President Ronald Reagan opened his campaign for a second term on January 30, 1984, making education and the deficit his principal issues. In his weekly radio broadcast on February 4, he accused the Democrats of attacking his call for a bipartisan effort to reduce the deficit, and, in a speech before a Republican crowd in Las Vegas on February 7, he accused his Democratic predecessors of having "ravaged" the nation with inflation. Earlier that day, he addressed a national meeting of secondary school principals in which he claimed to have put education at the top of the American agenda, producing a grassroots revolution. "There he goes again" is a reference to a favorite Reagan putdown in presidential campaign debates and to Reagan's own reputation as the "Teflon president" to whom nothing stuck.
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President-elect George Bush met with a group of leading environmentalists on November 30, 1988, having declared during his campaign "I am an environmentalist." Most major environmental groups had faulted his record on the environment, however, and had supported the Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. While speaking at a news conference on December 6, Bush's appointee for chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Michael J. Boskin, endorsed Bush's pledge to bring the deficit under control without a tax increase. This should be done, he said, by slowing the growth in government spending. Bush had brought down the house at the Republican convention in August with his proclamation, "Read my lips—No new taxes!"
[Watch my lips—I'm gonna be the environment president!]. December 7, 1988. Ink and white out over pencil on paper. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (18)
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Exit polls from primaries in California, Ohio, New Jersey, Alabama, New Mexico, and Montana showed that both Democrats and Republicans would have voted for unannounced independent presidential candidate Ross Perot had he been on the ballot. There was a growing sense that Perot, a Texas entrepreneur and celebrity maverick, was a major presidential contender. Analysts, noting that Perot's exposure to voters occurred almost exclusively during his television talk-shows, argued that the Perot campaign was short on specifics.
[Howdy! I'm Ross Perot and I'm running for president.] June 1, 1992. Ink and white out over pencil on layered paper board. Swann Fund Purchase. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (29)
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Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was elected the forty-second president of the United States on November 3, 1992. During the final days of the campaign President George Bush asserted that Clinton and Gore were untested leaders; "My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos," he said during his visit to Michigan. During the campaign, Clinton had been derided by Republicans for the limitations of his experience as the governor of a rural, sparsely populated state, whose economy relied heavily on chicken farming.
‘Either all our chickens came home to roost, or this is the Arkansas transition team.’. November 6, 1992. Ink and white out over pencil on paper. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (30)
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Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, who had engaged in bruising primary battles with former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas and former California Governor Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown, emerged as the victor in the Democratic primaries in Illinois and Michigan on March 17, 1992, demonstrating that he could run well outside the South. As a result, Tsongas announced he was suspending his campaign. Clinton, who had more than half of the delegates necessary for nomination, was now almost assured of it, although it was expected that he would receive more attacks on his personal life. While Brown continued to run, he appeared to pose little threat to Clinton.
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President Bill Clinton presented his economic program on February 17, 1993, in a nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress. The proposal included tax increases and the most ambitious deficit reduction plan since World War II. Clinton's call for fiscal reform was widely seen as shaping the entire legislative agenda for his term and as a dramatic reversal of the fiscal policies of the Reagan-Bush presidencies. Republicans were quick to criticize the tax hikes, and congressional support for the plan appeared unsteady, even among Democrats. Clinton had been featured playing his saxophone on numerous occasions throughout the campaign and at the inaugural festivities.
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Responding to criticism that his public demeanor lacked warmth and empathy, Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole apparently attempted to project a more affable persona during the 1996 presidential primaries.
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Having succeeded in his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee, Bob Dole was criticized on July 10 by retired General Colin L. Powell, whom he was heavily courting as a vice-presidential running mate, for failing to attend the NAACP convention. The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was at a peak of visibility and popularity with the recent publication of his autobiography, My American Journey.
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President Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Committee convention on August 29 was entitled "Join Me to Build that Bridge to the Future," a theme that was played constantly for the next few months.
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A poll published on October 22, 1996, revealed that 63 percent of Americans thought that Dole spent more time attacking Clinton than explaining what his policies as president would be. Dole attacked Clinton's ethics and said of the White House at an October 27 Republican gathering, "It's the animal house!"
[Dole and Clinton: the pot calling the kettle black]. October 30, 1996. Ink and white out over pencil on paper. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (48)
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