Mid-October is a time of change in the United States, as the leaves change colors, the wind grows cold, and political campaigns shift gears to prepare for November.
In presidential election years, this week marks the beginning of the last month before the General Election, a time for re-examination, earnest predictions, and, if necessary, bold new moves.
A Time Magazine report from October 13, 1980 depicts Ronald Reagan experimenting with a more centrist, working-class image to build up votes in the Northeast: the modern patron saint of the Right declares “I submit that my record is one that Democrats, Republicans, and Independents can support”. Fortunately, the candidate had the resume to back this up: “I was six times a union president” he explained to hardhat-wearing construction workers on a stop in Manhattan that week. “By golly, I think that I’m the first person who could say that who has run for president.”
Candidates that fail to freshen up their summer rhetoric can lose energy. In the 1932 election, even as Great Depression’s effects spread, Herbert Hoover’s supporters continued to trump his economic policy. “Had the President failed us, it is not too much to say there would not have been a bank open in America today”, Senator Arthur Capper (R-KS) asserted in Time Magazine. Such words failed to give Hoover a much-needed boost: the then-cutting-edge Hearst Poll reported him trailing Franklin Delano Roosevelt 138,598-192,590.
Primary election campaigns show a less fatalistic picture of this week. With 13 months left before the General Election, candidates are still collecting their initial campaign contributions and planning their advertising budget, while pundits are still separating the candidates from the also-rans. By mid-October of 1991, the entire Democratic candidate pool had raised less than $1.5 million dollars, barely a fourth of what Michael Dukakis alone had raised four years earlier, the New York Times reported. Yet all is certainly not lost: the lackluster fundraisers included Arkansas governor Bill Clinton with a mere $201,000. Yet, in a little over a year, Time Magazine called the White House “Clinton’s To Lose”. Thirteen months is plenty of time to make a comeback.
Whether candidates are collecting the harvest or shivering against the cold, change is certainly in the air this season.
Time archives, New York Times archives via ProQuest
Sun, October 9, 2011
by Thomas Groesbeck filed under