Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bush campaign 2000--Liam

Liam DeFazio
            The Bush-Gore election of 2000 did not start off on a particularly exciting note. The American economy was prospering after the Clinton administration, and there was not a huge call for change. Gore had previously been Clinton’s Vice President, so he appealed to voters, reminding them of the economic stability that the Clinton administration had brought. Bush also appealed to Americans in a prosperous time by offering tax cuts and declaring a message of trust amongst the people, and that the government would not take much control of people’s money.

One important tip from Cicero that Gore neglected to use was the idea of using friends to your advantage. Gore had been Clinton’s vice president for 8 years, and Cicero would have had him call in favors from Clinton. Clinton even offered his support in situations where Gore did not accept. This was due to the fact that Clinton had an affair in the White House, which was obviously looked upon poorly by the American people, and Gore strategists thought that trying to connect him to Clinton would actually hurt his chances. Most of the Gore campaign advisers stated that the Clinton affair was the single most important factor that cost Gore the White House. Bush was able to use the Clinton affair to present himself as a moral, honorable figure that would bring integrity back to the White House, which enhanced his image.
            Another important factor in this debate was persona. Bush made numerous speaking mistakes in interviews, such as mispronouncing words, (subliminable) making grammatical errors (is our children learning?), and saying phrases incorrectly (families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dreams). These gaffes later became known as “Bushisms.” However, instead of being upset by the ridicule he received, Bush embraced these jokes and even engaged in self-effacing humor, teasing himself. This somewhat falls under what Cicero advised about “putting on a good show.” Bush was known to have a cheerful, regular-guy manner, giving reporters nicknames, playfully insulting them, and slapping them on the back, allowing him to present himself as a down to earth candidate that made the voter feel good. Gore, on the other hand, often came across as rigid, and not seeming very likeable. This was actually one of the criticisms that Cicero had against his brother, and advised him to improve on. Gore admitted that he did not consider himself a natural politician, and that “the back-slapping political style” is not his forte. In the debates, it was accepted that Gore had a mastery of the details of public policy, and was more knowledgeable than Bush, but he came across as very full of himself and something of a “smarty pants.” He would often sigh loudly when Bush was speaking, causing him to look rude and arrogant. Bush had a more laid back manner in these debates, which made him look better on television. This clip is a perfect example. When asked a question about a specific bill and what the differences are between him and Gore, Bush gives a very vague answer to try and make him look better in the eyes of the people. Gore leaves his podium and walks right up to Bush in an alpha-male attempt to intimidate his opponent. Bush plays this off by simply giving Gore a friendly nod, causing the audience to laugh and Gore to look ridiculous.

 This enhances what was first studied after the 1960 televised debate between Kennedy and Nixon, which is that appearances on television do matter in the voter’s eyes. Although radio listeners of the 1960 debate thought that Nixon seemed stronger and more knowledgeable, television viewers thought that Kennedy came across as more confident, and as a stronger candidate. In the 2000 debates, people thought that well Gore seemed more knowledgeable, Bush came across as more likeable, and thus appeared stronger on television.
            However, as the election was nearing a close and it was estimated that Gore had a slight edge, news sources began noticing a shift in Bush’s campaign tactics. Bush strategists thought that his tactic of appealing to voters to bring back “honor and integrity” to the White House, and attacking the Clinton administration was not going to be enough. Bush used Medicare, which at that time was a major issue in which people often favored the Democratic approach, to launch a smear campaign. He said that Gore’s Medicare program would lead to extreme government control and price control over prescription drugs. One tactic that Bush’s chief political adviser Karl Rove later regretted was letting Bush take a day off 10 days before the election. He thought that if he added more campaigning in at the end, Bush could have avoided some narrow defeats in a couple states. This follows Cicero’s advice about not leaving Rome, because “there is no time for vacations in a campaign.”
            Where this election truly became notable was on election day. The results were so close that the entire election hinged on the delegates from Florida. Bush led Gore by about 1,800 votes the morning after election day, and Florida law called for an automatic machine recount of the votes. After this recount, Bush led Florida by only 327 votes out of 6 million ballots cast. Florida law allowed Gore to demand a manual recount of chosen counties, and he picked four counties with widespread complaint of machine malfunction. The results had to be certified by secretary of state Katherine Harris seven days after the election. However, three of the counties were not able to meet this deadline, and Harris rejected their explanation. Gore filed an injunction against Harris, and the Florida Supreme Court issued the injunction and said that Harris must give the counties another 12 days to finish their recounts. After this deadline, Harris declared Bush the winner, even though all of the votes were not counted. Gore appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, and they ruled that all votes cast but not counted (because of ineffective voting machines) must be manually recounted. Bush then appealed this to the US Supreme Court, which decided in a 5-4 ruling that the Florida’s Supreme Court ruling was unconstitutional as is gave more protection to some ballots then others, violating the Equal Protection Clause under the fourteenth amendment. Florida then had to submit the vote they had at the time, which gave Bush the victory with 271 delegates to Gore’s 266, although Gore had 48.4% of the popular vote to Bush’s 47.9%. This Supreme Court decision was criticized, as the five members of the majority were all conservative, and all of them previously granted great deference to state courts. Many thought that these justices did not do their duty to support the US Constitution and state’s rights at all costs, and cared more about the politics of having a Republican President. It was reported that when conservative judge Sandra Day O’Connor thought that Gore had initially won, she was very upset, because she wanted to retire if Bush became President so she could be replaced by a conservative judge.
            The 2000 election proved that Cicero’s campaign tips still hold up in the modern day. It is still important to have powerful friends to help you out, to campaign rigorously, and have a strong, likeable, persona. Appearing likeable, confident, and relatable on television was also very important in this campaign. Although it is estimated by Farley’s law that only 8% of the electorates change their minds during the course of the campaign, and only 25% of voters are persuadable, and even have a chance of switching parties, in this close campaign, persuasion was clearly a key component. People will continue to debate who deserved to win this campaign, but if Bush did not campaign as he did, he probably would not have even barely won.

Berke, Richard L.  Richard L. Berke to  New York Times newsgroup, “Gore and Bush Strategists Analyze Their Campaigns,” February 12, 2001. Accessed October 10, 2012.

Boller, Paul F., Jr. Presidential Campaigns. 2nd ed. New York City, NY: Oxford Press, 2004.

McBride, Alex. “Bush v. Gore (2000).” Last modified December 2006. Accessed October 10, 2012.

Mitchell, Alison.  Alison Mitchell to  New York Times newsgroup, “THE 2000 CAMPAIGN: THE STRATEGY; SHIFTING TACTICS, BUSH USES ISSUES TO CONFRONT GORE,” September 16, 2000. Accessed October 10, 2012.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the way that you approach this election in comparison to Cicero's advice I wonder however if you think that Cicero would have advised that Gore embrace his connection to Clinton. Cicero discussed that his brothers competition was weak due to the fact that they had been caught up in sexual scandals, therefore I wonder if we would see Clinton as an advisable acquaintance. -Will D.