Will 2020’s Election Predictions Be Another 1992 for Washington Journalists?

In 1992 President George H.W. Bush was running for reelection and Democrats didn’t have a high-profile candidate to challenge him. California governor Jerry Brown and Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas were the strongest challengers with Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey also running. Bill Clinton, the governor of Arkansas, was relatively unknown but running as a centrist Democrat he swept nearly all of the Southern Super Tuesday primaries and then defeated Brown in the California primary, clinching the nomination.

So it was George Bush vs. Bill Clinton. A third party candidate, Ross Perot, known only for founding a computer company, seemed irrelevant.

What did the pundits think? From the December 1992 Washingtonian:

Fred Barnes in a New Republic cover story: “One of Clinton’s supposed assets is that as a Southerner he’ll shatter the GOP’s presidential lock on the South. Dream on….He’s yet to face the potent Republican party machine that crushed Dukakis….Clinton’s a goner.”

Carl Rowan on Inside Washington: “I think Clinton’s a goner….He might have survived the infidelity charge, but in this country you just can’t have back-to-back scandals.”

Ken DeCell, co-author of The Thirteen Keys to the Presidency, “One thing for sure: Forget the polls. Whatever they show between now and election day, George Bush will be re-elected on November 3.”

George Will on This Week With David Brinkley: “We’re going to have a normal year of politics.”

Ross Perot—how many votes? The McLaughlin Group: Fred Barnes—Six percent; Eleanor Clift—Five percent; Jack Germond—I’ll say five and a half; Morton Kondracke—With all that money nine percent; John McLaughlin—The answer is four percent; Chris Matthews—By November people will be thinking of Perot as one of the extras on Gunsmoke.

Results of the 1992 election: Bill Clinton, 44,909,899 votes, George Bush, 39,105, 545 votes, Ross Perot, 19,743,821 votes. Clinton got 43 percent of the vote, Bush 37.4 percent, Perot 18.9 percent.

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