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Daily Howler: Did Perot cost Bush the 92 race? At 'Tapped', we learn where spin comes from
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WHERE DOES SPIN COME FROM! Did Perot cost Bush the 92 race? At Tapped, we learn where spin comes from: // link // print // previous // next //

ONE OUT OF THREE AIN’T HALF BAD: We chuckled as the Post’s Glenn Kessler began his fact-check of Bush’s speech:
KESSLER (6/29/05): In his speech last night, President Bush ignored some uncomfortable facts about the U.S. enterprise in Iraq and overstated the extent of overseas support. But he correctly identified the gains made by the nascent Iraqi government in the past year in the face of a fierce insurgency.
According to Kessler, Bush “ignored” and “overstated”—but some things he said were correct! One out of three ain’t half bad, we’ve long said. For the record, here were a few of the facts the straining president glossed:
KESSLER: [T]he president strained to make the level of international support higher and broader than in reality. He said the "international community has stepped forward with vital assistance," with 30 nations providing troops in Iraq. He also said the insurgents have failed to "force a mass withdrawal by our allies."

But the U.S.-led coalition, which once included about three dozen nations, has become a political liability for several participating countries. In the past year, more than a dozen countries have withdrawn or have announced plans to leave.

Spain, one of the three original co-sponsors of the invasion, withdrew more than a year ago. Portugal, Norway, Hungary, the Philippines, New Zealand, Thailand, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Tonga have also pulled out. Among three of the largest contributors, Ukraine and Poland have announced they will pull out by year's end, and Italy plans to begin reducing its presence this fall.

They’ve failed to force a “mass” withdrawal! Our analysts emitted low, mordant chuckles. But some of our aides got a good solid laugh as Kessler limned another overstatement:
KESSLER (continuing directly): Bush also asserted that "some 40 countries and three international organizations have pledged about $34 billion in assistance for Iraqi reconstruction." But he did not say that $20 billion of that amount is from the United States, and much of it has been diverted to security or has not yet been delivered. Moreover, only about $2 billion of the remaining pledges—made nearly two years ago—has been delivered by the rest of the world.
Forty countries pledged $34 billion? It was just like Bush to be so modest—to fail to note that most of the dough had been pledged by Bush himself.

PANDERS FOR PATRIOTS, INSULTS FOR DEMS: Chris Matthews’ post-speech performance last night was little short of appalling. The talker broadcast from Nashville’s Two Rivers Baptist Church, part of Hardball’s new “church tour” (we think this is a good idea). But you know Chris! He was quickly talking phony church talk (phony for him), pandering to the congregation and pretending to be fully churched. By the end, he was fawning furiously. Most of the congregation were pro-war and pro-Bush. And of course, that made them “patriotic:”
MATTHEWS (6/28/05): Welcome back to Two Rivers Baptist Church here in Nashville, Tennessee, our town hall meeting on the president`s speech tonight. I want to go to our host tonight [Pastor Jerry Sutton]. It`s great to have you, by the way, host to us.

SUTTON: Our pleasure.

MATTHEWS: It`s been a great group. As you can see, the people are passionate. And they have strong patriotic beliefs and moral beliefs, and yet it`s been very nice here. No fights or anything.

I have to say it`s been very nice. And I mean that seriously. Why do you think the people in this part of the country seem to be more manifestly patriotic about this president, and this war, and this situation? What do you think it is, the separation from the coasts?

If you’re pro-war, you’re “more patriotic”—you haven’t been sullied by “the coasts.” Luckily, Sutton isn’t a fake like his host. He chose more appropriate language:
SUTTON (continuing directly): My goodness, that`s a hard question.

MATTHEWS: Because I can tell that it`s overwhelmingly for the war here, and yet the national polls are about 50-50. This isn`t 50-50 country.

SUTTON: No, this is a very conservative city and actually a very conservative congregation. A lot of these folks are church people.

Showing respect for other views, Sutton simply called his group “very conservative.” Matthews, trolling for conservative viewers, found a better words: “patriotic.”

But his nastiest pander came moments later, as the coast-bashing Nantucket nabob signed off. Pandering hard, the loud cable talker previewed tonight’s Hardball program:
MATTHEWS: Tomorrow night, we`re going to have—Don`t boo, now, please, ladies and gentlemen. It`s been a good night here—Howard Dean is going to come on our program tomorrow, a different point of view. We have diversity run amuck on Hardball. Tomorrow night, Howard Dean`s going to be giving his first reaction, as the Democratic National Chairman, to the president`s remarks tonight, his speech tonight from Fort Bragg.
Amazing, isn’t it? According to Matthews, when you host the chairman of the Democratic Party, it’s a case of “diversity run amuck.” Indeed, he even took it upon himself to tell the patriots not to boo. (There was no sign that they planned to.) But then, this sets up an exciting day on the web. It will be fun to watch our fiery career liberals battering Matthews for these comments. Did you think career liberal writers might hold their tongues because they want to play Hardball themselves? To play kiss-kiss with MSNBC? With the reigning DC establishment? Nonsense! When a major host behaves this way, we’re fairly sure that our fiery career liberals will go right out and eat him for lunch! We’re fairly sure it will start with Drum, then spread through the “liberal” career firmament.

By the way, should Dean appear on Hardball tonight? We’ll offer a simple thought: “No.”

Occasional report—Where does spin come from?

TRIPPED AT TAPPED: We constantly hear it on kooky-con radio, but there it was in yesterday’s Tapped! In the latest installment of “Spin Marches On,” Garance Franke-Ruta typed this:
FRANKE-RUTA (6/28/05): President Bush has had persistently low poll numbers for some time...Recently, he's received his lowest ratings yet. Still, he's polling in the low- to mid-40s, and it's worth recalling that his father had a job approval rating of only 34 percent in mid-1992, before his electoral loss to Bill Clinton. Even with such very low Bush Sr. numbers, Clinton was only able to garner 43 percent of the vote nationwide, and might well have lost the race had it not been for Ross Perot's third-party candidacy.
Omigod! Clinton “might well have lost the race had it not been for Ross Perot!” It’s recited like scripture on kooky-con radio. Now, Tapped is reciting it too.

Readers, where does spin come from? “Clinton won because of Perot” provides a good case study.

Let’s start with some actual data. If Perot hadn’t been in the 92 race, would Bush the elder have beaten Clinton? The exit polling was abundantly clear, and it was widely reported. On November 8, 1992—five days after the election—E. J. Dionne penned a first report in the Post. Headline: “Perot Seen Not Affecting Vote Outcome:”
DIONNE (11/8/92): Ross Perot's presence on the 1992 presidential ballot did not change the outcome of the election, according to an analysis of the second choices of Perot supporters.

The analysis, based on exit polls conducted by Voter Research & Surveys (VRS) for the major news organizations, indicated that in Perot's absence, only Ohio would have have shifted from the Clinton column to the Bush column. This would still have left Clinton with a healthy 349-to-189 majority in the electoral college.

And even in Ohio, the hypothetical Bush "margin" without Perot in the race was so small that given the normal margin of error in polls, the state still might have stuck with Clinton absent the Texas billionaire.

The VRS polled more than 15,000 voters. On November 12, Dionne provided more details about Perot voters:
DIONNE (11/12/92): In House races, Perot voters split down the middle: 51 percent said they backed Republicans, 49 percent backed Democrats. In the presidential contest, 38 percent of Perot supporters said they would have supported Clinton if Perot had not been on the ballot and 37 percent said they would have supported Bush.

An additional 6 percent of Perot voters said they would have sought another third-party candidate, while 14 percent said they would not have voted if Perot had not run.

We all know exit polls are imperfect. But these are the actual available data about the preferences of Perot voters. Nor was this exit poll kept secret. One day after the election, the AP sent the news far and wide. (Headline: “Perot's Voters Would Have Split In a Two-Way Race”):
ASSOCIATED PRESS (11/4/92): Exit polls suggest Ross Perot hurt George Bush and Bill Clinton about equally.

The Voter Research and Surveys poll, a joint project of the four major television networks, found 38 percent of Perot voters would have voted for Clinton and 37 percent would have voted for Bush if Perot had not been on the ballot. Fifteen percent said they would not have voted, and 6 percent listed other candidates.

The data were widely reported—except in the Washington Times, of course. Which brings us to the heart of our question—the question we’ve asked for seven years.

Where does spin come from? In today’s world, spin often comes from kooky-con hacks—and ends up getting recited by liberals. No, the Washington Times never forced its readers to see the data about Perot voters. But soon, the paper was printing letters from kooky-con fabulists—this bit of invention, for example:
LETTER, WASHINGTON TIMES (11/14/92): There is no doubt that Ross Perot drew voters who would otherwise have voted for one or the other of the traditional party candidates. Judging from exit polls and from observing (as best one could) the ethnic and generational makeup of Perot supporters as they appeared on televison, a reasonable conclusion would be that Mr. Perot drew more from Mr. Bush than from Mr. Clinton, by a ratio of at least 6-to-4 (though the would-have-been-Bushers in the Perot column could have been a good deal higher).

But for the purpose of discussion, let's use the 6-4 ratio and divide up the Perot vote and apply it state by state to Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton.

Thus, we see that Mr. Perot cost Mr. Bush the following states: Ohio, Wisconsin, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Nevada, Montana, Kentucky, Georgia and Colorado with a total of 87 electoral votes. Mr. Clinton still wins in the Electoral College, but his margin there shrinks to 283 to 255.

In terms of popular vote, Mr. Clinton ends up with roughly 51.4 million to 49.7 million for Mr. Bush, a much tighter contest than was shown in the results with Mr. Perot included. And if my 6-4 breakdown was overly generous to Mr. Clinton—as I suspect it is—we would have come very close to a dead heat or a Bush victory.

J— R— B—

The writer was drawing a “reasonable conclusion” based on his observations of “the ethnic and generational makeup of Perot supporters as they appeared on televison!” Yep! Based upon careful TV viewing (and a bit of wishful thinking), the writer decided that, absent Perot, we might have seen a flat-out Bush win. The exit polling said that Perot could have affected only one state—Ohio. But the writer “suspected” a 6-4 ratio would be quite good to use. Soon, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Georgia and Colorado were falling to Pappy Bush too.

Even with all this confabulation, JRB only said it would have been a close race absent Perot. Clinton might have won anyway, he conceded. Soon, though, other such analysts abandoned such scruples. For years, it has been conventional wisdom on kooky-con radio that Ross Perot cost George Bush the election. Now, we get to read this drivel right in the pages of Tapped.

Where does spin come from? This matter provides a good case study. To the extent that we have actual data, there is no indication—none whatever—that Clinton would have lost to Bush if Perot hadn’t been in the race. But so what? Within weeks, kooky-cons began to conjure, and their pleasing stories quickly spread. And uh-oh! Fiery liberals kept hearing their story. Thirteen years later, they repeat the tale too.

We hate to pick on Franke-Ruta; indeed, we believe we saw this claim in another liberal forum in the past few weeks, although we can’t remember where. But this episode shows us several things about our modern World of Spin. First, kooky-con fabulists never tire of inventing pleasing stories—pleasing claims which spread quite widely,recited by kooky-cons everywhere. And second: For reasons completely unknown to us, many of our fiery young liberals still aren’t “hip” to this part of our culture. We’ve told them daily, for the past seven years—but some of them still resist such “jive.” Calm down, grandpa, they indignantly say—and soon, they’re reciting kooky-con tales themselves. For years, Rush had to lead the parade on this tale. Now, he has Tapped out there helping him.

Young and foolish, they’d rather recite this kooky cant than accept our incomparable teachings. When will our fiery young liberal elites get a grip on the world they now live in?

JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: Applying his 6-4 voter breakdown—a ratio excessively generous to Clinton—JRB conjured the popular vote had Perot not been in the race (see above). In his first review of the polling, Dionne tried to do the same thing:
DIONNE (11/8/92): In the nationwide popular vote, Clinton's margin over Bush would have been about the same without Perot in the contest.
In the actual vote, Clinton won 43.7 million popular votes to 38.2 million for Bush and 19.2 million for Perot.

According to the VRS estimate, without Perot in the race, Clinton would have won 51.4 million to 45.6 million for Bush. Total turnout would have been smaller, because many Perot supporters said they would not have voted if the independent had not run.

“Clinton’s margin would have been about the same?” How did Dionne make this glaring mistake? Simple! That letter hadn’t yet appeared in the Times, so Dionne had no access to the writer’s observations about “the ethnic and generational makeup of Perot supporters as they appeared on televison.” In short, E. J. jumped to conclusions without all the data. Thirteen years later, right there in Tapped, Franke-Ruta avoids his mistake.