The 2000 Presidential Election of George W. Bush: The Difficult Birth of a Presidency

  • James E. Campbell


How did Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush emerge fron the presidential election of 2000 as the nation’s forty-third president? In the most immediate sense, the answer in one word is Florida. Florida was the pivotal state. Its 25 electoral votes determined the national electoral vote winner and its popular vote division was almost perfectly divided betweer Bush and Democratic presidential contender Al Gore. The near perfect divi sion of the state’s vote was about the only thing near perfect in determining whether Bush or Gore would receive the state’s crucial electoral votes A variety of disputes, regarding issues from ballot design to whether papei ballots were properly punched and the absence of clear-cut standards in place prior to election day, were all part of what became the Florida fiasco. Witt the election hanging in the balance, the Gore campaign challenged the initia vote count that narrowly awarded the state to Bush. In the end, the contend ing sides resorted to the courts to resolve the dispute and they did, upholding the certified vote count of a Bush plurality. Democrats would charge that a Republican-dominated U.S. Supreme Court intervened inappropriately to prevent a recount of Florida’s votes in several counties ordered by the Supreme Court of Florida state. Republicans countercharged that the U.S Supreme Court properly prevented an activist Florida state Supreme Court from usurping the constitutional powers of Florida’s state legislature and conducting a highly selective recount with arbitrary standards adopted after the election had been held.1


Presidential Election Gross Domestic Product Growth Electoral Vote Popular Vote National Election Study 
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  1. 2.
    For a comparison of the critical vote in the 2000 election to past elections see James E. Campbell, “The Curious and Close Presidential Campaign of 2000,” in William Crotty, ed., America’s Choice 2000 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001), 116.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The election data are from John L. Moore, Jon P. Premesberger, and David R. Tarr (eds.), Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to U.S. Elections, 4th edition (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2001), 688.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Seven models forecasting the national two-party popular vote were presented at the 2000 American Political Science Association Meeting at the end of August, more than two months before election day. For the most part the models were those presented in James E. Campbell and James C. Garand, eds., Before the Vote: Forecasting American National Elections (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000). The models ranged in forecasts from a Gore vote of 52.8 percentage points to a Gore landslide of 60.3 percentage points. Since Gore actually received 50.3 percentage points of the national two-party vote, the errors ranged from 2.5 percentage points to 10 points. These forecasts were based largely on the relationship of public opinion and economic indicators and the vote in past elections. Postelection examinations of the strengths and weaknesses of the models were published in PS: Political Science and Politics (March 2001), 9–48 and in American Politics Research (May 2001), 275–328.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    See, James E. Campbell, The American Campaign: U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2000), 108–110.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    For a full comparison of the second quarter growth rates see James E. Campbell, “The Referendum that Didn’t Happen: The Forecasts of the 2000 Presidential Election,” PS: Political Science and Politics, 34 (March 2001), 33–38.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    There is an extensive literature on retrospective voting in general and retrospective economic voting in particular. See Morris P. Fiorina, Retrospective Voting in American National Elections (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981);Google Scholar
  7. Ray C. Fair, “The Effect of Economic Events on Votes for President: 1984 Update,” Political Behavior, 10 (1988), 168–179;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Robert S. Erikson, “Economic Conditions and the Presidential Vote,” American Political Science Review, 83 (1989), 567–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 12.
    For a more thorough discussion of the realignment, and claims regarding partisan dealignment, see Campbell, The American Campaign, Appendix A, 207–218; James E. Campbell, Cheap Seats: The Democratic Party’s Advantage in U.S. House Elections (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1996), 162–168;Google Scholar
  10. and James E. Campbell, The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections, 2nd edition (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1997), 221–230.Google Scholar
  11. Also see, Bruce E. Keith, Bruce E., David B. Magleby, Candice J. Nelson, Elizabeth Orr, Mark C. Westlye, and Raymond E. Wolfinger, The Myth of the Independent Voter (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992);Google Scholar
  12. Daniel Wirls, “Voting Behavior: The Balance of Power in American Politics,” in Michael Nelson, ed., The Elections of 2000 (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2001), 93–108;Google Scholar
  13. and Larry M. Bartels, “Partisanship and Voting Behavior, 1952–1996,” American Journal of Political Science, 44 (January 2000), 35–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    For a discussion of the competitiveness effects of campaigns see, Campbell, The American Campaign, chapter 7 and Larry M. Bartels, “The Impact of Electioneering in the United States.” in David Butier and Austin Ranney, eds., Electioneering: A Comparative Study of Continuity and Change (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1992), 244–277.Google Scholar
  15. The partisan reinforcing effects of campaigns is examined in James E. Campbell, “Presidential Election Campaigns and Partisanship,” in Jeffrey E. Cohen, Richard Fleisher, and Paul Kantor, eds., American Political Parties: Decline or Resurgence? (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2001), 11–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 17.
    Campbell, “The Curious and Close Presidential Campaign of 2000,” 124. See also, James E. Campbell, “Nomination Politics, Party Unity, and Presidential Elections,” in James Pfiffner and Roger H. Davidson, eds., Understanding the Presidency, 4th edition (New York: Longman, 2004).Google Scholar
  17. 19.
    The data are from the NES and are calculated and reported in Paul R. Abramson, John H. Aldrich, and David W. Rohde, Change and Continuity in the 2000 Elections (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2001), 159–163.Google Scholar
  18. 21.
    Richard Nadeau and Michael S. Lewis-Beck, “National Economic Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections,” The Journal of Politics, 63:1 (January 2001), 159–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 22.
    James E. Campbell, “An Evaluation of the Trial-Heat and Economy Forecast of the Presidential Vote in the 2000 Election,” American Politics Research, 29:3 (May 2001), 289–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. and James E. Campbell, Syed Ali, and Farida Jalalzai, “Predicting the Presidential Vote in the States, 1948–2000: An Update and Revision of a State-Level Presidential Forecasting Model” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, 2002.Google Scholar
  21. 24.
    James E. Campbell, “The 2002 Midterm Election: A Typical or an Atypical Midterm?,” PS: Political Science and Politics, 36:2 (April 2003), 203–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Jon Kraus, Kevin J. McMahon, and David M. Rankin 2004

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  • James E. Campbell

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