How George H.W. Bush vanquished Michael Dukakis.

How Negative Campaigning Won George H.W. Bush the Presidency

How Negative Campaigning Won George H.W. Bush the Presidency

Bite-sized stories from presidential campaign history.
Dec. 2 2015 10:08 AM

Whistlestop: Fighting the Wimp Factor

In 1988, George H.W. Bush had an image problem. His handlers beat it by spinning the image … of his opponent.

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Listen to Episode 21 of Whistlestop:

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Halfway through 1988, public opinion polls showed George H. W. Bush 16 points behind Michael Dukakis in their race for the presidency. Five months later, Bush was the president-elect, having won the election in 40 states.

The Bush team’s relentless use of opposition research was at the center of its successful campaign, but his opponent didn’t do himself any favors along the way. In this episode of Whistlestop, John Dickerson remembers the campaign that brought us Willie Horton, Dukakis in a tank turret, and the birth of the modern “spin doctor.”

Whistlestop is sponsored by The Great Courses, now offering the lecture series The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas. Order from eight of their best-selling courses at up to 80 percent off the original price by visiting thegreatcourses.com/whistlestop.

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Podcast production by Tony Field.