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Martin P. Wattenberg, "Why Clinton Won and Dukakis Lost: An Analysis of the Candidate-centered Nature of American Party Politics," Party Politics , 1 (April, 1995), 245-260.

First Paragraph:
Compared to national elections in parliamentary democracies, American presidential elections are distinctly personal contests. This difference manifests itself in many ways. Whereas party leaders in parliamentary systems appear on the ballot only in their home constituencies, the names of American presidential candidates appear on the ballot nationwide. Even the process of selecting party leaders is personalized in the USA. Rather than being chosen by a party caucus, an American presidential candidate becomes de facto party leader by virtue of winning enough primaries to secure the party's presidential nomination. Should he win the general election, the newly elected president can claim a uniquely personal victory; should he lose, the party can easily abandon him. For example, both Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis became non-entities in their own party soon after leading the Democrats to defeat and played no role in the subsequent party conventions.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Personality evaluations of presidential candidates, 1952-92.
Table 2: Democratic percentage of the two-party vote by ideology, 1972-92.
Table 3: Ratings of candidates and parties on domestic and foreign issues.
Table 4: Most frequently mentioned domestic issue comments in 1988.
Table 5: Most frequently mentioned domestic issue comments in 1992.
Table 6: A multivariate model of the two-party vote in 1988 and 1992 (positive mean entries indicate a Republican advantage).

Last Paragraph:
The major reason why Clinton won and Dukakis lost was that domestic issues favored Vice President Bush in 1988 but worked against President Bush in 1992. In 1988, 54 percent of the public approved of how Reagan was handling the economy, compared to only 28 percent for Bush's economic performance in 1992. In addition to the advantage of running under circumstances when the incumbent's record was vulnerable, Clinton was also able to control the domestic issue agenda much better than Dukakis. Whereas the public's image of Dukakis was laden with all sorts of negatives on social issues, Clinton was able to avoid such issues and keep the focus on providing good jobs at good wages and with affordable health care. In the end, the different issue emphases of the candidates, as well as the economic circumstances under which the two campaigns were conducted, proved to be the key factors that altered the fortunes of the parties.