1984 Flag of the United States 1992 › ›
United States presidential election, 1988
November 1988
Bob Dole, PCCWW photo portrait Gary Hart CDM
Nominee Robert Dole Gary Hart
Party Democrat Socialist
Home state Kansas Colorado
Running mate Donald Rumsfeld Paul Sarbanes
States carried 27 6 + DC
US 1988 Electoral Map CDM
Yellow denotes states won by Dole-Rumsfeld; Yellow denotes states won by Hart-Sarbanes
President before election
George Bush
Elected President
Robert Dole

The United States Presidential election of 1988 was held on November _, 1988. Incumbent President George Bush was term limited and unable to seek a third term. Vice President Robert Dole of Kansas, a Democrat, won his party's nomination after a surprisingly difficult primary campaign and went on to defeat moderate Socialist Senator Gary Hart of Colorado in a landslide victory.

Democratic Primary

George Bush was term-limited and thus could not seek the nomination; instead, he endorsed his Vice President, Robert Dole, in late 1987. Dole promised he would continue the neoliberal Bush policies and "make the 90s as prosperous as the 80s." However, Dole faced several candidates from both his right and his left.

Dole was criticized by moderate Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon as being beholden to "Western Conservatives" and being out of touch with East Coast voters who, while overwhelmingly supporting Bush in the previous elections, would be leery of a more conservative Kansan. Eastern Establishment moderates, such as Pennsylvania Senator and former Vice Presidential candidate Richard Schweiker and Rhode Island Senator John Chafee, ran with the same attitude. Schweiker, despite having last appeared on a ticket twelve years prior, was seen as Dole's strongest challenger from the Senate.

On the right, Dole was challenged by U.S. Rep. Ron Marlenee of Montana, an old Reaganite who argued that the Bush administration had not been conservative enough and had failed to roll back the welfare state, despite this never having been promised by Bush or Dole. Dole also faced Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who argued that all other candidates were Washington insiders who were disconnected from "the people."

Most candidates campaigned sparingly leading up to the Iowa caucuses, with Branstad expected to win. Nevertheless, Dole placed second in Iowa, and claimed he had "the Big Mo" leading into the New Hampshire primary two weeks later.

The New Hampshire primary became the site of heavy campaigning, especially after Packwood dropped out and endorsed Schweiker. Dole, helped by campaigning by Governor John Sununu, won the primary, and Chafee placed second, thus cutting off Schweiker's much-needed momentum after having led in the polls up until then. In the next week's Nevada primary, Dole placed first again, helping push both Schweiker and Branstad out of the race.

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