Some Democrats, fearing that the party could end up with a weak nominee who would drag Democratic House and Senate candidates down to defeat, trying to draft a "safe candidate" such as Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (Tex.), the 1988 vice presidential nominee. The theory behind the draft movement is that he would provide protection for Senate and House candidates, even if he lost.
[T]he absence so far of strong challengers to Bush has fueled various doomsday scenarios for the Democrats: that their Senate majority could be toppled and that their House majority could be imperiled with many Democratic Members either retiring or having to run for reelection in new seats drawn after the 1990-91 redistricting.
When he defends the late start of the presidential campaign, Democratic National Chairman Ronald H. Brown always says voters are sick of long campaigns and aren't paying attention to national politics just yet.
Just one in four Americans - 24 percent - could name a Democrat who has been mentioned as a 1992 presidential prospect, according to a nationwide poll of 1,206 adults conducted May 16-19 by the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press.
The rate was just marginally higher - 28 percent - among respondents who identified themselves as Democrats.
New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who insists he's not running, was mentioned by 9 percent of the respondents who could recall a name; 7 percent mentioned the only declared major Democratic candidate, former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas.
Democrats struggled today to adjust to the last thing they needed six months before the Iowa caucuses: an already tiny Presidential field that keeps shrinking.
As expected, Senator John D. Rockefeller 4th announced in Charleston, W.Va., today that he would not seek the 1992 Democratic Presidential nomination. That announcement, just three weeks after Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, the House majority leader, took himself out of the race, combined with the demurrals of other Democratic heavyweights to create a frustrating, embarrassing pattern for the party.While the West Virginia Democrat struggled to cast his decision as a personal one, it left a clear public perception that one leading Democrat after another was looking at the 1992 campaign and deciding that George Bush could not be beaten.
"Am I frustrated?" asked Phil Angelides, chairman of the California Democratic Party. "Absolutely."
On August 8, 1991, USA Today reported:
What once was shrugged off by Democrats as a passing gust of the political winds - the absence of heavyweight challengers to President Bush - is now looming as a major political embarrassment.
With West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller's announcement Wednesday he would not run, making him the latest major Democrat to opt out, the field is left to a Massachusetts lawyer who hasn't held office in six years.
On August 9, 1991, Chris Matthews wrote:
The prognosis for the campaign itself is less robust. Four Augusts ago, the Democraticpresidential field was as crowded as the beach. Michael Dukakis, Albert Gore, Jesse Jackson, Richard Gephardt, Paul Simon and Bruce Babbitt were all declared, running and debating each other on television. The Gary Hart fiasco was old news. So, too, were the decisions of Mario Cuomo, Bill Bradley and Bill Clinton not to enter the '88 race.
This August, the political beaches are largely deserted. Only three Democrats have established the clear intention to seek the presidency in 1992: former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. What unites the trio is the shared realization that each of them, for widely different reasons, has nothing much to lose.
On August 26, 1991, The Washington Post reported:
In comparison to what is happening in the Soviet Union, the decision by Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) to pass up the 1992 campaign won't merit a footnote in history. But Gore's timing inadvertently drew attention to this brewing stature gap. Given the prospective field of Democratic challengers, it will require a remarkably persuasive case -- or a genuine blunder by Bush -- to convince voters they should entrust the security and international interests of the country to the Democrats next year.