clicking the blue text above. (Many thanks to Wikipedia.org for this useful and interesting historical data!)

Some convenient links are provided:

1. The top row provides links to the Wikipedia articles for each specific election (simply click the link to view the article.)

2. The second row provides a link to the full-size electoral map for each specific election

3. The third row provides election data as a single graphic file for each election. Simply click the graphic to be taken to the relevant Wikipedia article.

This non-profit, public domain website is maintained by David B. Richardson of Berkeley / El Cerrito, California. Telephone feedback is welcome: (510) 558-9567. Hope you enjoy this site!

The Internet's First Election

Written by Ernie Smith on Nov 06, 2020

Hey all, Ernie here with a refresh of a timely article about the internet and presidential elections. The internet has been a deep influence on the 2020 election in stark ways. Given that, looking back at how things started strikes me as important.

Today in Tedium: For the past 24 years, a familiar trend has exposed itself with the turn of every U.S. presidential election cycle: Each one is ever-slightly more defined (heck, even redefined) by technology, particularly online trends that have come along in the three years prior. In 1996, it was a coming-out party for the web. In 2000, the growth of online news began to have an impact on how we researched candidates. In 2004, it was all about Meetup, as well as suddenly prominent individual bloggers like Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, whose dogged work in debunking a questionable report changed the shape of Dan Rather’s career. In 2008, fairly new outlets like YouTube and Politico became immensely influential. Twitter was around back then, but it wasn’t until 2012 when it came into its own, along with the big data campaign. In 2016, questions emerged after the fact about the influence of Facebook and misinformation. And this year: God, where do we even start? But I’m curious about how online networks affected elections before the internet had such a big impact on them, before cable networks teamed with social networks to promote primary debates. Today’s Tedium goes back to the 1992 campaign, in a year when backwards pants, Temple of the Dog, and Ross Perot were still in style. — Ernie @ Tedium

Keep Us Moving! Tedium takes a lot of time to work on and snark wise about. If you want to help us out, we have a Patreon page where you can donate. Keep the issues coming!

Five interesting ways technology influenced the 1992 presidential election

  1. Prodigy, the Sears-affiliated early online service that directly competed with AOL for a time, launched a 1992 campaign database for users to track candidates. The effort came about thanks to a collaboration with the League of Women Voters. Even better, Prodigy allowed you to write your representative electronically—well, kinda. “If you want to get your view across and write to your representative, you can write a letter on the computer screen,” The Washington Post noted in February of 1992. “Prodigy will print and mail it for a fee of $2.50.”
  2. For his 1992 primary campaign, current California Gov. Jerry Brown innovated by using a 1-800 number to solicit donations. Sound kind of quaint? Don’t be fooled: This was a Big Deal in 1992, as it hadn’t properly been utilized by candidates previously. As the San Francisco Chronicle learned back in 2013, the widely disseminated number, (800) 426-1112, was still active and owned by Brown. But as of 2020, it no longer appears to be.
  3. Jerry Brown also used Compuserve to reach voters, but so, too, did the Lincoln Chafee of the 1992 campaign, former Irvine, California, mayor Larry Agran. Agran, who didn’t last beyond New Hampshire, held online Q&A sessions on the early online network, with Bloomberg noting that Agran would speak out answers to the online questions out loud, while a transcriptionist would type the answers into the computer.
  4. Usenet! Freaking Usenet! The 1992 campaign was a hot topic on Usenet, the decentralized newsgroup system which is best described to those who never experienced it in person as the Reddit of its day. There were groups for all of the major candidates, as well as ample evidence that people didn’t like Bill Clinton even back then, and Ross Perot was a hot topic way back when. (Side note: Many newsgroups from the era are still active, including one for Rush Limbaugh.)
  5. MIT-programmed mailing lists: In 1992, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ran a number of email-driven bots on the campaign92.org domain, allowing users to request position papers for any campaign on the ballot in at least half of U.S. states—which meant Libertarian Party candidate Andre Marrou and Natural Law Party candidate John Hagelin got mailing lists, too. (Not that Hagelin got any respect—the MIT press release at the time called him “Larry.“) MIT estimated that the in the days before the 1992 election, it was sending out 2,000 emails a day through the accounts.

“One little-noticed development that illustrates the interactive nature of modern technology is the use of electronic mail. During the general election campaign, the text of all Bill Clinton’s speeches as well as his daily schedule, press releases, and position papers were made available through on-line computer services, such as Compuserve and Prodigy.”

— Dee Dee Myers, Bill Clinton’s first White House press secretary, discussing in The American Behavioral Scientist, an academic journal, how the Clinton campaign pioneered the use of online communications during the 1992 campaign. Myers characterized the endeavor as democratizing what would have previously been private pool reports. “For the first time, ordinary citizens had an easy way to obtain information that was previously available only to the national press corps,” she noted. “Instead of seeing an 8-second sound bite chosen by a network producer, voters could read an entire speech.” Clinton later became the first president to launch an official email address—[email protected], of course—and website. (In case you’re wondering, George H.W. Bush’s use of the internet during the 1992 campaign was much more, uh, conservative—limited, according to the Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics, to emailing policy statements and speech transcripts to bulletin boards.)

Ross Perot (Wikimedia Commons)

How Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign helped pave the way for the Internet Archive

Back in 2015, the Internet Archive’s Jason Scott uncovered a piece of archival material so obscure that even the organization’s founder, Brewster Kahle, didn’t remember creating it. The two-hour-long video, previously unmarked and with fewer than ten views at the time Scott discovered it, features an interview with Kahle that dates back to his days as head of WAIS, Inc., an early attempt to create a broad online database.

WAIS, which stands for “wide area information server,” was effectively an internet-enabled database technology that allowed for long-distance access of digitally organized content. Initially borne in 1989 from a research project, it became something of a footnote in the history of the internet as a combination of the World Wide Web and search engines like Google took its place. But the thinking in its design was, in some ways, fundamental to the way we use the internet now.

The technology, at the time, was seen as particularly valuable—especially in the days when it wasn’t clear how we would eventually access data online. Spun off from the supercomputer firm Thinking Machines in 1992, WAIS, Inc. represented one of the first attempts to make the internet user-friendly.

And, as a company, it got its start thanks to a presidential campaign—Ross Perot’s, to be specific. As Kahle states nearly an hour into the video, the campaign basically was the reason why the company was created when it was. In fact, Kahle described it as a “fortuitous event”: He knew Perot Systems head Mort Meyerson, who had a sudden need for an information-organization platform for the campaign of the company’s namesake.

Brewster Kahle, circa 1992. (via the Internet Archive)

“Basically they’ve got this organization of people that are in 50 states, that is ad-hoc, that has three months to live, that has to keep in touch with each other,” Kahle explained in the clip. “So they have lots of information coming from the field, and they have, they need to collect up in a central place, figure out what it is they’re trying to do, what the statements, positions of Ross Perot are, and to disseminate that information out again. Paper, or having people fly back and forth, just wasn’t fast enough. Electronics made a whole lot of sense within a campaign structure.”

The high-tech approach considered by the Perot campaign makes a lot of sense. As is well-known, Perot (who died last year at the age of 89) had a significant background in technology, as the founder of Electronic Data Systems, a information technology management firm that dates to the 1960s. (He also famously invested in Steve Jobs’ NeXT.)

Kahle’s system, put together in a couple of days, impressed political strategist and campaign manager Ed Rollins, who quickly put the system to work for the campaign. Soon after, Rollins quit the campaign, and Perot famously suspended his effort before eventually hopping back in. This created a problem for Perot Systems, which had this impressive tool at its disposal that it no longer could use for its intended purpose—organizing news clippings and press contacts.

(If you know where to look on the Internet Archive, you can actually find the proposed statement of work describing this effort to create “an Intelligence System for the Perot Campaign.“)

Eventually, with WAIS Inc.‘s help, Perot Systems decided to eat its own dog food.

“Basically Perot Systems’ point was, ‘What could Perot Systems use this for?’ in terms of selling it to their customers,” Kahle explained. “So we installed it within Perot Systems to help them run their own corporation. And that, now it’s November of ’92, we’ve basically installed it and got it running for six months. The pilot groups are using the system for all sorts of information.”

Soon enough, WAIS, Inc., off the back of client work like the Perot campaign and other projects, became a successful, profitable business, one that was only slightly ahead of its time—and close enough in conceit to the web that it basically predicted the internet’s future.

As the internet started to take a more formalized shape, Kahle and other stakeholders sold WAIS, Inc. to AOL, and with the money earned from the buyout, he and fellow WAIS co-founder Bruce Gilliat started two projects that are still active to this day: Alexa, an online search and analytics tool that crawls the internet’s many websites, and the Internet Archive, which keeps the internet’s memory safe for generations to come. (They eventually sold Alexa to Amazon for $250 million in stock. It’s unrelated, except perhaps in spirit, to Amazon’s Echo-driving AI project of the same name.)

As the 1996 election was just ending—with the internet’s role in future elections secured, thanks to sites like Clinton/Gore ’96 and Dole/Kemp ’96, Kahle was getting a start on the project that would become the internet’s ultimate scrapbook.

On October 26, 1996, the Internet Archive began in earnest, helping to collect big statements and tiny wrinkles alike on the internet. (Did you know they accept donations?)

That broad swoop of data collection extends to the world of politics. The Archive has in some ways democratized the basic ideas that Kahle’s campaign machinery was built upon back in ’92. During the 2016 campaign, the nonprofit’s Political TV Ad Archive collected every political ad that has run during that campaign season (including links to fact-checks of the ads), along with granular data about each of the presidential debates—the latter with the help of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. What WAIS was doing for Perot’s campaign way back when, the Political TV Ad Archive expanded upon.

This time of year in the ’92 election, Ross Perot was making some unusual left-field moves in an effort to topple Clinton and Bush–memorably, he ran a series of prime-time infomercials ahead of the election, which he paid for out of his own pocket because he’s Ross Perot. Perot didn’t win in ’92, in part because his decision to drop out of the race, then return, didn’t sit well with some.

But just imagine how effective those ads could’ve been if they had the full power of Brewster Kahle’s database behind them during that three-month break Perot took.

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Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

Watch the video: Worst 10 American Presidents (June 2022).


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