The 1988 U.S. presidential election was the 51st presidential election. The contest featured an open primary for both the Democratic and Republican parties after Ronald Reagan served the maximum two terms allowed by the 22nd Amendment. The election was between Republican candidate George H.W. Bush, Reagan’s Vice President, and Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis, the Governor of Massachusetts.
The Democratic Party had numerous candidates entering the race, whom commentators referred to as “The Seven Dwarfs”: Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, Missouri Representative Richard Gephardt, Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, Tennessee Senator Al Gore, Illinois Senator Paul Simon, and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. Halfway through the primaries, only Gore, Jackson, and Dukakis remained in the race. Despite Gore winning five Southern primaries on Super Tuesday, Dukakis won New York, which stimulated his campaign. The Democratic National Convention took place in Atlanta in July, where Dukakis was chosen as the Democratic nominee. Dukakis chose Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen to be his running mate.
Bush started poorly in the primaries and made a comeback. Bush’s largest competition for the candidacy was Senator Bob Dole of Kansas and former New York representative Jack Kemp. After finishing third in Iowa, Bush won New Hampshire and polled well on Super Tuesday. By the end of March, Kemp had dropped out of the race and Kemp withdrew. Bush’s nomination was solidified that August at the Republican convention in New Orleans. Bush chose Indiana senator Dan Quayle as his running mate.
During the general election, Bush focused on the economy and continuing Reagan’s policies. His campaign was aggressive, attacking Dukakis as an elitist “Massachusetts liberal.” Dukakis failed to respond to Bush’s aggression. Bush maintained a lead in opinion polls and Dukakis only made a small rebound after impressive performances in the first of two televised debates. The Bush campaign success can be attributed more so to the lack of performance from the Dukakis camp, rather than Bush’s actual performance. On November 8, 1998, the American people voted for their new president.
George H.W. Bush won the following states in the 1988 election:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
Michael Dukakis won the following states in the 1988 election:
- District of Columbia
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
George H.W. Bush received 47,946,000 popular votes and Michael Dukakis received 41,016,000 votes. In the Electoral College, Bush received 426 votes and Dukakis received 111. Bush became the first sitting vice president to be elected president since Martin Van Buren in 1836. He was inaugurated on January 20, 1989