The 1988 campaign featured an open contest on both the Republican and Democratic sides, as Republican Pres. Ronald Reagan was entering the last year of his second term. Numerous contenders on the Democratic side entered the race. Commentators referred derisively to them as “The Seven Dwarfs.” They included former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt, Tennessee Sen. Al Gore, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, and Illinois Sen. Paul Simon. Three candidates who were somewhat more inspiring had decided not to run: former senator Gary Hart of Colorado, who dropped out because of a sex scandal, reentered the race and then dropped out for good; Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy; and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who simply declined to run. The Republicans, seeking a candidate who could match the stature and electability of Reagan, were similarly at a loss. The nominal front-runner, George Bush, suffered from a reputation as a “wimp” who in 22 years of public life—as a former representative, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and, for more than seven years, Reagan’s vice president—had failed to distinguish himself as anything more than a docile instrument of someone else’s policy. There were three interesting Republican alternatives: Bob Dole of Kansas, the Senate minority leader, who was respected for his wit and intelligence though considered by some to be overly acerbic; former New York representative Jack Kemp, revered among many conservatives as Reagan’s true ideological heir; and the Rev. Pat Robertson, a popular televangelist. None of the three, however, made it through the primary season. With the Reagan era drawing to a close, the wide open race has top names both sides of the political spectrum running for the top job. Liberal and Conservative Reverends, Hawks and Doves in both parties, which way will America turn?
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