Can Bush Mk.II suffer a "Perot effect"? (1)

Can George Bush Mk.II suffer a 'Perot effect'? Democrat campaign managers certainly seem to think it is worth playing for. Meanwhile Republicans are silent on the possibility of Libertarians doing to them in 2004 what Ross Perot did in 1992.

In 1992, Bill Clinton the Democratic challenger won the presidential vote in 32 states plus Washington D.C.. Among the states where he defeated the incumbent Republican George Bush Mk.I were Montana and Colorado. The reason for this sudden and almost unprecedented enthusiasm in those parts for a Democrat was not some deep seated change of heart by much of the population. Instead we need to look at what became known as the 'Perot effect'.

George Bush Mk.I's drubbing was at least due in some measure to the disaffection of much of the Republican right with the President's policies and leadership. The infamous "Read my lips, NO TAX INCREASES", the perceived softness on both economic and social issues culminated in the dissident campaign of a multi-millionaire Ross Perot. Perot was known for having a fortune developing security products for government contracts and having financed a mercenary attempt to rescue prisoners of war believed held in Vietnam.

This time the Democrats are circulating a catalogue of quotes that undermine conservative or libertarian support for the Republican incumbent.

The Libertarian Party scored less than half a percent in the 2000 Presidential election, despite appearing in one form or another on the ballot in all 50 states. However, that was before the War on Terror, the Patriot Act, large increases in public spending and a general disillusionment on the right about the effectiveness of George Bush Mk.II as their champion.

Even a 0.75% Libertarian vote in such states as Missouri, Iowa, New Mexico and Florida could make a difference. Any significant local burst of defection to Libertarians in places like New Hampshire could be fatal to the Republican cause.

In the circumstances it would be foolish for the Democrats to ignore any opportunities to exploit disaffection against Bush from the right. At best, loss of right-wing support will be enough to put a Democrat in the White House. At worst, Bush will have to respond by moving his campaign towards the right, providing opportunities for Democrats to attack with accusations of 'extremism' and 'pandering' to all sorts of liberal demons. In the latter case, John Kerry can shore up some of his defectors to the Green Party or to Ralph Nader.

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