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1988 United States presidential election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1988 United States presidential election

← 1984 November 8, 1988 1992 →

538 members of the Electoral College
270 electoral votes needed to win
Turnout52.8%[1] Decrease 2.4 pp
Nominee George H. W. Bush Michael Dukakis
Party Republican Democratic
Home state Texas Massachusetts
Running mate Dan Quayle Lloyd Bentsen
Electoral vote 426 111[a]
States carried 40 10 + DC
Popular vote 48,886,597 41,809,074
Percentage 53.4% 45.7%

1988 United States presidential election in California1988 United States presidential election in Oregon1988 United States presidential election in Washington (state)1988 United States presidential election in Idaho1988 United States presidential election in Nevada1988 United States presidential election in Utah1988 United States presidential election in Arizona1988 United States presidential election in Montana1988 United States presidential election in Wyoming1988 United States presidential election in Colorado1988 United States presidential election in New Mexico1988 United States presidential election in North Dakota1988 United States presidential election in South Dakota1988 United States presidential election in Nebraska1988 United States presidential election in Kansas1988 United States presidential election in Oklahoma1988 United States presidential election in Texas1988 United States presidential election in Minnesota1988 United States presidential election in Iowa1988 United States presidential election in Missouri1988 United States presidential election in Arkansas1988 United States presidential election in Louisiana1988 United States presidential election in Wisconsin1988 United States presidential election in Illinois1988 United States presidential election in Michigan1988 United States presidential election in Indiana1988 United States presidential election in Ohio1988 United States presidential election in Kentucky1988 United States presidential election in Tennessee1988 United States presidential election in Mississippi1988 United States presidential election in Alabama1988 United States presidential election in Georgia1988 United States presidential election in Florida1988 United States presidential election in South Carolina1988 United States presidential election in North Carolina1988 United States presidential election in Virginia1988 United States presidential election in West Virginia1988 United States presidential election in the District of Columbia1988 United States presidential election in Maryland1988 United States presidential election in Delaware1988 United States presidential election in Pennsylvania1988 United States presidential election in New Jersey1988 United States presidential election in New York1988 United States presidential election in Connecticut1988 United States presidential election in Rhode Island1988 United States presidential election in Vermont1988 United States presidential election in New Hampshire1988 United States presidential election in Maine1988 United States presidential election in Massachusetts1988 United States presidential election in Hawaii1988 United States presidential election in Alaska1988 United States presidential election in the District of Columbia1988 United States presidential election in Maryland1988 United States presidential election in Delaware1988 United States presidential election in New Jersey1988 United States presidential election in Connecticut1988 United States presidential election in Rhode Island1988 United States presidential election in Massachusetts1988 United States presidential election in Vermont1988 United States presidential election in New Hampshire
Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Bush/Quayle and blue denotes those won by Dukakis/Bentsen. Light blue is the electoral vote for Bentsen/Dukakis by a West Virginia faithless elector. Numbers indicate electoral votes cast by each state and the District of Columbia.

President before election

Ronald Reagan

Elected President

George H. W. Bush

The incumbent in 1988, Ronald Reagan. His second term expired at noon on January 20, 1989.

The 1988 United States presidential election was the 51st quadrennial presidential election held on Tuesday, November 8, 1988. The Republican nominee, incumbent Vice President George H. W. Bush, defeated the Democratic nominee, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.

It remains the most recent election in which a candidate won over 400 electoral votes, and consequently the last landslide election of a U.S. president.[2] 1988 was the first time since 1940 in which the governing party won three consecutive presidential elections. Additionally, it was the last time that the Republicans won the popular vote three times in a row. Conversely, it began an ongoing streak of presidential elections that were decided by a single-digit popular vote margin.[3] It was also the first, and only election to date, in which one of the two major presidential candidates was not of Northern European ancestry.[4][5]

President Ronald Reagan was ineligible to seek a third term. Instead, Bush entered the Republican primaries as the front-runner, defeating U.S. Senator Bob Dole and televangelist Pat Robertson. He selected U.S. Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana as his running mate. Dukakis won the Democratic primaries after Democratic leaders Gary Hart and Ted Kennedy withdrew or declined to run. He selected U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas as his running mate. It was the first election since 1968 to include no incumbent president on the ballot.

Bush ran an aggressive campaign concentrated mainly on the strong economy, reduction of crime, and continuance with Reagan's policies. He attacked Dukakis as an elitist "Massachusetts liberal", to which Dukakis appeared to fail to respond effectively. Despite Dukakis's initial lead in polls, Bush pulled ahead after the Republican National Convention and extended his lead after strong performances in two debates. Bush won a decisive victory over Dukakis, winning the Electoral College and the popular vote by sizable margins.

As of 2020, no candidate of either party has since equaled or surpassed Bush's share of the electoral or popular vote. Bush became the first sitting vice president to be elected president since Martin Van Buren in 1836. This remains the last time that a Republican has carried California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey and Vermont. Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee would not vote Republican again until 2000, while New Mexico would not vote Republican again until 2004. Pennsylvania and Michigan would also not vote Republican again until 2016. This remains the latest presidential election in which the Democrats did not win at least 200 electoral votes, partly due to their lock on certain states in presidential races from 1988 onward. As of 2020, this is the last presidential election where the Republican nominee won the female vote.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
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  • The American Presidential Election of 1988
  • President Reagan's Remarks at a Ceremony for President-Elect George Bush on November 9, 1988
  • Presidential ad: “Revolving Door” George HW Bush (R) v. Michael Dukakis (D) [1988—FEAR/ANGER]
  • President Reagan Greets President-Elect George Bush at White House on November 9, 1988
  • The American Presidential Election of 1788-1789


Republican Party nomination

Republican candidates

Republican Party (United States)
Republican Party (United States)
1988 Republican Party ticket
George H. W. Bush Dan Quayle
for President for Vice President
Vice President of the United States
U.S. Senator
from Indiana

While Bush had long been seen as Reagan's natural successor, there was still a degree of opposition within the party to his candidacy. Historical precedent was not seen to favor Bush's chances, as no incumbent vice president had been elected as president since Martin van Buren some 152 years prior. Dole attracted support among those who were concerned that Bush, whose electoral experience outside of his campaigns with Reagan was limited to running unsuccessfully for the Senate and twice successfully for the House of Representatives in the 1960s, had not done enough to establish himself as a candidate in his own right. Others who wished to further continue the shift towards social conservatism that had begun during Reagan's presidency supported Robertson.[citation needed]

Bush unexpectedly came in third in the Iowa caucus, which he had won in 1980, behind Dole and Robertson. Dole was also leading in the polls of the New Hampshire primary, and the Bush camp responded by running television commercials portraying Dole as a tax raiser, while Governor John H. Sununu campaigned for Bush. Dole did nothing to counter these ads and Bush won, thereby gaining crucial momentum, which he called "Big Mo".[16] Once the multiple-state primaries such as Super Tuesday began, Bush's organizational strength and fundraising lead were impossible for the other candidates to match, and the nomination was his.

The Republican Party convention was held in New Orleans, Louisiana. Bush was nominated unanimously and selected U.S. Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana as his running mate. In his acceptance speech, Bush made the pledge "Read my lips: No new taxes," which contributed to his loss in the 1992 election.

Democratic Party nomination

Democratic Party (United States)
Democratic Party (United States)
1988 Democratic Party ticket
Michael Dukakis Lloyd Bentsen
for President for Vice President
65th and 67th
Governor of Massachusetts
(1975–1979, 1983–1991)
U.S. Senator
from Texas
Candidates in this section are sorted by date of withdrawal from the primaries
Jesse Jackson Al Gore Paul Simon Richard Gephardt Gary Hart
President of the Rainbow Coalition from South Carolina
U.S. Senator
from Tennessee
U.S. Senator
from Illinois
U.S. Representative
from Missouri
U.S. Senator
from Colorado
Campaign Campaign Campaign Campaign Campaign
LN: July 20, 1988
E: July 30, 1988
6,788,991 votes
1,023 PD
S: April 21, 1988
E: June 16, 1988
3,185,806 votes
374 PD
S: April 7, 1988
E: June 8, 1988
1,082,960 votes
161 PD
W: March 28, 1988
E: June 8, 1988
1,399,041 votes
137 PD
W: March 11, 1988
415,716 votes
[17] [18] [19][20] [19][20]
Bruce Babbitt James Traficant Patricia Schroeder Joseph Biden
Fmr. Governor
of Arizona
U.S. Representative
from Ohio
U.S. Representative
from Colorado
U.S. Senator
from Delaware
Campaign Campaign Campaign
W: February 18, 1988
E: June 8, 1988
77,780 votes
?: After January 26, 1988 W: September 28, 1987 W: September 23, 1987
E: June 22, 1988
[19][20] [21][22][23][24] [25]

In the 1984 presidential election the Democrats had nominated Walter Mondale, a traditional New Deal-type liberal, who advocated for those constituencies that Franklin Roosevelt forged into a majority coalition,[26] as their candidate. When Mondale was defeated in a landslide, party leaders became eager to find a new approach to get away from the 1980 and 1984 debacles. After Bush's image was affected by his involvement on the Iran-Contra scandal much more than Reagan's, and after the Democrats won back control of the U.S. Senate in the 1986 congressional elections following an economic downturn, the party's leaders felt optimistic about having a closer race with the GOP in 1988, although probabilities of winning the presidency were still marginal given the climate of prosperity.

One goal of the party was to find a new, fresh candidate who could move beyond the traditional New Deal-Great Society ideas of the past and offer a new image of the Democrats to the public. To this end party leaders tried to recruit New York Governor Mario Cuomo to be a candidate. Cuomo had impressed many Democrats with his keynote speech at the 1984 Democratic Convention, and they believed he would be a strong candidate.[27] After Cuomo chose not to run, the Democratic frontrunner for most of 1987 was former Colorado Senator Gary Hart.[28] He had made a strong showing in the 1984 presidential primaries and, after Mondale's defeat, had positioned himself as the moderate centrist many Democrats felt their party would need to win.[29]

But questions and rumors about extramarital affairs and past debts dogged Hart's campaign.[30] Hart had told New York Times reporters who questioned him about these rumors that, if they followed him around, they would "be bored". In a separate investigation, the Miami Herald had received an anonymous tip from a friend of Donna Rice that Rice was involved with Hart. After his affair emerged, the Herald reporters found Hart's quote in a pre-print of The New York Times magazine.[31] After the Herald's findings were publicized, many other media outlets picked up the story and Hart's ratings in the polls plummeted. On May 8, 1987, a week after the Rice story broke, Hart dropped out of the race.[30] His campaign chair, Representative Patricia Schroeder, tested the waters for about four months after Hart's withdrawal, but decided in September 1987 that she would not run.[32] In December 1987, Hart surprised many pundits by resuming his campaign,[33] but the allegations of adultery had delivered a fatal blow to his candidacy, and he did poorly in the primaries before dropping out again.[34]

Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts had been considered a potential candidate, but he ruled himself out of the race in the fall of 1985. Two other politicians mentioned as possible candidates, both from Arkansas, did not join the race: Senator Dale Bumpers and Governor and future President Bill Clinton.

Joe Biden's campaign also ended in controversy after he was accused of plagiarizing a speech by Neil Kinnock, then-leader of the British Labour Party.[35] The Dukakis campaign secretly released a video in which Biden was filmed repeating a Kinnock stump speech with only minor modifications.[36] Biden later called his failure to attribute the quotes an oversight, and in related proceedings the Delaware Supreme Court's Board on Professional Responsibility cleared him of a separate plagiarism charge, leveled for plagiarizing an article during his law school.[37] This ultimately led him to drop out of the race. Dukakis later revealed that his campaign had leaked the tape, and two members of his staff resigned. (Biden later ran twice more for the Democratic nomination, unsuccessfully in 2008 and successfully in 2020. He was elected the 47th vice president in 2008, serving two terms under President Barack Obama. In 2021, he became the 46th president, over 33 years after his first campaign for the office ended.)

Al Gore, a senator from Tennessee, also chose to run for the nomination. Turning 40 in 1988, he would have been the youngest man to contest the presidency on a major party ticket since William Jennings Bryan in 1896, and the youngest president ever if elected, younger than John F. Kennedy at election age and Theodore Roosevelt at age of assumption of office. He eventually became the 45th Vice President of the United States under Bill Clinton, then the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000, losing to George W. Bush, George H.W.'s son.


After Hart withdrew from the race, no clear frontrunner emerged before the primaries and caucuses began. The Iowa caucus was won by Dick Gephardt, who had been sagging heavily in the polls until, three weeks before the vote, he began campaigning as a populist and his numbers surged. Illinois Senator Paul M. Simon finished a surprising second, and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis finished third. In the New Hampshire primary, Dukakis came in first, Gephardt fell to second, and Simon came in third. In an effort to weaken Gephardt's candidacy, both Dukakis and Gore ran negative television ads against Gephardt. The ads convinced the United Auto Workers, which had endorsed Gephardt, to withdraw their endorsement; this crippled Gephardt, as he relied heavily on the support of labor unions.

In the Super Tuesday races, Dukakis won six primaries, to Gore's five, Jesse Jackson five and Gephardt one, with Gore and Jackson splitting the Southern states. The next week, Simon won Illinois with Jackson finishing second. 1988 remains the race with the most candidates winning primaries since the McGovern reforms of 1971.[clarification needed] Jackson 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). He also scored March victories in Alaska's caucuses and Texas's local conventions, despite losing the Texas primary. Briefly, after he won 55% of the vote in the Michigan Democratic caucus, he had more pledged delegates than all the other candidates.

Jackson's campaign suffered a significant setback less than two weeks later when he was defeated in the Wisconsin primary by Dukakis. Dukakis's win in New York and then in Pennsylvania effectively ended Jackson's hopes for the nomination.

Democratic Convention

Michael Dukakis at the 1988 Democratic Convention

The Democratic Party Convention was held in Atlanta, Georgia from July 18–21. Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton placed Dukakis's name in nomination, and delivered his speech, scheduled to be 15 minutes long, but lasting so long that some delegates began booing to get him to finish; he received great cheering when he said, "In closing...".[38][39]

Texas State Treasurer Ann Richards, who was elected the state governor two years later, gave a speech attacking George Bush, including the line "Poor George, he can't help it, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

With only Jackson remaining as an active candidate to oppose Dukakis, the tally for president was:

Presidential ballot Vice Presidential ballot
Michael S. Dukakis 2,876.25 Lloyd M. Bentsen 4,162
Jesse L. Jackson 1,218.5
Richard H. Stallings 3
Joe Biden 2
Richard A. Gephardt 2
Gary W. Hart 1
Lloyd M. Bentsen 1

Jackson's supporters said that since their candidate had finished in second place, he was entitled to the vice presidential nomination. Dukakis disagreed, and instead selected Senator Lloyd Bentsen from Texas. Bentsen's selection led many in the media to dub the ticket the "Boston-Austin" axis, and to compare it to the pairing of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960 presidential campaign. Like Dukakis and Bentsen, Kennedy and Johnson were from Massachusetts and Texas respectively.

Other nominations

Libertarian Party

Ron Paul
Former Representative Ron Paul ran on the Libertarian ticket. He returned to the House of Representatives in 1997 as a Republican.

Ron Paul and Andre Marrou formed the ticket for the Libertarian Party. Their campaign called for the adoption of a global policy on military nonintervention, advocated an end to the federal government's involvement with education, and criticized Reagan's "bailout" of the Soviet Union. Paul was a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, first elected as a Republican from Texas in an April 1976 special election. He protested the War on Drugs in a letter to Drug Czar William Bennett.[when?]

New Alliance Party

Lenora Fulani ran for the New Alliance Party, and focused on issues concerning unemployment, healthcare, and homelessness. The party had full ballot access, meaning Fulani and her running mate, Joyce Dattner, were the first pair of women to receive ballot access in all 50 states.[40] Fulani was the first African American to do so.

Socialist Party

Willa Kenoyer and Ron Ehrenreich ran for the Socialist Party, advocating a decentralist government approach with policies determined by the needs of the workers.

Populist Party

David E. Duke stood for the Populist Party. A former leader of the Louisiana Ku Klux Klan, he advocated a mixture of White nationalist and separatist policies with more traditionally conservative positions, such as opposition to most immigration from Latin America and to affirmative action.

General election


During the election, the Bush campaign sought to portray Dukakis as an unreasonable "Massachusetts liberal." Dukakis was attacked for such positions as opposing mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, and being a "card-carrying member of the ACLU" (a statement Dukakis made early in the primary campaign to appeal to liberal voters). Dukakis responded by saying that he was a "proud liberal" and that the phrase should not be a bad word in America.

Bush pledged to continue Reagan's policies, but also vowed a "kinder and gentler nation" in an attempt to win over more moderate voters. The duties delegated to him during Reagan's second term (mostly because of the President's advanced age, Reagan turning 78 just after he left office) gave him an unusually high level of experience for a vice president.

A graduate of Yale University, Bush derided Dukakis for having "foreign-policy views born in Harvard Yard's boutique."[41] New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd asked, "Wasn't this a case of the pot calling the kettle elite?" Bush said that, unlike Harvard, Yale's reputation was "so diffuse, there isn't a symbol, I don't think, in the Yale situation, any symbolism in it... Harvard boutique to me has the connotation of liberalism and elitism," and said he intended Harvard to represent "a philosophical enclave", not a statement about class.[42] Columnist Russell Baker wrote, "Voters inclined to loathe and fear elite Ivy League schools rarely make fine distinctions between Yale and Harvard. All they know is that both are full of rich, fancy, stuck-up and possibly dangerous intellectuals who never sit down to supper in their undershirt no matter how hot the weather gets."[43]

Dukakis was badly damaged by the Republicans' campaign commercials, including "Boston Harbor",[44] which attacked his failure to clean up environmental pollution in the harbor, and especially by two commercials that were accused of being racially charged, "Revolving Door" and "Weekend Passes" (also known as "Willie Horton"),[45] that portrayed him as soft on crime. Dukakis was a strong supporter of Massachusetts's prison furlough program, which had begun before he was governor. As governor, Dukakis vetoed a 1976 plan to bar inmates convicted of first-degree murder from the furlough program. In 1986, the program had resulted in the release of convicted murderer Willie Horton, an African American man who committed a rape and assault in Maryland while out on furlough.

A number of false rumors about Dukakis were reported in the media, including Idaho Republican Senator Steve Symms's claim that Dukakis's wife Kitty had burned an American flag to protest the Vietnam War,[46] as well as the claim that Dukakis himself had been treated for mental illness.[47]

"Dukakis in the tank"

Michael Dukakis on the tank

Dukakis attempted to quell criticism that he was ignorant on military matters by staging a photo op in which he rode in an M1 Abrams tank outside a General Dynamics plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan.[48] The move ended up being regarded as a major public relations blunder, with many mocking Dukakis's appearance as he waved to the crowd from the tank. The Bush campaign used the footage in an attack ad, accompanied by a rolling text listing Dukakis's vetoes of military-related bills. The incident remains a commonly cited example of backfired public relations.[49][50]

Dan Quayle

Michael Dukakis at a campaign rally at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on the eve of the 1988 election

One reason for Bush's choice of Senator Dan Quayle as his running mate was to appeal to younger Americans identified with the "Reagan Revolution." Quayle's looks were praised by Senator John McCain: "I can't believe a guy that handsome wouldn't have some impact."[51] But Quayle was not a seasoned politician, and made a number of embarrassing statements.[clarification needed] The Dukakis team attacked Quayle's credentials, saying he was "dangerously inexperienced to be first-in-line to the presidency."[52]

During the vice presidential debate, Quayle attempted to dispel such allegations by comparing his experience with that of pre-1960 John F. Kennedy, who had also been a young politician when running for the presidency (Kennedy had served 13 years in Congress to Quayle's 12). Quayle said, "I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency." "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy," Dukakis's running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, responded. "Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."[53]

Quayle responded, "That was really uncalled for, Senator," to which Bentsen said, "You are the one that was making the comparison, Senator, and I'm one who knew him well. And frankly I think you are so far apart in the objectives you choose for your country that I did not think the comparison was well-taken."

Democrats replayed Quayle's reaction to Bentsen's comment in subsequent ads as an announcer intoned, "Quayle: just a heartbeat away." Despite much press about the Kennedy comments, this did not reduce Bush's lead in the polls. Quayle had sought to use the debate to criticize Dukakis as too liberal rather than go point for point with the more seasoned Bentsen. Bentsen's attempts to defend Dukakis received little recognition, with greater attention on the Kennedy comparison.

Jennifer Fitzgerald and Donna Brazile firing

During the course of the campaign, Dukakis fired his deputy field director Donna Brazile after she spread false rumors that Bush had had an affair with his assistant Jennifer Fitzgerald.[54] Bush and Fitzgerald's relationship was briefly rehashed in the 1992 campaign.[55][56]

Presidential debates

There were two presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate.[57]

Voters were split as to who won the first presidential debate.[58] Bush improved in the second debate. Before the second debate, Dukakis had been suffering from the flu and spent much of the day in bed. His performance was generally seen as poor and played to his reputation of being intellectually cold. Reporter Bernard Shaw opened the debate by asking Dukakis whether he would support the death penalty if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered; Dukakis said "no" and discussed the statistical ineffectiveness of capital punishment. Some commentators thought the question itself was unfair, in that it injected an overly emotional element into the discussion of a policy issue, but many observers felt Dukakis's answer lacked the normal emotions one would expect of a person talking about a loved one's rape and murder.[59] Tom Brokaw of NBC reported on his October 14 newscast, "The consensus tonight is that Vice President George Bush won last night's debate and made it all the harder for Governor Michael Dukakis to catch and pass him in the 25 days remaining. In all of the Friday morning quarterbacking, there was common agreement that Dukakis failed to seize the debate and make it his night."[60]

Debates among candidates for the 1988 U.S. presidential election
No. Date Host Location Panelists Moderator Participants Viewership
P1 Sunday, September 25, 1988 Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, North Carolina John Mashek
Peter Jennings
Anne Groer
Jim Lehrer Vice President George H. W. Bush
Governor Michael Dukakis
VP Wednesday, October 5, 1988 Omaha Civic Auditorium Omaha, Nebraska Tom Brokaw
Jon Margolis
Brit Hume
Judy Woodruff Senator Dan Quayle
Senator Lloyd Bentsen
P2 Thursday, October 13, 1988 University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, California Andrea Mitchell
Ann Compton
Margaret Warner
Bernard Shaw Vice President George H. W. Bush
Governor Michael Dukakis


Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
Bush (R)
Dukakis (D)
Other Undecided
New York Times/CBS News May 9–12, 1988 1,056 RV ± % 39% 49%
Gallup June 24–26, 1988 1,056 RV ± 3% 41% 46%
New York Times/CBS News July 8–10, 1988 1,002 RV ± % 41% 47%
July 18–21: Democratic National Convention
Gallup July 21–22, 1988 948 RV ± 4% 38% 55%
August 15–18: Republican National Convention
Wall Street Journal/NBC News August 20–22, 1988 1,762 RV ± 3% 44% 39%
Gallup September 14–19, 1988 1,020 RV ± 3% 47% 42%
ABC News/Washington Post September 14–19, 1988 1,271 LV ± 3% 50% 46%
Sep 25 and Oct. 13: Presidential debates
NBC News/Wall Street Journal October 14–16, 1988 1,378 LV ± 3% 55% 38%
NBC News/Wall Street Journal October 23–26, 1988 1,285 LV ± 4% 51% 42%


Chief Justice William Rehnquist administering the oath of office to President George H. W. Bush on January 20, 1989, at the United States Capitol

In the November 8 election, Bush won a majority of the popular vote and the Electoral College.[61] Neither his popular vote percentage (53.4%), his total electoral votes (426), nor his number of states won (40) have been surpassed in any subsequent presidential election. Bush was the last candidate to receive an absolute majority of the popular vote until his son George W. Bush did in 2004.

Like Reagan in 1980 and 1984, Bush performed very strongly among suburban voters, in areas such as the collar counties of Chicago (winning over 60% in DuPage and Lake counties), Philadelphia (sweeping the Main Line counties), Baltimore, Los Angeles (winning over 60% in the Republican bastions of Orange and San Diego counties) and New York. As of 2020, Bush is the last Republican to win the heavily suburban states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey. He is also the last Republican candidate to win rural Vermont, which was historically Republican but by this time shifting away from the party, as well as the last Republican candidate to win Maine in its entirety, though Donald Trump won one electoral vote from the state in both 2016 and 2020. Bush lost New York state by just over 4%. Bush is the first Republican to win the presidency without Iowa and Wisconsin. In contrast to the suburbs, a solidly Republican constituency, Bush received a significantly lower level of support than Reagan in rural regions. Farm states had fared poorly during the Reagan administration, and Dukakis was the beneficiary.[62][63] This is the last election where Michigan and Pennsylvania voted Republican until 2016, New Mexico until 2004, and Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee until 2000.

In Illinois, Bush lost a number of downstate counties that previously went for Reagan, and he lost Iowa by a wide margin, even losing in traditionally Republican areas. Bush also performed weaker in Missouri's northern counties, narrowly winning that state. In three typically solid Republican states, Kansas, South Dakota, and Montana, the vote was much closer than usual. The rural state of West Virginia, though not an agricultural economy, narrowly flipped back into the Democratic column. As of 2023, this is the only election since 1916 where Blaine County, Montana did not vote for the winning candidate.[64]

Bush performed strongest in the South and West. Despite Bentsen's presence on the Democratic ticket, Bush won Texas by 12 points. He lost the states of the Pacific Northwest but narrowly held California in the Republican column for the sixth straight time. As of 2023, this was the last election in which the Republican candidate won the support of a majority or plurality of women voters.[65]

Electoral results

Electoral results
Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote Electoral
Running mate
Count Percentage Vice-presidential candidate Home state Electoral vote
George Herbert Walker Bush Republican Texas 48,886,597 53.37% 426 James Danforth Quayle Indiana 426
Michael Stanley Dukakis Democratic Massachusetts 41,809,476 45.65% 111 Lloyd Millard Bentsen, Jr. Texas 111
Lloyd Millard Bentsen, Jr. Democratic Texas (a) (a) 1 Michael S. Dukakis Massachusetts 1
Ronald Ernest Paul Libertarian Texas 431,750 0.47% 0 Andre Verne Marrou Alaska 0
Lenora Branch Fulani New Alliance Pennsylvania 217,221 0.24% 0 (b) 0
Other 249,642 0.27% Other
Total 91,594,686 100% 538 538
Needed to win 270 270

Source (popular vote): "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved August 7, 2005., Leip, David. "1988 Presidential Election Results". Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved August 7, 2005.

Source (electoral vote): "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved August 7, 2005.
(a) West Virginia faithless elector Margarette Leach voted for Bentsen as president and Dukakis as vice president in order to make a statement against the U.S. Electoral College.
(b) Fulani's running mate varied from state to state.[66] Among the six vice presidential candidates were Joyce Dattner, Harold Moore,[67] and Wynonia Burke.[68]

Popular vote
Electoral vote

Results by state

States/districts won by Dukakis/Bentsen
States/districts won by Bush/Quayle
At-large results (Maine used the Congressional District Method)
[69] George H.W. Bush
Michael Dukakis
Ron Paul
Lenora Fulani
New Alliance
Margin State Total
State electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
# % #
Alabama 9 815,576 59.17 9 549,506 39.86 8,460 0.61 3,311 0.24 266,070 19.30 1,378,476 AL
Alaska 3 119,251 59.59 3 72,584 36.27 5,484 2.74 1,024 0.51 46,667 23.32 200,116 AK
Arizona 7 702,541 59.95 7 454,029 38.74 13,351 1.14 1,662 0.14 248,512 21.21 1,171,873 AZ
Arkansas 6 466,578 56.37 6 349,237 42.19 3,297 0.40 2,161 0.26 117,341 14.18 827,738 AR
California 47 5,054,917 51.13 47 4,702,233 47.56 70,105 0.71 31,180 0.32 352,684 3.57 9,887,064 CA
Colorado 8 728,177 53.06 8 621,453 45.28 15,482 1.13 2,539 0.19 106,724 7.78 1,372,394 CO
Connecticut 8 750,241 51.98 8 676,584 46.87 14,071 0.97 2,491 0.17 73,657 5.10 1,443,394 CT
Delaware 3 139,639 55.88 3 108,647 43.48 1,162 0.47 443 0.18 30,992 12.40 249,891 DE
D.C. 3 27,590 14.30 159,407 82.65 3 554 0.29 2,901 1.50 −131,817 −68.34 192,877 DC
Florida 21 2,618,885 60.87 21 1,656,701 38.51 19,796 0.46 6,655 0.15 962,184 22.36 4,302,313 FL
Georgia 12 1,081,331 59.75 12 714,792 39.50 8,435 0.47 5,099 0.28 366,539 20.25 1,809,672 GA
Hawaii 4 158,625 44.75 192,364 54.27 4 1,999 0.56 1,003 0.28 −33,739 −9.52 354,461 HI
Idaho 4 253,881 62.08 4 147,272 36.01 5,313 1.30 2,502 0.61 106,609 26.07 408,968 ID
Illinois 24 2,310,939 50.69 24 2,215,940 48.60 14,944 0.33 10,276 0.23 94,999 2.08 4,559,120 IL
Indiana 12 1,297,763 59.84 12 860,643 39.69 10,215 0.47 437,120 20.16 2,168,621 IN
Iowa 8 545,355 44.50 670,557 54.71 8 2,494 0.20 540 0.04 −125,202 −10.22 1,225,614 IA
Kansas 7 554,049 55.79 7 422,636 42.56 12,553 1.26 3,806 0.38 131,413 13.23 993,044 KS
Kentucky 9 734,281 55.52 9 580,368 43.88 2,118 0.16 1,256 0.09 153,913 11.64 1,322,517 KY
Louisiana 10 883,702 54.27 10 734,281 44.06 4,115 0.25 2,355 0.14 166,242 10.21 1,628,202 LA
Maine † 2 307,131 55.34 2 243,569 43.88 2,700 0.49 1,405 0.25 63,562 11.45 555,035 ME
Maine-1 1 169,292 56.36 1 131,078 43.64 Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown 38,214 12.72 300,370 ME1
Maine-2 1 137,839 55.06 1 112,491 44.94 Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown 25,348 10.12 250,330 ME2
Maryland 10 876,167 51.11 10 826,304 48.20 6,748 0.39 5,115 0.30 49,863 2.91 1,714,358 MD
Massachusetts 13 1,194,644 45.38 1,401,406 53.23 13 24,251 0.92 9,561 0.36 −206,762 −7.85 2,632,805 MA
Michigan 20 1,965,486 53.57 20 1,675,783 45.67 18,336 0.50 2,513 0.07 289,703 7.90 3,669,163 MI
Minnesota 10 962,337 45.90 1,109,471 52.91 10 5,109 0.24 1,734 0.08 −147,134 −7.02 2,096,790 MN
Mississippi 7 557,890 59.89 7 363,921 39.07 3,329 0.36 2,155 0.23 193,969 20.82 931,527 MS
Missouri 11 1,084,953 51.83 11 1,001,619 47.85 6,656 0.32 83,334 3.98 2,093,228 MO
Montana 4 190,412 52.07 4 168,936 46.20 5,047 1.38 1,279 0.35 21,476 5.87 365,674 MT
Nebraska 5 398,447 60.15 5 259,646 39.20 2,536 0.38 1,743 0.26 138,801 20.96 662,372 NE
Nevada 4 206,040 58.86 4 132,738 37.92 3,520 1.01 835 0.24 73,302 20.94 350,067 NV
New Hampshire 4 281,537 62.49 4 163,696 36.33 4,502 1.00 790 0.18 117,841 26.16 450,525 NH
New Jersey 16 1,743,192 56.24 16 1,320,352 42.60 8,421 0.27 5,139 0.17 422,840 13.64 3,099,553 NJ
New Mexico 5 270,341 51.86 5 244,497 46.90 3,268 0.63 2,237 0.43 25,844 4.96 521,287 NM
New York 36 3,081,871 47.52 3,347,882 51.62 36 12,109 0.19 15,845 0.24 −266,011 −4.10 6,485,683 NY
North Carolina 13 1,237,258 57.97 13 890,167 41.71 1,263 0.06 5,682 0.27 347,091 16.26 2,134,370 NC
North Dakota 3 166,559 56.03 3 127,739 42.97 1,315 0.44 396 0.13 38,820 13.06 297,261 ND
Ohio 23 2,416,549 55.00 23 1,939,629 44.15 11,989 0.27 12,017 0.27 476,920 10.85 4,393,699 OH
Oklahoma 8 678,367 57.93 8 483,423 41.28 6,261 0.53 2,985 0.25 194,944 16.65 1,171,036 OK
Oregon 7 560,126 46.61 616,206 51.28 7 14,811 1.23 6,487 0.54 −56,080 −4.67 1,201,694 OR
Pennsylvania 25 2,300,087 50.70 25 2,194,944 48.39 12,051 0.27 4,379 0.10 105,143 2.32 4,536,251 PA
Rhode Island 4 177,761 43.93 225,123 55.64 4 825 0.20 280 0.07 −47,362 −11.71 404,620 RI
South Carolina 8 606,443 61.50 8 370,554 37.58 4,935 0.50 4,077 0.41 235,889 23.92 986,009 SC
South Dakota 3 165,415 52.85 3 145,560 46.51 1,060 0.34 730 0.23 19,855 6.34 312,991 SD
Tennessee 11 947,233 57.89 11 679,794 41.55 2,041 0.12 1,334 0.08 267,439 16.34 1,636,250 TN
Texas 29 3,036,829 55.95 29 2,352,748 43.35 30,355 0.56 7,208 0.13 684,081 12.60 5,427,410 TX
Utah 5 428,442 66.22 5 207,343 32.05 7,473 1.16 455 0.07 221,099 34.17 647,008 UT
Vermont 3 124,331 51.10 3 115,775 47.58 1,003 0.41 205 0.08 8,556 3.52 243,333 VT
Virginia 12 1,309,162 59.74 12 859,799 39.23 8,336 0.38 14,312 0.65 449,363 20.50 2,191,609 VA
Washington 10 903,835 48.46 933,516 50.05 10 17,240 0.92 3,520 0.19 −29,681 −1.59 1,865,253 WA
West Virginia 5 310,065 47.46 341,016 52.20 5 2,230 0.34 −30,951 −4.74 653,311 WV
Wisconsin 11 1,047,499 47.80 1,126,794 51.41 11 5,157 0.24 1,953 0.09 −79,295 −3.62 2,191,608 WI
Wyoming 3 106,867 60.53 3 67,113 38.01 2,026 1.15 545 0.31 39,754 22.52 176,551 WY
TOTALS: 538 48,886,597 53.37 426 41,809,476 45.65 111 431,750 0.47 217,221 0.24 7,077,121 7.73 91,594,686 US

Maine allowed its electoral votes to be split between candidates. Two electoral votes were awarded to the winner of the statewide race and one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. Bush won all four votes. This was the last election in which Nebraska awarded its electors in a winner-take-all format before switching to the congressional district method.[70]

Close states

States with margin of victory less than 5% (195 electoral votes)

  1. Washington, 1.59% (29,681 votes)
  2. Illinois, 2.09% (94,999 votes)
  3. Pennsylvania, 2.31% (105,143 votes)
  4. Maryland, 2.91% (49,863 votes)
  5. Vermont, 3.52% (8,556 votes)
  6. California, 3.57% (352,684 votes)
  7. Wisconsin, 3.61% (79,295 votes)
  8. Missouri, 3.98% (83,334 votes)
  9. New York, 4.10% (266,011 votes)
  10. Oregon, 4.67% (56,080 votes)
  11. West Virginia, 4.74% (30,951 votes)
  12. New Mexico, 4.96% (25,844 votes)

States with margin of victory between 5% and 10% (70 electoral votes):

  1. Connecticut, 5.11% (73,657 votes)
  2. Montana, 5.87% (21,476 votes)
  3. South Dakota, 6.34% (19,855 votes)
  4. Minnesota, 7.01% (147,134 votes)
  5. Colorado, 7.78% (106,724 votes)
  6. Massachusetts, 7.85% (206,762 votes)
  7. Michigan, 7.90% (289,703 votes) (tipping point state)
  8. Hawaii, 9.52% (33,739 votes)



Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Republican)

  1. Jackson County, Kentucky 85.16%
  2. Madison County, Idaho 84.87%
  3. Ochiltree County, Texas 83.25%
  4. Blaine County, Nebraska 82.24%
  5. Thomas County, Nebraska 82.19%

Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Democratic)

  1. Starr County, Texas 84.74%
  2. Zavala County, Texas 84.02%
  3. Washington, D.C. 82.65%
  4. Duval County, Texas 81.95%
  5. Brooks County, Texas 81.94%


Voter demographics

The 1988 presidential vote by demographic subgroup
Demographic subgroup Dukakis Bush % of
total vote
Total vote 46 53 100
Liberals 81 18 20
Moderates 51 49 45
Conservatives 19 81 33
Democrats 83 17 37
Republicans 8 92 35
Independents 42 56 26
Men 42 57 48
Women 49 50 52
White 40 59 85
Black 89 11 10
Hispanic 69 30 3
18–29 years old 47 53 20
30–44 years old 46 54 35
45–59 years old 42 58 22
60 and older 49 51 22
Family income
Under $12,500 63 37 12
$12,500–25,000 43 56 20
$25,000–35,000 43 56 20
$35,000–50,000 42 57 20
$50,000–100,000 38 61 19
Over $100,000 33 66 5
East 49 50 25
Midwest 47 52 28
South 41 59 28
West 46 53 19
Union households
Union 57 43 25

Source: CBS News and The New York Times exit poll from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research (11,645 surveyed)[71]

See also


  1. ^ A faithless Democratic elector voted for Bentsen for president and Dukakis for vice president


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Further reading

External links

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