Theo Lippman Jr.

November 02, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The 51st in 1988 produced President George Bush. The then vice president was nominated after a brief, spirited contest with Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole.

Democrats nominated Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. A liberal in the party's best tradition, he told the public the election was about competence, not ideology. Mr. Bush insisted it was about values and political philosophy. He attacked Mr. Dukakis for not being sufficiently patriotic and for being too lenient on criminals. The governor had vetoed a mandatory pledge-of-allegiance bill and allowed a murderer out of prison on furlough -- with the tragic result that a woman was raped.

Far behind in late polls, Dukakis began campaigning as the liberal he was. He closed the gap and ended with 45.6 percent of the popular vote and 10 states, the best record of any Democratic presidential nominee in the 1980s. Mr. Bush noted that he was the first sitting vice president to win the presidency since Martin Van Buren in 1836. Van Buren lost four years later, Democrats quickly pointed out, in what seemed after three straight big Republican wins as a clear case of wishful thinking.

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