How Ross Perot Changed Political Campaigns

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tags: obituaries, elections, political history, Ross Perot

Ross Perot, the self-made Texas billionaire and one of the most successful third-party presidential candidates in U.S. history, died on Tuesday, his family’s spokesperson confirmed. He was 89.

Running as an Independent in the 1992 presidential election, he lost to Bill Clinton, but captured 19% of the vote. He was famous for uniting “both socially conservative, blue-collar, anti-NAFTA voters with fiscally conservative but socially moderate voters,” who wanted a change from the status quo, didn’t trust established political parties and who wanted to reduce the outsize power that lobbyists and special interest groups exert over policy decisions. And significantly, Perot was one of the first candidates in the modern era to attempt to bring his political message directly to the American public using the growing media landscape.

It all started when he announced his willingness to run for president on Larry King Live on Feb. 20, 1992, if the American people got him registered on 50 state ballots. TIME’s May 25, 1992, cover story called these citizen drives “the largest outpouring of volunteer enthusiasm America has seen since yellow ribbons dangled from every lamppost during the Gulf War…No independent candidate in 80 years has attracted anything like this kind of support.”

The magazine called his campaign “both a symptom of the failure of American democracy and a hopeful beacon of its ability to regenerate itself,” lamenting the professionalization of presidential politics. “Ross Perot in three short months has out of nothing created something far larger than a multibillion-dollar company, or perhaps something even larger than the multimillion-dollar campaign he will fund. Win or lose, his populist crusade and the challenge he is mounting to the establishment parties may well help break the deadlock of American democracy.”

Read entire article at Time

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