Though he did not win a single state, Ross Perot garnered almost 20 percent of the national presidential vote in 1992, dooming President George H.W. Bush's reelection campaign. Two years later, Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Frank Luntz, and other architects of the Republican Revolution found a way to persuade the Perotistas to swing Republican. (Bill Clinton helped in his own way, too.) The result was GOP dominance in both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.
The Perot issues -- government spending, deficits, and debt -- disappeared after the billionaire's last presidential campaign in 1996, when he took only 8 percent of the vote. The 1997 budget deal between Clinton and Gingrich gave us balanced budgets and an eventual surplus. But the Perot voters did not disappear. They remained dormant for years, until the Bush immigration proposals in 2006 and 2007 created a populist backlash. Then came 2009, and Obama's big government liberalism brought the Perot supporters and other disillusioned Americans back into politics. Another Perot moment had begun.
This one may last for a while. Here's William Galston:
For decades, the conventional wisdom has been that concern over public-sector budget deficits and debt was confined to a handful of elected officials and policy wonks. Although Ross Perot challenged that belief in the early 1990s, the consequences of his insurgency soon faded. But now, the massive spending and debt accumulation the government has used to save the financial system and stabilize the economy are in the process of effecting a sea-change in public attitudes. While President Obama’s fiscal commission may well deadlock, the problem that called it into being isn’t going away, and neither are the public’s concerns. The party that masters the emerging new politics of deficits and debt will seize the mantle of national leadership.
Who's it going to be?