Perot, you may recall, was an eccentric, self-promoting, media-savvy billionaire with an outsized ego who ran for president as an independent, thwarting the plans of a Republican candidate named Bush. (Sound familiar?)
Although the Texas populist led in early polling in part by supporting veterans' issues, drawing attention to questionable trade deals and tapping into resentment toward establishment politicians, his lack of specificity on the issues ultimately doomed his effort.
When Trump criticizes politicians today who are "all talk and no action," it sounds a lot like Perot's characterization of the nation's capital back in 1992 (my emphasis):
This city has become a town filled with sound bites, shell games, handlers, media stuntmen who posture, create images, talk, shoot off Roman candles, but don't ever accomplish anything. We need deeds, not words, in this city.
Republicans are understandably terrified at the prospect of Trump running as a third-party candidate next year, siphoning off votes from the eventual GOP standard-bearer (Jeb Bush)*, but I think he's too smart for that. Running as an independent is a sucker's game, which could cost Trump a fortune and probably not result in any electoral votes. Whatever else you might say about the Donald, he's a shrewd businessman who's unlikely to throw (too much) good money after bad. My guess is that the New York real estate tycoon drops out of the Republican race sometime after the New Hampshire primary. Like everyone else in America, I just don't see him winning the GOP nomination.
In the Democratic Party primaries, Jackson, who had been written off by pundits as a fringe candidate with little chance at winning the nomination, surprised many when he took third place behind Senator Gary Hart and former Vice President Walter Mondale, who eventually won the nomination. Jackson garnered 3,282,431 primary votes, or 18.2 percent of the total, in 1984, and won three to five primaries and caucuses, including Louisiana, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and one of two separate contests in Mississippi. More Virginia caucus-goers supported Jesse Jackson than any other candidate, but Walter Mondale won more Virginia delegates.
In May 1988, Jackson complained that he had won 21% of the popular vote but was awarded only 9% of the delegates. He afterwards stated that he had been handicapped by party rules.
Imagine if I rewrote that just a little:
In the Republican Party primaries, Trump, who had been written off by pundits as a fringe candidate with little chance at winning the nomination, surprised many when he took third place behind Gov. Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, who eventually won the nomination. Trump garnered [fill in the blank] primary votes, but Jeb Bush won more delegates.
Trump later complained that he had been handicapped by party rules.
Is that so hard to picture? How about this:
In 1988, Jackson again sought the Democratic Party presidential nomination. According to a November 1987 article in The New York Times, "Most political analysts give him little chance of being nominated – partly because he is black, partly because of his unretrenched liberalism." However, his successes in the past made him a more credible candidate, and he was both better financed and better organized than in 1984. Jackson once again exceeded expectations as he more than doubled his previous results, prompting R.W. Apple of The New York Times to call 1988 "the Year of Jackson."
In early 1988, Jackson organized a rally at the former American Motors assembly plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, approximately two weeks after new owner Chrysler announced it would close the plant by the end of the year. In his speech, Jackson spoke out against Chrysler's decision, stating "We have to put the focus on Kenosha, Wisconsin, as the place, here and now, where we draw the line to end economic violence!" and compared the workers' fight to that of the 1965 Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a result, the UAW Local 72 union voted to endorse his candidacy, even against the rules of the UAW.
Briefly, after he won 55% of the vote in the Michigan Democratic caucus, he was considered the frontrunner for the nomination, as he surpassed all the other candidates in total number of pledged delegates. However, Jackson's campaign suffered a significant setback less than two weeks after the UAW endorsement when he narrowly lost the Colorado primary to Michael Dukakis, and was defeated handily the following day in the Wisconsin primary by Dukakis. Jackson's showing among white voters in Wisconsin was significantly higher than in his 1984 run, but was also noticeably lower than pre-primary polling had predicted. The back-to-back victories established Dukakis as the clear Democratic frontrunner, and he went on to claim the party's nomination, but lost the general election in November.
At the conclusion of the Democratic primary season, Jackson had captured 6.9 million votes and won 11 contests; seven primaries (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Virginia) and four caucuses (Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Vermont). Jackson also scored March victories in Alaska's caucuses and Texas's local conventions, despite losing the Texas primary.
Now read this, just back from "Rewrite":
In 2016, Trump sought the Republican Party presidential nomination. According to an article in The New York Times, "Most political analysts give him little chance of being nominated." However, his considerable wealth and celebrity made him a somewhat credible candidate. Trump exceeded expectations as he led in early polling, prompting [fill in the blank] to call 2016 "the Year of Trump."
In July 2015, Trump spent a few hours on the ground in Laredo, Texas, including 40 minutes touring the border with Mayor Pete Saenz and City Manager Jesus Olivares. His final event, a meeting with local officials, ended abruptly after questions from the audience grew hostile. He was mobbed everywhere he went.
The caustic language that has been Mr. Trump’s hallmark was largely absent on Thursday. He reserved his most disparaging comments for Rick Perry, the former governor and a rival for the Republican presidential nomination, saying he “did a terrible job as governor of Texas” and that he “doesn’t understand” border security.
He received a police escort as dozens of officers guided his S.U.V.s and chartered buses packed with members of the news media through downtown. Traffic was blocked and traffic lights were skipped, but the occasional protester was still able to get in view of the caravan.
The campaign stop at the Mexican border marked a summit of sorts of Mr. Trump’s climb to the top of the Republican pack, fueled largely by harsh outbursts against illegal immigration, most notably his remark during his presidential announcement speech that Mexico was sending the United States its “rapists” and other criminals.
Mr. Trump has said that he is the only candidate capable of achieving effective border security. He visited five families in Southern California who had loved ones who were, as his campaign stated, “victims of illegal immigrants.” His efforts touched a nerve among some.
Briefly, Trump was considered the frontrunner for the Republican nomination as he dominated the airwaves in the summer of 2015. However, Trump's campaign suffered a significant setback when he narrowly lost the Iowa caucuses to Scott Walker, and was defeated handily the following month in the New Hampshire primary by Jeb Bush. Trump's showing was particularly strong among older white voters, but was also noticeably lower than pre-primary polling had predicted. The back-to-back losses by Trump established Bush as the clear Republican frontrunner, and he went on to claim the party's nomination, but lost the general election in November.
At the conclusion of the Republican primary season, Trump had captured [fill in the blank] million votes and won [fill in the blank] contests.
Whaddaya think? The comparison to Jesse Jackson might be more appropriate as I could see Trump lasting beyond Iowa and New Hampshire but still ultimately losing to Bush and passing on an independent run.
The first Republican debate is less than two weeks away. I can hardly wait!
* While it's conventional wisdom that Perot drew most of his support from Republicans, resulting in Bill Clinton's election in 1992, exit polls showed that the Texan drew evenly from both candidates. Many of his voters, in fact, would have actually stayed home had Perot not been on the ballot.