The 1992 United States presidential election had three major candidates: incumbent Republican President George H. W. Bush, Democratic Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and independent Texas businessman Ross Perot . Bush had alienated much of his conservative base by breaking his 1988 campaign pledge against raising taxes. It also didn't help that the economy was in a recession. Bush's perceived greatest strength -- foreign policy -- was considered much less important following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the relatively peaceful climate in the Middle East resulting from the defeat of Iraq in the Gulf War.
In the election, Clinton won a plurality in the popular vote, and a wide Electoral College margin. After three consecutive Republican landslides, the 1992 election's results represented a momentous realignment in national politics, as the Democratic Party picked up new support in the Northeast, the Great Lakes region and California, but carried only four states in Clinton's native South. After the crushing victory by the U.S. and coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War, Bush's approval ratings was 89%, and his re-election was considered very likely. As a result, several high profile Democratic candidates such as Mario Cuomo refused to seek the Democratic nomination. However, candidates such as Tom Harkin, Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown, Bob Kerrey, Douglas Wilder and Clinton chose to run.
Clinton chose U.S. Senator Al Gore (D-Tennessee) as his running mate. Selecting fellow Southerner Gore went against the popular strategy of balancing a Southern candidate with a Northern partner. Gore, however, did balance the ticket in other significant ways, as he was perceived to be strong on family values and environmental issues, while Clinton was not. Additionally, Gore's similarities to Clinton allowed the latter to push some of his key campaign themes, such as centrism and generational change.
On November 3, Clinton won the election by a wide margin in the Electoral College, receiving 43 percent of the popular vote against Bush's 37 percent and Perot's 19 percent . It was the second largest electoral vote shift in American history (517 vote shift), after Jimmy Carter's victory in 1976 (560 vote shift). It was also the first time since 1968 that a candidate won the presidency despite earning under 50 percent of the popular vote. In the entire country, only Washington, D.C. and Clinton's home state of Arkansas gave the majority of its votes to a single candidate; the rest were won by pluralities of the vote. President Bush's 37.4% was the lowest percentage total for an incumbent president since William Howard Taft in 1912 (23.2%). (The 1912 election had also been a three-way race between Taft, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. ) It was also the lowest percentage for a major-party candidate since Alf Landon received only 36.5% of the vote in 1936. Meanwhile, Perot's nearly 19% of the popular vote made him, in terms of the popular vote, the most successful third-party presidential candidate since Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 election.