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An Electoral Urban Legend Is That Bush Would Have Defeated Clinton in 1992 If Perot Had Not Been A Candidate. This is Not So

An electoral urban legend is that George H.W. Bush would have defeated Bill Clinton in 1992 if Ross Perot had not been a candidate. This is not so.

In ’92 Bill Clinton won 43.0% of the popular vote. Bush took 37.4% and Perot 18.9 %. The popular vote was not very close. In the Electoral College, Clinton won 33 states in addition to D.C for a total of 370 Electoral Votes. 270 are needed for election. The Electoral count was not close either.

If you look at the state-by-state breakdown of the ‘92 election, you won’t find 101 Electoral Votes where Perot made the difference in favor of Bush. You can look at the ’92 results here. Perot may have cost Bush Ohio, Georgia, Colorado, Montana and a small number of other states. But when all the votes are accounted for you see that Bush lost it on his own. 

The impact of Perot in ’92 is still sometimes asserted by the right as yet another way to try and delegitmize the Clinton Presidency. Don’t believe it. Clinton won that election any way you measure it.

October 17, 2006 - Posted by | Elections, Political History, Politics


  1. “An electoral urban legend is that George H.W. Bush would have defeated Bill Clinton in 1992 if Ross Perot had not been a candidate. This is not so.”

    Well in that case, go Kinky Friedman!

    Comment by Joe | October 21, 2006

  2. Clinton won 11 states by < 5% of the popular vote. 107 electoral votes. Turns 370-168 into 263-275 in favor of Bush. That doesn’t even begin to consider the negative impact of the actual campaign on George H.W. Bush. (i.e. if Perot wasn’t a choice for voters, he would not have been at debates and would not have spent his fortune attacking the incumbent – I think the out come would have been far different. It’s pretty obvious.

    Comment by Rich | April 23, 2008

  3. Rich—In your best case scenario, Mr. Bush still has only six electoral votes to spare to win the race. 270 are needed and you have him at 275.

    In Tennessee, Mr. Clinton won 47.1% against 42.4% for Mr. Bush and 10.1% for Mr. Perot. Mr.Clinton would have needed just around one-fourth of Perot voters to win the state. Without Tennessee, Mr Bush could not have won by your counting.

    In Wisconsin, it was Mr. Clinton 41.1 %, Mr. Bush 36.8 % and Mr. Perot 21.5%. Democrats have won Wisconsin in each election beginning in 1988. There is not much reason to think Mr. Bush would have carried it in 1992.

    Louisiana was 45.6% for Mr. Clinton, 41.0% for Mr. Bush and 11.8% for Mr. Perot. Mr. Bush would have to have won two-thirds of Perot voters here.

    All Mr. Clinton would have needed was one of these states to win the election. Other 5% or less margin states that I think it could have been argued Mr. Clinton might well have won in a two-person race were Kentucky, New Jersey and maybe New Hampshire.

    Mr. Bush as an incumbent President won only 37.4% of the vote. The people did not want him anymore. Mr. Clinton won that race any way you figure it.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | April 23, 2008

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