Election of 1988: Bush succeeds Reagan

As Ronald Reagan`s eight-year term of office as president was drawing to a close, the Republicans were determined to keep the office in their hands and show that they were the natural governing party in America. Democrats, who had continued to control both houses of Congress, were just as determined to return the presidency to their control in the election of 1988.

There was some early activity in the Republican campaign, with Bob Dole of Kansas and televangelist Pat Robertson taking the top two spots. However, in the larger national contest, George H.W. Bush showed that his superior national organization and the support of President Reagan were too much for any of his opponents to match.

The 1988 Republican national convention was held in New Orleans at the Superdome from August 15 to August 18, 1988. Reagan was still so popular that were it not for the 22nd Amendment, he could have been nominated for another term, but this was not constitutionally possible.

It was no surprise that the nomination for President was given to Ronald Reagan`s vice-president for eight years, George H.W. Bush. Much more surprising was Bush`s choice of the little known senator from Indiana, Dan Quayle, to be his running mate. At the convention, Ronald Reagan gave a rousing and well-received speech.

A long list of Democrats competed or were at least mentioned for the 1988 nomination. Senator Al Gore of Tennessee was an early candidate. Senator Gary Hart of Colorado seemed to have good prospects before a sex scandal stalled his momentum. Democrats urged Governor Mario Cuomo of New York to run, having been impressed with his keynote address in 1984, but he didn`t enter the campaign.

By the time of the convention, the two principal competitors for the 1988 Democratic nomination for president turned out to be Jesse Jackson, who reprised his 1984 campaign for the nomination with greater success in 1988, and Michael Dukakis, governor of Massachusetts. Jackson ran on an extremely liberal, perhaps borderline socialist, platform which would have been very difficult to promote in the general election, but his campaign stalled after Dukakis claimed an easy victory in Wisconsin in March.

At the 1988 Democratic national convention held in Atlanta from July 18 to July 22, the Democrats easily nominated Michael Dukakis on the first ballot. Supporters of Jesse Jackson put forward the argument that he "deserved" the vice-presidential nomination for coming in second. This was a faint echo of the original arrangement in the Electoral College, under which the vice-president was the person who received the second most votes. That had been deemed unworkable by about 1800, and it seemed no better in 1988. The Democrats avoided confronting the issue directly by having Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas nominated by voice vote.

During the campaign, Bush benefited from the general peace and prosperity, and the afterglow of Ronald Reagan`s presidency. Michael Dukakis was never able to establish good reasons why the country should switch the White House from Republican control. Attempting to look military, he appeared in a photo op in a tank turret wearing a helmet, in which he simply looked out of place.

On election day, November 8, 1988, the Republican ticket rolled to an easy victory. Dukakis carried only 10 states, which was positive only in comparison with the results four years earlier. Nevertheless, the Democrats retained a comfortable margin of 260 to 175 in the House of Representatives, little changed from the 1986 election, and the 45 Republicans who remained in the Senate gave the Democrats a continued, but not filibuster-proof, majority.

Election of 1988
Party Electoral
George H.W. Bush (TX)
Dan Quayle (IN)
Republican 426 48,886,097
Michael S. Dukakis (MA)
Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. (TX)
Democratic 111 41,809,074
Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. (TX)
Michael S. Dukakis (MA)
Democratic 1 ...

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Quotes regarding Election of 1988: Bush succeeds Reagan.

By George H.W. Bush
I'm the one who will not raise taxes. My opponent now says he'll raise them as a last resort, or a third resort. But when a politician talks like that, you know that's one resort he'll be checking into. My opponent, my opponent won't rule out raising taxes. But I will. And The Congress will push me to raise taxes and I'll say no. And they'll push, and I'll say no, and they'll push again, and I'll say, to them, Read my lips: no new taxes.
Speech at 1988 Republican convention