Democratic Party (United States) presidential primaries, 1992

Democratic Party (United States) presidential primaries, 1992
Democratic Presidential Primaries, 1992
United States
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  Bill Clinton.jpg Mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown.jpg Senator Paul Tsongas.jpg
Nominee Bill Clinton Jerry Brown Paul Tsongas
Party Democratic Democratic Democratic
Home state Arkansas California Massachusetts
States carried 39 3 6
Popular vote 10,482,411 4,071,232 3,656,010
Percentage 52.01% 20.20% 18.14%

  Senator Bob Kerrey.jpg Tom Harkin official portrait.jpg
Nominee Bob Kerrey Tom Harkin
Party Democratic Democratic
Home state Nebraska Iowa
States carried 1 1
Popular vote 318,457 280,304
Percentage 1.58% 1.39%

1992 Democratic Primary Results.svg

Democratic Primary Results: Blue denotes a Clinton win, yellow a Brown win, green a Tsongas win, orange a Kerrey win, and purple a Harkin win

Democratic presidential candidate before election

Michael Dukakis

Democratic presidential candidate-elect

Bill Clinton

The 1992 Democratic presidential primaries were the selection process by which voters of the Democratic Party chose its nominee for President of the United States in the 1992 U.S. presidential election. Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton was selected as the nominee through a series of primary elections and caucuses culminating in the 1992 Democratic National Convention held from July 13 to July 16, 1992 in New York City.



During the aftermath of the Gulf War, President Bush's approval ratings were extremely high. During one point after the successful performance by U.S forces in Kuwait, President Bush's approval ratings were 89% [1] As a result, several high profile candidates such as Mario Cuomo refused to seek the Democratic Nomination for President. Senator (and later vice-president) Al Gore refused to seek the nomination due to the fact his son was struck by a car and was undergoing extensive surgery as well as physical therapy.[2]

The Democrats lacked a high-profile viable candidate to face an incumbent Republican president. Still, several candidates such as Bill Clinton, Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown chose to run.


Primary race

Clinton, a Southerner with experience governing a more conservative state, positioned himself as a centrist New Democrat. He prepared for a run in 1992 amidst a crowded field seeking to beat the incumbent President George H. W. Bush. In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, Bush seemed unbeatable but a small economic recession spurred the Democrats on. Tom Harkin won his native Iowa without much surprise. Clinton, meanwhile, was still a relatively unknown national candidate before the primary season when a woman named Gennifer Flowers appeared in the press to reveal allegations of an affair. Clinton sought damage control by appearing on 60 Minutes with his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for an interview with Steve Kroft. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts won the primary in neighboring New Hampshire but Clinton's second place finish - strengthened by Clinton's speech labeling himself "The Comeback Kid" - re-energized his campaign. Clinton swept nearly all of the Super Tuesday primaries, making him the solid front runner. Jerry Brown, however, began to run a surprising insurgent campaign, particularly through use of a 1-800 number to receive grassroots funding. Brown "seemed to be the most left-wing and right-wing man in the field. [He] called for term limits, a flat tax, and the abolition of the Department of Education."[3] Brown scored surprising wins in Connecticut and Colorado and seemed poised to overtake Clinton.

On March 17, Brown forced Tsongas from the race when he received a strong third-place showing in the Illinois primary and then defeated the senator for second place in the Michigan primary by a wide margin. Exactly one week later, he cemented his position as a major threat to Clinton when he eked out a narrow win in the bitterly fought Connecticut primary. As the press now focused on the primaries in New York and Wisconsin, which were both to be held on the same day, Brown, who had taken the lead in polls in both states, made a serious gaffe: he announced to an audience of various leaders of New York City's Jewish community that, if nominated, he would consider the Reverend Jesse Jackson as a vice-presidential candidate. Jackson, who had made a pair of anti-Semitic comments about Jews in general and New York City's Jews in particular while running for president in 1984, was still a widely hated figure in that community and Brown's polling numbers suffered. On April 7, he lost narrowly to Bill Clinton in Wisconsin (37-34), and dramatically in New York (41-26). In addition, his "willingness to break with liberal orthodoxy on taxes led to denunciations from the party regulars, but by the end of the race he had been embraced by much of the Left."[3]

Although Brown continued to campaign in a number of states, he won no further primaries. Despite this, he still had a sizable number of delegates, and a big win in his home state of California would deprive Clinton of sufficient support to win the nomination, which Brown apparently thought would revert to him by default. After nearly a month of intense campaigning and multiple debates between the two candidates, Clinton managed to defeat Brown in this final primary by a margin of 48% to 41%

The convention

The convention met in New York City, and the official tally was:

Clinton chose U.S. Senator Albert A. Gore Jr. (D-Tennessee) to be his running mate on July 9, 1992. Choosing Gore, who is from Clinton's neighboring state of Tennessee, went against the popular strategy of balancing a Southern candidate with a Northern partner. Gore did serve to balance the ticket in other ways, as he was perceived as strong on family values and environmental issues, while Clinton was not.[4] Also, Gore's similarities to Clinton allowed him to really push some of his key campaign themes, such as centrism and generational change.[5]

Before Gore's selection, other politicians were mentioned as a possible running-mate, e.g. Bob Kerrey, Dick Gephardt, Mario Cuomo, Indiana Representative Lee H. Hamilton, Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford, Florida Senator Bob Graham, and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

The Democratic Convention in New York City was essentially a solidification of the party around Clinton and Gore, though there was controversy over whether Jerry Brown would be allowed to speak. Brown did indeed speak and ultimately endorsed the Clinton campaign.

Another additional controversy concerned Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey, who sought a speaking slot at the convention but was not granted one. Casey complained that it was because of his outspoken pro-life views: he had warned the platform committee that Democrats were committing political suicide because of their support for abortion.[6] Clinton supporters have said that Casey was not allowed to speak because he had not endorsed the ticket.

Popular vote results

Total popular vote number in primaries[7]:

Convention tallies

For President[8]:

Vice Presidential nomination

Clinton selected Tennessee Senator and 1988 candidate Al Gore to be his running-mate. Among others confirmed possible V.P. nominees, who were finalists of Clinton's selection were:

Clinton's list of finalists did not include Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey and Governor of New York Mario Cuomo, who publicly disavowed interest in Vice Presidency.[9]

Convention tally for Vice President

Outside resources

The story of the race was covered in the film The War Room and fictionalized into the novel and film Primary Colors.

See also


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