As flaky as he may be, Ross Perot has succeeded in doing
something that we haven't seen in America for nearly a century.
Not since Teddy Roosevelt and his Bull Moose party has a third
party achieved significant sustained support among the voters.
With Perot's multi-million-dollar investment, the little Texan
again could shake up the Democrats and the Republicans this fall.
For months, the Washington pundit class has been announcing the
demise of the Perot phenomenon. Perot is a spent force
politically, the pundits said. He peaked in 1992 with his 19
percent of the presidential vote and will surely slide back into
Many of the same pundits, of course, thought Perot would fade,
too, as the 1992 race neared its end. Instead, Perot gained
ground on both George Bush and Bill Clinton.
Since Perot's recent announcement that he will seek the Reform
Party's nomination in 1996, the first polls have shocked
Washington again. They show Perot with 15 percent of the vote,
within range of his 1992 performance.
The scandal troubles of President Clinton and the stillborn
candidacy of Bob Dole could drive Perot's numbers up even more.
Voters have made clear that they are not happy with a straight
Clinton-Dole match-up. With his clunky charts and folksy
banter, Perot could appeal to voters who are thoroughly sick of
slick and snarl.
The voters want alternatives, even though there are legitimate
reasons to doubt Perot's fitness for the Presidency. Without
doubt, Perot's solutions are often simplistic looks under the
nation's hood and his interpretation of fact can lead to
paranoid fears about his daughter's wedding. Still, neither
Clinton nor Dole is setting such high standards that the idea of
President Perot can be dismissed out of hand.
It is certainly no longer unthinkable that Perot might force
Clinton and Dole into a tight three-way race. Perot could even
give Dole a chance to win, if the loyal Republican voter base
holds firm for the former Kansas senator and if the less stable
Democratic electorate breaks apart. Or Perot might blow past
one of the other candidates -- most likely Dole -- and be the
real contender in November.
Whatever the outcome, however, Perot already has proved again
that the Washington pundit class is hopelessly out of touch with
the American people. The voters appear eager to shake up the
process again, and Perot might be the one who benefits the most
Robert Parry, Editor of The Consortium
(c) Copyright 1996 -- Please Do Not Re-Post
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