Presidential elections 1968-1996

For Edexcel Modern History AS-level

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  • Created on: 04-05-12 18:48

Why did Nixon win the 1968 election against Humphr

Weakness of the Democrats

  • The Democrats were divided and weakened. 
  • Nixon blamed the Vietnam War on Johnson - 'Johnson's War', and Humphrey was inevitably associated with it as the Democratic candidate. Nixon promised 'peace with honour', to end the Draft and phase out troops. 
  • George Wallace ran as an independent candidate, winning 13.5% of the popular vote. 

Electioneering techniques

  • Nixon learnt from the rhetoric of Kennedy in 1960 and emphasised his values. 
  • He did not 'press the flesh' (limited appearances in public etc.)
  • He used his Southern Strategy in order to appeal to Middle America. 

Promising new leadership 

  • Nixon identified with Middle America, promising smaller and cheaper government, and he opposed civil rights, radicalism and change. 
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Why did Nixon win the 1972 election against McGove

Weakness of the Democrats

  • George McGovern was seen as the candidate of counter-culture and the 3A's - amnesty, abortion and acid - and was thus rejected for his liberalism.

Appeal to Middle America

  • Nixon had more conservative ideas, such as promising to slow down integration by electing his own Supreme Court judges. 
  • As the incumbent President, he could highlight the successes he had on social issues, e.g. imprisoning thousands of Black Panther members, implementing the District of Columbia (DC) Crime Control Act 1970 and a number of pieces of environmental legislation.

Election campaign

  • Spiro Agnew's dirty work in Nixon's speeches; as incumbent President, he did not have to go out and meet the public - everyone knew who he was. The role of CREEP and their fundraising. 


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Why did Nixon win the 1972 election against McGove

Foreign policy

  • SALT agreement - the first real end to the nuclear arms race
  • Nixon maintained 'peace with honour' in Vietnam
  • He opened up relations with Communist China - an unseen before country, so voters were impressed.

Economic policy/situation

  • New Federalism - began sharing federal revenue directly with states without bureaucracy
  • NEP 1971 - devalued the dollar and made exports cheaper. 
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Why did Ford fail to win the 1976 election against

Candidates' personal appeal

  • The Reagan challenge for the presidential nomination had exhausted the Republicans, so Carter had a head start.
  • Ford made strategic errors, underestimated the Democrats and failed to emphasise his tax cuts. He was considered a 'bumbler', whereas Carter was committed, had a warm smile and an 'ordinary American' 

Effectiveness of the election campaign

  • Similar to Reagan, Carter emphasised how he was not part of the Washington corruption under Ford and Nixon, claiming that Ford ratified the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe.

Appeal of policies

  • Carter promised to tackle big problems for the people: energy, healthcare, welfare and urban decay. Ford never articulated his vision and had done nothing for minorities during his presidency. 66% of women were in poverty, he opposed using and did little on welfare. 
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Why did Ford fail to win the 1976 election against

Economic policy/situation

  • Just before the election, inflation was in double figures, high unemployment, and falling GNP. His WIN policy could not tackle stagflation with tax cuts, and was extremely unpopular. 

Other factors

  • Ford was unpopular because he had pardoned Nixon after the Watergate Scandal, and his administration had been corrupt. Furthermore, he had a particularly poor relationship with Congress, having vetoed 66 bills in 29 months!
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Why did Carter fail to win the 1980 election again

Candidates personal appeal

  • Carter made strategic errors - he tried to do too much too quickly and failed to understand his initiatives were complex. He isolated himself from politics and had a bad relationship with a Democratic Congress.
  • The Democrats were split after Edward Kennedy ran for the Democratic nomination.
  • Reagan was seen as warmer, optimistic and told jokes; he could negotiate - 'The Best Communicator'

Effectiveness of election campaign

  • Carter lacked vision and was confused as to whether he was a liberal or conservative, so voters - in particular Middle America - were drawn to Reagan's vision. He had appeared in movies and on TV, so was a good speaker, and he had served 2 terms as the governor of California. His 'there you go again' comment was popular; Carter appeared 'nasty' when he criticised 'the nice guy'. 
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Why did Carter fail to win the 1980 election again

Appeal of policies

  • Carter had no foreign policy that voters rated and was too soft. The Iranian militants who took 60 American hostages in protest in 1979 damaged his reputation, as the rescue mission failed.
  • Reagan promised strong leadership, revival of US power, smaller government and tax cuts.

Economic policy/situation

  • Unemployment had risen to 8.2 million by 1980. Inflation had been tackled by decreasing federal spending (unpopular!) Many believed he would destroy the economy and his energy legislation had been diluted by Congress for not involving them in the process and high prices. Many believed he had lost control when he asked cabinet secretaries to resign.

Other factors

  • Carter did little for women/ERA and African Americans, who suffered from the recession. Carter lost the typical Democrat voters - blue-collar workers - as he did nothing for unemployment.
  • The emergence of the Religious Right, where 5 million Evangelical Christians voted for the first time - and for Reagan!
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Why was Reagan re-elected in the 1984 election aga

Weakness of the Democrats

  • Mondale was seen to be too young in comparison to Reagan. He also made many tactical mistakes (see campaign) and had a shady running mate. 

Personal appeal

  • Reagan won 72% of the Southern white vote and was particularly popular, even among those who didn't even like his policies!

Campaign

  • His 'Morning Again in America' advert played on traditional American values, appealing to the New Right. 
  • The Republicans had raised $7.2 million for the campaign, instead of $657,000. 
  • Mondale admitted that he would raise taxes, claiming that Reagan would do the same without telling the public. He ran a liberal campaign, supporting nuclear freeze and the Equal Rights Amendment.
  • Reagan kept away from the press.


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Why was Reagan re-elected in the 1984 election aga

Policies

  • Many people liked Reagan's policies, and those who did not liked Reagan.
  • He strengthened US defence and stood up to Communism but at the same time, he wanted to improve relations with Russia.

Economy

  • Under Reagan, there had been an economic upturn due to the successes of his policies. 
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Why did Bush win the 1988 election against Dukakis

Weakness of the Democrats

  • The Republicans made Dukakis look weak by publicising how he had vetoed a bill compelling public schoolteachers to lead the Pledge of Allegiance and described how he had signed a leave bill for criminals, such as Willie Horton.
  • Bush depicted him as an unrepented 1960s liberal who would never win the support of more conservative Democrats. 

Personal appeal

  • Bush had been Reagan's Vice President where he gained 8 years of invaluable political experience. Reagan had been popular and so voting for Bush, when he had Reagan's backing, seemed sensible. 

Campaign

  • Bush appeared more eager, pledging a 'kinder, gentler' America, winning over moderate swing voters; whereas Dukakis was not always enthusiastic and came across aloof with no clear vision - he concentrated on state business. 
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Why did Bush win the 1988 election against Dukakis

Campaign (continued)

  • Dan Quayle (Bush's running mate) was seen as a fun figure in the Senate (to help win the vote of younger voters) and his conservative values would help win the Religious Right voters, who usually voted Republican.
  • The Republicans raised more for the campaign.

Popular policies 

  • Bush played a role in the Kuwait War - by liberating them, he proved the US military was powerful. He was also able to keep Congress under control.

Economy 

  • Voters supported Bush's pledge of 'Read my lips - no new taxes' at the 1988 FOP convention. 

The result was a third consecutive Republican landslide. Bush won 53% of the popular vote, Dukakis won 45.6%. Voter turnout was the lowest since 1924, perhaps as neither candidate was particularly inspiring. 


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Why did Bush lose the 1992 election against Clinto

Weakness of the Republicans

  • Ross Perot, an independent candidate, won 19% of the popular vote. The Republicans claimed that the majority of these people would have voted for Bush, so argued Clinton had 'stolen the Presidency'.

Personal appeal

  • The strength of Clinton - he appealed to many different people in society because of his personality and policies.
  • As a Southerner, he won back voters from the Republicans, as he had visited Florida after it had been devastated by Hurricane Andrew (no other candidate had done this).

Campaign 

  • Clinton was pro-choice, so women liked him. They thought his wife Hillary would play an important role if he was elected.
  • He was a 'New Democrat', emphasising law and order, opportunity and tax reform, while maintaining traditional liberal goals - gun control, abortion and national healthcare. 
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Why did Bush lose the 1992 election against Clinto

Campaign (continued)

  • Bush performed badly in the debates - he appeared childish and uninterested, while Clinton seemed enthusiastic and a brilliant campaigner. He joked about himself and had a great fundraising team who produced a film about hope and his rise from poverty. Bush had no vision.

Popular policies 

  • Bush lacked a viable social and economic programme, while Clinton concentrated on domestic issues, impressing voters. He played to his strengths, avoiding foreign policy, where Bush was stronger.
  • Bush's selection of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court cost him female voters.

Economy

  • Under Bush, the economy slumped into recession due to a $300 billion deficit run up by Reagan, and was slow to get organised. Voters thought he was uninterested (as he closed down 31 military bases, costing 70,000 jobs) and broke his promise of not raising taxes at the FOP convention 1988.
  • Clinton: 'It's the Economy, Stupid!' 
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Why was Clinton re-elected in the 1996 election ag

Weakness of the Republicans/strengths of Clinton

  • Voters were not convinced by Dole, who was 73 and had been weakened by other Republican candidates in the primaries. He lacked charisma and did not enjoy campaigning like Clinton. 

Personal appeal

  • Clinton concentrated on his triangulation strategy, presenting himself as a moderate - between liberals and conservatives. He portrayed Gingrich as an extremist.

Campaign 

  • He was a better speaker than Dole, perhaps more superior to Reagan. His speech in 1995, when a truck bomb destroyed a federal building in Oklahoma helped win votes. 
  • Clinton fundraised brilliantly, e.g. selling overnight stays in the Lincoln bedroom of the White House.

Policies

  • Dole was anti-abortion, unlike Clinton - so female voters were drawn to him. 54% of women supported him, compared to 38% for Dole. 
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Why was Clinton re-elected in the 1996 election ag

Policies (continued)

  • In the re-election campaign, Clinton pleased Old Democrats by supporting affirmative action and New Democrats by advocating welfare reforms. They satisfied conservatives by favouring quota modifications. 

Economy

  • The economy was booming, with inflation, interest rates and unemployment at their lowest since 1968. 

Other factors

  • Clinton emerged triumphant from the budget negotiations 1996, making him appear more powerful over Congress. The Republicans passed a welfare form, increased the minimum wage and extended healthcare insurance, which won Clinton votes.

Clinton won 42.9% of the popular vote, compared to Dole's 40.7% Ross Perot, who ran again in 1996, won 8.4%

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