Trailblazing to Victory: The Ramifications of America's First Woman President


What is this?

My first attempt at a TL after having largely been active on just SW. It'll be based off of a PI observer game I ran through a few months ago on my own with modifications to make some of the election results slightly more realistic. This will only apply for the first election after the prologue, though. After that it will be all made up by me.

What kind of TL will this be?
Part wikibox, part narrative. You'll see as it develops.

What's the PoD?
It'll be explained soon enough, suffice to say it's been done before but not elucidated at all. It also has something to do with Geraldine Ferraro.

When does the TL start?
July 1984, there'll be a time skip before we get to the real start of the TL. Hopefully this will go all the way to 2020 but we'll see if I get there or not.

What about comments and feedback?
Both are very much appreciated as this is my first time doing something like this.

Any more questions?
No, I think that's been enough, but here's a non-period song to establish the TL (also I just like it a lot :biggrin:):

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Prologue: The Election of 1984
Prologue: The Election of 1984


“Ladies and gentlemen of the convention:

My name is Geraldine Ferraro. I stand before you to proclaim tonight: America is the land where dreams can come true for all of us. As I stand before the American people and think of the honor this great convention has bestowed upon me, I recall the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who made America stronger by making America more free. He said, "Occasionally in life there are moments which cannot be completely explained by words. Their meaning can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart." Tonight is such a moment for me.

My heart is filled with pride. My fellow citizens, I proudly accept your nomination for Vice President of the United States.” – Geraldine Ferraro, July 19, 1984

It was at this moment that the Moscone Center burst into a roaring applause for Gerry Ferraro, filled with emotion as the first woman was nominated on the ticket of a major party. Many of the women in attendance were crying at the historic nature of this event and for the breakthrough it represented for women in politics. With only 24 women in the House and 1 in the Senate in the 98th Congress that was currently in session the possibility of having a woman as vice president was tantalizingly close, even if the odds were steep for the Mondale/Ferraro ticket in the face of the widely popular Reagan who appeared to be a lock for re-election by a double digit margin in November. But at this moment that was a distant thought as energy filled the convention hall and the applause and cheers continued for over one minute, with chants of “Gerry!” erupting as Ferraro attempted to continue her speech.

Picking Ferraro as his running mate was a risky choice for Mondale, who could have played safe and chosen Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis or even his former opponent in the primaries, Colorado Senator Gary Hart. But the need to provide momentum for his presidential campaign in the light of Reagan’s seemingly inevitable re-election had pushed him to choose a woman to run with him in an effort to make a play for the women’s vote and at least give him a fighting chance, however tough that chance would be. His choice had been played up for weeks as a diverse array of Democratic figures such Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, and Kentucky Governor Martha Collins were invited to his home in Minnesota in what his former rival Jesse Jackson called a "P.R. parade of personalities." In the end, however, he had chosen Ferraro upon recommendation by New York Governor Mario Cuomo, a long-time friend of Ferraro’s, as well as his own belief that she would be able to appeal to blue collar and white ethnic voters that were crucial constituencies in the Northeast and Midwest. Yet he had only spent two days vetting her in the run-up to the 1984 DNC, which would prove problematic after the convention was over. Nevertheless, despite public perception that the choice had been motivated by pressure from women’s groups rather than a genuine belief that Ferraro was the best choice for the job, she soon proved herself to be an effective and prolific campaigner and washed away many fears that the Mondale campaign had about her.


While Ferraro had risen up the ranks within the House in her three terms there and had proven to be effective in navigating through the male-dominated halls of Capitol Hill, she had not faced the rigors and scrutiny of a national campaign. Immediately off the bat she was faced with reporting about her family’s finances, with records having been drudged up about an illegal loan her husband had made to her first campaign for Congress as well as questions from the national media regarding her and her husband’s tax returns. The pressure led to Ferraro promising to release her and her husband’s tax returns within the next month, yet that decision faced strong resistance from her husband. John Zaccaro was a real estate developer and a private man who didn’t believe that his finances were anybody’s business and he initially refused to allow his tax returns to be released. Sensing that this could prove problematic for the campaign, campaign manager Bob Beckel approached Ferraro to urge her to get her husband to release his tax returns. When this initially proved unsuccessful, he personally met with Mr. Zaccaro to explain to him the importance of releasing his tax returns so that questions regarding them did not distract from the campaign’s message. This was followed up with a personal appeal from Mondale who saw that the scrutiny Ferraro was facing was pulling focus away from his own efforts to attack Reagan for his unequal tax cuts and the growing budget deficit under his term as a result from his increased spending on the military. Yielding to the pressure, Mr. Zaccaro agreed to allow his tax returns to be released along with Ferraro’s, which finally happened on August 14.

The returns revealed that the Ferraros had a combined worth of close to $4 million, however most of that was tied up in real estate and not disposable income. Despite this questions came from the press about their wealth and how this reflected upon Ferraro’s rags-to-riches story which she had been mentioning on the campaign trail for weeks. Ferraro deftly stated this proved how far she had come from her working class upbringing and that her family wasn’t, in fact, as wealthy as they appeared to be. Questions about this soon died down, even though the Reagan campaign did continue to press this point in the lead up to the RNC. In the end, the press uproar about Ferraro’s finances subsided despite continued questions about them as well as assertions that Ferraro’s husband was connected with the mafia, which were largely ignored by mainstream media outlets except the Philadelphia Inquirer.


Having avoided a major distraction from the campaign, Mondale was able to further hone in his message of the need to ensure that every American was benefitting from the economic recovery and in questioning Reagan’s age and fitness to serve a second term as president. By the end of August after the convention bump from the DNC had faded a Gallup poll had the race at 52% to 42% with Reagan continuing to hold a double-digit lead over Mondale. After the RNC Reagan’s lead grew to 16 points, 55-39 going into September as the campaign began to heat up in the sprint to November. The Reagan campaign emphasized the improving economy and renewal of America’s military strength as proof of the success of his leadership, a message that appealed to many Americans who finally felt that America was getting back on the right track after years of economic struggle and weak leadership. President Reagan declared that it was “Morning in America” and exuded confidence that America was moving in the right direction while largely avoiding direct attacks on Mondale owing to his large lead in the polls. Meanwhile Mondale continued his attacks on Reagan’s record, bringing up the soaring deficit often on the campaign trail and criticizing the SDI program as being infeasible and unrealistic. However, these attacks proved largely ineffective as the deficit was at the back of many Americans’ minds due to the success of Reaganomics and few questioned Reagan’s strength on national security.

Ferraro also came back into the headlines as attacks by the Catholic Church for her pro-choice stance on abortion intensified in late September, with Cardinal John O’Connor, the Archbishop of New York, and Cardinal John Krol, Archbishop of Philadelphia, sharply criticizing her for her misrepresentation of the Catholic stance on the issue, having said that it was “not a monolith” and that there were a range of opinions on the issue. Cardinal Krol went as far as to call Ferraro a “traitor to the Catholic faith” on the issue of abortion and called on her to oppose the issue if she were a true Catholic. This remark received condemnation from many pro-choice Catholics who rushed to Ferraro’s defense, including New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, who joined Ferraro at a press conference where she stated that there were “many Catholics who do not share the view of the Catholic Church” and that attempting to label these people as being traitors to their faith was tantamount to “declaring that one cannot be a good Catholic if their own personal views on one issue do not hew to the orthodoxy of the Church.” While conservative Catholics were certainly not pleased, she was praised by many others for sticking up to pluralism within the Church. Even though this did not do much to lessen anti-abortion protests at rallies that Ferraro attended it did help the campaign among liberal and moderate Catholics in the Northeast who were tepid about their support for the Mondale/Ferraro ticket.


As September came to a close Reagan maintained a double digit margin over Mondale although it had narrowed slightly in the past few weeks, now standing at roughly 12 points, 53-41. The debates did little to change this, with Reagan stumbling in the first debate on October 7 and appearing confused, mistakenly calling the moderator, Barbara Walters, “Nancy” and mistaking the island of Grenada with the Bahamas when discussing a question about his administration’s actions in the Caribbean. Fresh questions about his age emerged and were exploited by both Mondale and Ferraro over the next few weeks. However, Reagan dispelled this in the second debate on October 21 when he joked "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." This garnered laughter from the audience, including from Mondale, and removed age as an issue in the remaining weeks of the campaign. While Mondale had exceeded expectations in both debates and performed well amid Reagan’s struggles, they did little to dent his lead. Neither did the vice presidential debate on October 11, during which Ferraro faced questions about her experience compared to Bush’s many years of public service and was forced to defend her readiness to be vice president, while Bush had to answer questions about Reagan’s age. The debate was widely considered a draw between Bush and Ferraro, although a few news organizations praised Ferraro for her strong defense of her position on abortion which had received applause during the debate. As the election drew to a close the last poll before Election Day showed Reagan leading Mondale by 14 points, 57% to 43%, and it was no surprise when the final results came in.


Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale by 14 points to be re-elected to a second term as president. Mondale failed to do any better than Carter did four years prior in the Electoral College, with his promise to raise taxes having alienated many Southern white and blue-collar voters who had been lifelong Democrats who voted for Reagan in droves and his liberal stances on social issues turned off many moderate suburban voters. However, his showing was much better than George McGovern’s in 1972 as he managed to win five states, including his home state of Minnesota and the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Hawaii, as well as pulling off a bare victory in Maryland. Geraldine Ferraro was widely considered an underestimated figure in the campaign, having vigorously traveled across the country and attracted large crowds wherever she went. She continued to be seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party and there was speculation that she may attempt to run against Republican New York Senator Al D’Amato in 1986 although Ferraro denied that she had senatorial ambitions.

Despite Mondale’s landslide defeat in the presidential election, Democrats managed to make surprising gains in the Senate, winning three seats from the Republicans while narrowly holding on to their Senate seat in Kentucky where Walter Huddleston held off a strong challenge from Jefferson County Executive Mitch McConnell by less than 4,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast. The picture was less rosy in the House, where Democrats lost 13 seats to the Republicans. However, their large majority was never at risk and they still held 256 seats out of 435 after all the votes had been counted. Even though they held control of Congress, Democrats were desperate for a new direction after two straight presidential election defeats by rather large margins. At the same time, Republicans were basking in Reagan’s landslide victory as a rightward turn in American politics became clear to see. Now all eyes turned to 1988 as the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party in the Reagan era continued on.
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Chapter 1: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Chapter 1: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs


“America has always been a land of opportunity, just as my father knew when he came to this country over sixty years ago from Italy. It is a place where any dream can come true, where any one can reach their potential through hard work and persistence. I am determined now, more than ever, to make sure that stays a reality for our children and every citizen of our great nation. I don’t think President Reagan or the Republicans have been doing enough to protect opportunities for working and middle class Americans nor do I think the Democrats have done enough to show that they stand with them and understand their concerns with the problems that our country is currently facing.

It is with this recognition and a conviction to fight for the equal rights of all Americans that I announce my candidacy for President of the United States.” – Geraldine Ferraro, March 17, 1987

Gerry Ferraro was not the first to enter the race nor was she the last but her entrance caused a splash in the media, much like her choice as Mondale’s running mate did three years prior. The national media took her campaign seriously, she had been one of the stars of 1984 presidential campaign and, while she declined to challenge Al D’Amato for the Senate in ‘86, there had been speculation for months that she was preparing to run for president. Although other women had run for president in the past – Margaret Chase Smith in 1964 and Patsy Mink and Shirley Chisholm in 1972 – none of them had come anywhere close to winning their party’s nomination. For Ferraro it was different because she had several advantages that these women lacked: name recognition, donor connections, and institutional support from prominent Democrats and outside groups. Indeed, after the declaration of her campaign she was almost immediately endorsed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Women’s Political Leadership Caucus (WPLC) which pledged their support to the first serious campaign by a woman for president. Riding high after her announcement, Ferraro traveled to Iowa for her first campaign stop where she was met with an enthusiastic response from women and blue-collar voters and premiered her campaign message focused on equal rights, law and order, education reform, reigning in the deficit, and standing up for American workers.

Ten days prior little-known Illinois Senator Paul Simon had declared his own campaign for president. Fiscally conservative but socially liberal, he promised to defend the principles of the Democratic Party that had been exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy and strongly appealed to the New Deal tradition. While the New Deal still had strong support from many elements of the Democratic base, the public at large had turned away from a belief in government solutions to the nation’s problems and toward Reagan’s calls for limited government and deregulation. Many considered his bid a long shot and he had little support outside of Illinois. Ferraro's entrance had complicated his own path to the nomination as she pulled away working class voters and liberals that Simon was seeking to rely on for his own path to victory.

Shortly after Ferraro’s campaign announcement Gov. Michael Dukakis, who had been widely expected to enter the presidential race, declared that he would not be running for president. The speculation regarding Ferraro’s entrance had given pause to his own presidential ambitions as there was a large overlap between their appeal to white ethnic voters, immigrants, and suburban voters. Once her campaign was launched Dukakis concluded that his path to the nomination was incredibly narrow and his warm opinion of Ferraro led him to end his own campaign before it even began. He was not the first potential candidate to refuse to run for president, Mario Cuomo had previously refused to enter the race himself, but he was one of the most speculated candidates to be preparing a run for the Democratic nomination and his announcement provided a much needed boost to the Ferraro campaign which was worried about the potential for Dukakis to split her vote in the Northeast and across the Midwest.


By mid-April another heavy hitter entered the race as Fmr. Senator Gary Hart, the runner-up in 1984, announced his campaign for president running once again on his “New Ideas” platform that had been more fleshed out after the criticism he had faced during the 1984 primaries for being too vague and fuzzy on what exactly it meant. He positioned himself as an opponent of special interests and wasteful defense spending, a champion of sensible budget policies and diplomacy over military, and called for investments in education, job training, and research that would move the country forward. He immediately became the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic nomination as many Democrats looking for a new direction for the party coalesced behind his campaign. However, all was not well in Hartland as rumors began to swirl about an affair with a former Miss America contestant and his opponents pressed his reputation as a womanizer to reporters covering the presidential campaign. Finally a story broke in the Washington Post on May 3 that alleged he had a sexual relationship with former Miss Colorado Carol Janson, whom he had met at a Christmas party in Boulder the previous year. Hart denied the allegations but soon pictures began to circulate showing her entering and exiting his townhome in Washington. At a televised press conference on May 4, Janson denied that her relationship with Hart was anything but as friends yet the media frenzy that ensued would not abate. In a widely covered press conference on the same day Hart dared the media to follow him around saying that he had “nothing to hide” and that they would end up bored because there was nothing for them to find. He also condemned the Washington Post for intruding into his personal life, saying that such reporting “belonged in the tabloids.” Nevertheless, Hart’s popularity plummeted and a poll released the next day showed that he was trailing Ferraro in New Hampshire by 8 points, with 35% of New Hampshire voters saying they wouldn’t vote for Hart after learning of his alleged affair. He continued to take heat throughout the week from the national press, as the allegations of the affair continued to dominate media coverage of the presidential campaign.

Coverage began to die down the following week after Hart gave another press conference with his wife fervently denying the affair and saying that he was an “honest and loving husband who is being persecuted by the national media” for something he didn’t do. Despite the press conference the damage had been done to his campaign and he fell behind Ferraro in national polls. However, new polls released by Newsweek showed that slightly over 60% of Democratic primary voters believed that Hart was telling the truth and just over half were unconcerned about the alleged affair. Still, Hart would struggle to recover from this episode which continued to dog him for the rest of his campaign for president.


The next Democrat to enter the race was Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt who had announced his campaign on May 1. Declaring that America’s economic position was declining, he promised to revive a struggling manufacturing sector, protect American workers, and work to get fair trade deals for America. Unfortunately for him press coverage of his campaign announcement was soon drowned out by Hart’s sex scandal. Regardless, he had strong connections to organized labor which he hoped would help him in Iowa and across the Midwest where he faced stiff competition from both Ferraro and Simon, who were both seeking to appeal to working class, blue-collar voters who were being adversely affected by the continuing transition of America toward a post-industrial economy.

In June two more candidates, both young moderates hoping to take advantage of Hart’s struggling campaign and their own youth to win the nomination, entered the race. The first was Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton who was being pushed by Southern Democrats and the Democratic Leadership Council to run for president and take advantage of new primary scheduling that placed all Southern contests on the same day which they hoped would allow a Southern moderate to emerge as the party’s nominee. He stressed the need to move away from solely government solutions to economic problems toward using the free market as a vehicle for wealth creation and economic growth tempered by regulations to protect consumers and the environment. At the same time he emphasized the commitment of the Democratic Party to protecting the rights of women and minorities while recognizing the need to take considered steps to achieve lasting progress. As the Democratic governor of a conservative southern state, many saw him as the candidate who would be able to adjust the party to the new political reality that Reagan’s presidency had ushered in.


Following Clinton was Delaware Senator Joe Biden who was widely considered a great public speaker and able to appeal to Baby Boomers just like Clinton. In his campaign announcement he called for a renewal of idealism and the need to put community over individualism, evoking John F. Kennedy whom he hoped to mimic in his campaign for president. On the issues he attempted to straddle the divide between the center and the left, taking a middle ground on the issue of trade while focusing on reducing poverty, supporting middle class families, continuing the war against drugs, and scraping the Strategic Defense Initiative. In a fierce battle with Clinton for the South, Biden’s message managed to resonate with voters in Iowa where he rose to third place behind Ferraro and Gephardt in the polls soon after his campaign announcement as Hart continued to struggle in the state in the wake of the Miss Colorado scandal.

The months of July and August only saw the entrance of one more prominent Democrat, Fmr. Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, a founding member of the DLC who had a reputation of being able to bring together opposing interests in Arizona to hammer out compromises that would benefit the state as a whole. However he also had a reputation for being an intellectual with complex ideas that were often hard to explain to regular voters and lacked charisma which showed in front of the camera after he announced his campaign for president. But it was these same ideas, including a national sales tax and a “universal needs test” to reduce social security and Medicare benefits for wealthy recipients to help reduce the budget deficit, that earned him positive coverage from the press where he was hailed as the only candidate who had ideas that would actually solve the problems that America was facing. While his nomination was still considered unlikely he had decent support in the West and drew support away from Hart in a region that he had swept in his first campaign for president three years prior, further complicating Hart's path to the nomination.


It wasn’t until September that the last major candidate entered the race for the Democratic nomination. That man was the Rev. Jesse Jackson, third-place finisher in 1984 and a champion for African-Americans and progressives. Running an anti-establishment left-wing campaign seeking to assemble a “Rainbow Coalition” of minorities, white progressives, and poor and working class voters to challenge the urge by Democratic leaders to move the party toward the center, Jackson hoped to improve upon his performance in ’84 and, if not win outright, at the very least win enough delegates to pressure the eventual Democratic nominee to take more progressive stances on the issues than they otherwise would. His campaign platform included implementing a system of single-payer universal healthcare, reversing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to be used to finance social welfare programs, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment and more strictly enforcing the Voting Rights Act, and providing free community college for all Americans. Despite his campaign being widely dismissed by the national press, his strong support among blacks gave him a strong base of support in the South as Biden and Clinton split the white vote while his appeal to working class voters further muddled the state of the race in the Midwest which was already a tight competition between Ferraro, Gephardt, and Simon before Jackson had announced his campaign. Questions arose about his health, however, after he appeared unwell at his first campaign rally in Iowa which was dismissed by his campaign spokesman as “just allergies” yet sparked continued speculation from the press and from his opponents in the days and weeks that followed.

With the playing field shaken up and the candidates set, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal in late September deriding the Democratic field as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” saying that “the Democrats currently running for president will struggle to prove they are up to the job” and that “the only candidates of note are Geraldine Ferraro, Gary Hart, and Jesse Jackson” but none of them demonstrated the leadership or the appeal needed to succeed Reagan as president. This spread to become a familiar talking point among political pundits but it proved the difficulty that any of the Democrats would face as the Reagan boom continued and peace reigned between America and the Soviet Union. While the Iran-Contra scandal had dented Reagan’s popularity the Republicans appeared, for the moment, to be the favorites to hold onto the White House in November 1988 although there was plenty of time for that to change. As the first debates with all eight Democratic candidates approached, it remained to be seen who would be able to rise above the rest of the pack and prove their worth and who would continue to languish in obscurity and struggle to convince voters that they were the best candidate for president.
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It's very good for now !

But i have one very important question :

Do she will have a former astronaut as VP ? :p
It's very good for now !

But i have one very important question :

Do she will have a former astronaut as VP ? :p

You'll have to continue following this to find out. :openedeyewink:

In all seriousness I have other ideas about who I want to be Ferraro's running mate, you'll find out who ends up being picked when the time is right.
Addendum to Chapter 1: The Quixotic Candidacy
Addendum: The Quixotic Candidacy


One of the most colorful Democrats to enter the race was Ohio congressman Jim Traficant, a conservative populist from a working class Catholic family who bucked the Democratic leadership at many turns to chart his own course in the House. He had gained notoriety in 1983 for representing himself in his own criminal case on charges of racketeering for accepting bribes and managing to get acquitted on all charges after claiming that he had accepted the bribes as part of a secret undercover investigation into corruption. Using this to win a seat in the House in 1984, he gained a reputation for being eccentric and flamboyant often being poorly dressed and ending many of his speeches in the House with “Beam me up…” His campaign announcement, largely ignored by the national press, included a call for immigration reduction and an end to illegal immigration, strong anti-abortion measures, an end to U.S. support for foreign countries, and opposition to free trade deals that adversely affected American workers. Considered to be a folk hero for the disenfranchised in his district where he remained widely popular, his campaign was written off by the mainstream media as nothing but a vanity show by Traficant. However, he did receive a warm reception from some working class Democrats disillusioned with what they saw as an increasingly out-of-touch and intellectual national party that had lost touch with traditional American values. Polling at less than 1% by the beginning of October, Traficant’s campaign was surely doomed to failure but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t put on a show along the way.
Chapter 2: Beating Around the Bush
Chapter 2: Beating Around the Bush


“President Reagan and I have worked over the past seven years to turn this country around from the malaise and mismanagement of the Carter years. America is now stronger, more prosperous, and more respected around the world than when we first took office in 1981. Taxes have been cut for American families, our military is a force to be reckoned with, traditional values have been defended, and America’s future looks brighter than ever. But there is much work that we still need to do to fix the crime problem in our cities, reign in the deficit, protect individual liberty and the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, and face the threats to peace and freedom that continue to lurk in the shadows.

That’s why I’m here today with Barbara and the boys to announce that I will be a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.” George Bush, October 5, 1987

George Bush had been running for president ever since Reagan had won re-election to a second term in 1984, having assembled a team of advisors that included Lee Atwater to prepare him for a run in 1988. Facing skepticism from conservatives due to his previous reputation as a moderate Republican part of the old Eastern establishment that was near its death, Bush was forced to move to the right over the course of 1985 and 1986 to appeal to the increasingly conservative Republican base. However, he continued to face a reputation of being weak and a follower, doing what others told him rather than telling others what to do. He also faced the continued challenge of the Iran-Contra scandal which, while not as concerning for Republican voters as it was for Democrats and independents, brought up questions of judgement and his relationship with Reagan. Attempting to position himself as the heir to Reagan and as a mainstream conservative, Bush was a strong candidate in the race for the Republican nomination but far from invincible.

For most of 1987 he had been informally campaigning for president, lining up campaign donations, building an organization in early states, and working to gain endorsements in the so called “invisible primary” of party leaders, elected officials, and outside groups that exerted influence over the primary process and primary voters. However, he faced difficulties because of lingering trepidation over Iran-Contra, questions about his ability to appeal to Republican primary voters, and the movements by Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole to launch a campaign of his own for president. While he was able to raise millions of dollars and started off as the de facto front runner for the Republican nomination, that position was far from secure as Dole entered the race for president.


Bob Dole, long-time Kansas Senator and Gerald Ford’s running mate in 1976, had ascended to the position of Majority Leader in the Senate in 1985 after the retirement of Howard Baker before becoming Minority Leader after the GOP lost control of the Senate in 1986. While Dole had previously run for president in 1980, his campaign had failed to gain traction and he was forced to leave the race after failing to get even 1% of the vote in New Hampshire. His campaign in 1988 proved to be much more serious than his run in 1980. Despite having a reputation as a micromanager and initial reluctance to handing over control of his campaign, Dole was convinced by close allies that he needed to take Bush seriously despite polling that showed them roughly even in the race for the Republican nomination. Thus, he hired a campaign manager early so he could keep up with Bush as the race heated up. After much searching, he picked John Sears, a campaign advisor for Nixon who had run Reagan’s 1976 and 1980 campaigns, having been fired from the latter during the primaries due to conflicts with other Reagan allies. However, this came over the opposition of Dole allies to hiring Sears, particularly those in New Hampshire who were concerned that he would attempt the same power grab he did during Reagan’s campaign in 1980. The Dole campaign focused resources on creating a robust campaign organization in the early states during the run-up to his campaign announcement, which came five days after Bush’s. In it Dole declared the need for common-sense solutions to the nation’s problems while appealing to conservatives by calling for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, promising not to raise taxes to lower the deficit, and vowing to defend family values. He immediately became Bush's strongest opponent for the Republican nomination and enjoyed support from his Senate colleagues who stood behind their leader.


While Bush and Dole were the clear frontrunners in the race for the Republican nomination, they faced a potential insurgent campaign from the right led by Christian televangelist and Baptist minister Pat Robertson. Founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network which was watched by millions across the country, Robertson already had an established base of support among evangelical Christians who had helped him launch his campaign after three million signed up as volunteers by his deadline of August 1987. However, Robertson was not deeply connected to the Republican Party and had never run a national campaign before. In a move that shocked many Republican insiders he managed to poach Roger Stone from the campaign of New York Congressman Jack Kemp, a supply-sider with libertarian views on social issues who had announced his campaign in June but was struggling to gain support in the polls, and hire him as his campaign manager. Many were surprised that Stone would join the campaign of someone as religious as Robertson but the move was seen as a worrying sign for both the Bush and Dole camps as Robertson began to rail against them as part of the old moderate Republican establishment while positioning himself as a mainstream conservative alternative to both Bush and Dole. By October he was inching up in the polls as his campaign began harnessing his grassroots following to gain support in conservative strongholds in the South and in early states. His campaign had been dismissed in the beginning by both Bush and Dole and the national media as a long shot but that perception changed as his support began to grow. Now he was being seen as a serious contender although he still remained far behind both of the frontrunners in the polls.

The aforementioned Kemp had been seen as a promising candidate when he initially announced his campaign on June 15, 1987. A former football player who became involved with politics in the 1960s, Kemp had become a proponent for supply-side economics in the late 1970s and was considered by many to be instrumental to the inclusion of supply-side ideas in Reagan’s economic plan early in his presidency. His star having risen through his work on taxes and his role in the formulation of the 1984 Republican platform, he was viewed as the heir to the Reagan legacy and a leading contender for the Republican nomination by 1986. However, he had long held more liberal views on social issues including his support of affirmative action and the rights of illegal immigrants as well as certain civil liberties for gays alienated many social conservatives that formed an important segment of the Republican base. Although Kemp made attempts to reach out to conservatives in his campaign throughout the summer of 1987 into the early fall, he faced difficulties as public attention turned to the fight between Bush and Dole and he made the mistake of running his campaign as though he were a top-tier candidate instead of the underdog that he was. By mid-October he was only polling at 7% and was hoping to use the upcoming debates to give his campaign the boost it needed. Whether that would come to pass was yet to be seen.


Two more notable candidates had entered the race for the Republican nomination by the end of October 1987. The first was Fmr. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who had previously served as a Congressman from Illinois and as Gerald Ford’s Chief of Staff before being nominated as Secretary of Defense in 1975. A part-time advisor on matters of foreign and defense policy over the course of Reagan’s presidency in addition to his work in the private sector, Rumsfeld hoped to position himself as an experienced voice on defense policy and a fervent adherent to Milton Friedman’s free market economic policies which he believed would further the economic growth of the Reagan years and further reduce the role of the federal government in the economy. His campaign was hampered by his low name recognition and fundraising struggles, despite receiving the vocal endorsement of Milton Friedman in late August who called Rumsfeld the “most strident supporter of a free market economy” and the man best positioned to continue the Reagan Revolution.

The other candidate was Fmr. Secretary of State Alexander Haig who had gained notoriety during Reagan’s assassination attempt in 1981 when he declared that “I am in control here” while Reagan was hospitalized despite the clear order of succession that existed in the case of the president’s incapacitation. Haig was a relatively well-known as a result of this as well as because of his role early in the Reagan administration although this didn’t show in the polls, where he polled at less than 5% consistently by the end of August. Running on his experience and his ability to serve as an alternative to the other candidates in the race, Haig struggled to gain appeal in the face of the dominance of Bush and Dole in the race. As a result, he launched into a frenzy of attacks against Bush, criticizing his leadership qualities, his role in Iran-Contra, and calling him a “wimp” at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. Routinely dismissed by many Republicans as a quixotic candidate who wasn’t a serious contender for the party’s nomination, his attacks on Bush led several newspapers to focus more critically on Bush’s record as Vice President.


Shortly after announcing his campaign, Bush began to receive negative coverage regarding the Iran-Contra affair, which he had hoped to avoid for as long as possible but which it seemed inevitable he would have to answer questions about. He denied having known about what President Reagan and his national security advisors were up to, saying that he was usually not part of such decisions. This was immediately seized upon by Dole, who questioned how much of a role Bush actually had in the Reagan administration if he wasn’t even involved in such sensitive national security discussions. Bush shot back, saying that he was involved in many national security discussions because of his previous experience as Director of the CIA but that he had been kept out of meetings regarding the Iran-Contra affair. Democratic candidate Geraldine Ferraro weighed in to the back-and-forth between Bush and Dole when she issued a statement saying that she was “deeply concerned about the cover-up of the Iran-Contra affair by officials in the National Security Council” and that it was “concerning that Vice President Bush has yet to give a full public account of his involvement in Iran-Contra despite claiming that he wanted to get to the truth.” In a statement to the press Bush once again said that he had not been involved in the meetings regarding Iran-Contra and that his previous statements and recently published book which partially addressed it “gave the answers to the questions currently being asked about my involvement in Iran-Contra.” However, the section of his book addressing Iran-Contra didn’t give a full account of Bush’s knowledge about it and provided unsatisfactory for many reporters, who continued to ask him questions about Iran-Contra in the lead up to the first Republican debate on October 21.

Bush took a hit in the polls following the questions about Iran-Contra, falling four points from 29% to 25% and ending up a point behind Dole while bleeding support primarily to Rumsfeld who was seen by some former Bush supporters as an acceptable alternative and “Bush without Iran-Contra.” Despite the bump Rumsfeld still only hovered around 5% in national polls although he was beginning to gain some steam in New Hampshire, a worrying sign for the Bush campaign. The first debate began to take on greater importance as Bush sought to regain momentum in the polls and dispel concerns about Iran-Contra while his opponents saw an opening to tear down Bush while boosting their own chances in the race for the Republican nomination.
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Chapter 3: Trials and Tribulations
Chapter 3: Trials and Tribulations


“There have been reports, very credible reports, that Geraldine Ferraro’s husband has connections to the mafia. Disgusting. We don’t need Mr. Al Capone in the White House with a President Ferraro sending taxpayer money to his criminal pals back in New York. We already have criminals raiding the public coffers for the benefit of Wall St. billionaires, now we could get the mob in on it as well.

So I have one question for Mrs. Ferraro the mafia wife, who are you going to pay off so you can win the Democratic nomination? Beam me up, Barbara.” – Jim Traficant, October 19, 1987

The first Democratic debate hosted by ABC News anchor Barbara Walters was much more interesting than had been expected in the days leading up to it. Many in the media had been surprised by the inclusion of the eccentric Jim Traficant but there was a widespread assumption that Ferraro and Jackson would shine in the debate while everyone else struggled to get their messages out. Instead both Ferraro and Jackson struggled while several of the unknown candidates performed much better than expected. Traficant’s tirade against Ferraro’s husband for alleged connections to the mafia threw her off kilter and put her on the defensive, leading her to accuse him of ethnic stereotyping and roundly dismissing the allegations as a ludicrous conspiracy theory with no foundation in reality. Despite her strong rebuttal, she ended up struggling to shake-off Traficant as he repeatedly interrupted her to question her claims to understand working-class Americans and her fitness for office. At the same time, Jackson struggled to articulate coherent answers to some of the questions posed to him, bringing up further concerns about his health as he appeared tired at the debate. Gary Hart, the former frontrunner who was now languishing in fourth place, put in a competent performance but failed to put away questions about his campaign debt from 1984 and alleged infidelity to his wife. Meanwhile Biden, Babbitt, and Gephardt all put it well received performances, particularly Babbitt who managed to come off as a relatable and experienced ex-governor with fresh new ideas for the nation. Clinton and Simon failed to have any memorable moments as the back-and-forth between Ferraro and Traficant limited their time to speak.

Biden was considered to have been the winner of the debate due to his strong answers on questions of the economy and foreign policy, followed by Babbitt and Ferraro. Traficant, however, was one of the most widely talked about candidates after his breakout performance in the debate and tough questioning of Ferraro, which the mainstream media thought was too harsh but which appealed to the more conservative blue-collar voters that Traficant was targeting. A post-debate poll showed him surging to third place in Iowa and some political pundits were beginning to question whether Traficant should now be taken seriously as a candidate after the debate.


The Republican debate two days later was no less interesting. Vice President Bush faced withering attacks from Pat Robertson and Alex Haig, the former accusing him of being a flip-flopper and a “moderate old-school Republican masquerading as a Reagan conservative” while the latter questioned his leadership skills and called him a “wimp” who “didn’t have a single whimper about a ban on short and medium-range ballistic missiles.” Bush fired back saying that Robertson lacked the experience to be president while hitting Haig for being unable to work with others and saying that he “resigned from the Reagan administration for a reason.” He was embattled throughout the rest of the debate with questions about Iran-Contra and a stumble on a question about the deficit. The main beneficiary of these attacks was Bob Dole, who painted himself as an experienced, common-sense conservative who would defend Reagan’s legacy while working across the aisle to rein in the deficit and improve America’s education system. In comparison to the aggressive attacks by Robertson and Haig and Bush’s dithering responses, Dole came off as presidential and a viable alternative to Bush, much to the chagrin of Donald Rumsfeld who was hoping to take up that mantle but failed to communicate it during the debate. Jack Kemp put in a good performance but was overshadowed by Dole and the attacks on Bush. The media declared Dole the winner of the debate, with Robertson and Haig coming in second and third respectively while Bush came in a disappointing fifth place behind Kemp. Both Dole and Robertson saw surges in national polls following the debate while Haig started creeping up in Michigan and Iowa. Bush saw his standing in the polls continue to fall but vowed to come back in later debates. Any expectations of him being the inevitable nominee, however, had been shattered and the race was shaping up to be extremely competitive between Bush, Dole, and Robertson.


On October 27 a bombshell was dropped on the Clinton campaign when Gennifer Flowers, a model and actress, came forward saying that she was in a ten-year relationship with Gov. Bill Clinton who she had met back in 1977. Immediately the still relatively unknown Arkansas governor stormed onto national headlines with every major media outlet picking up the story by the beginning of November. In the face of this scandal Clinton appeared in a widely-watched interview on 60 Minutes with his wife Hillary to deny the allegations. The next day Flowers held a press conference with tape recordings of phones conversations with Clinton earlier in the year in which Clinton asked her to deny that they had ever had a relationship with each other. While the authenticity of the recordings could not be verified by news organizations, the damage had been done to the Clinton campaign as he began to fall in national polls. Geraldine Ferraro, while sympathizing with Clinton for the scrutiny of his personal life, expressed concerns about the phone call and the possibility that Clinton lied about the affair, saying that America needed a president who would “tell people the truth instead of trying to cover it up” which played well with Democratic primary voters who were still incensed about the Iran-Contra affair. Joe Biden expressed a similar sentiment, saying that the next president needed to show “high ethical standards and integrity” and that Clinton’s conduct, if it was true, failed to show either. Other candidates also chimed in with their own concerns over the allegations except for Gary Hart who was notably silently, likely because he didn’t want to drudge up further questions about his own sex scandal.

The final nail in the coffin for the Clinton campaign came on November 5 when the New York Times privately approached Gov. Clinton threatening to run a story about another woman who was prepared to come forward to claim she had a sexual relationship with Gov. Clinton during his time in office. Facing collapsing support and interest from tabloids on both his wife and daughter, Clinton announced on November 6 that he was suspending his campaign for president and returning to Little Rock to continue his duties as governor. The announcement sent shockwaves through the race as White voters in the South suddenly came into play for both the Biden and Ferraro camps while the hopes of Southern Democrats of having a Southern moderate nominated were dashed and they were forced to regroup and figure out which of the remaining candidates in the race they would support.


Debates for both parties in November saw a rebound for both Ferraro and Bush who put in strong performances that made up for their stumbles in the first debate, both having been declared by the media as the winners of their respective debates although for Bush it was nearly a draw between him and Dole in post-debate polls. While Ferraro faced lingering questions throughout November regarding her family’s finances and having the foreign policy experience to be president, she gained crucial momentum when she was endorsed by Fmr. Vice President Walter Mondale, her running mate in 1984, and long-time friend and New York Governor Mario Cuomo. Both of them stood behind her as being the Democrat’s best chance for victory in November 1988, saying that she had the cross-over appeal to win back Reagan Democrats while showing the leadership and grit necessary to be America’s first woman president. Consolidating support in New York and pulling ahead in Minnesota following these endorsements, Ferraro continued on as the frontrunner for the nomination even as Biden began to catch-up following the withdrawal of Bill Clinton. It came as a shock at the end of the month, then, when a poll of Iowa revealed that Biden had fallen behind Ferraro and Gephardt to third place from first where he had been following his victory in the first Democratic primary debate. Even more surprising was the surge of Gov. Babbitt who had gone from last to fourth in the span of a month, eclipsing both Sen. Paul Simon, who was struggling to raise enough money for his campaign, and Rep. Jim Traficant, whose post-debate surge had worn off by the end of November. He had gained from Gov. Clinton’s exit from the race in the state as he positioned himself as another moderate governor who would move the Democratic Party into a new direction and was managing to pull in many of his former supporters. Biden helped when he said that ethanol was “not an effective way to reduce pollution from car emissions” and that he believed that the ethanol tax credit was a “bunch of malarkey” that took money away from programs that would help middle class families, a gaffe that saw his support in Iowa drop dramatically.


On the Republican side Pat Robertson continued to gain support, particularly in the South, as his grassroots conservative campaign proved effective in reaching conservatives who didn’t see either Bush or Dole as being conservative enough and were looking for a more right-wing alternative to both. Of particular alarm for both the Dole and Bush camps was an Iowa poll released on November 17 which showed Robertson running even with Dole in Iowa as, surprisingly enough, Haig began to surge in the state and pull support away from Bush as his attacks began to prove effective. Meanwhile in New Hampshire Dole got a major boost when he received the endorsement of Sen. Warren Rudman, a moderate centrist who had won re-election in 1986 to a second term in the Senate. Polls had shown Dole with a lead in the state and the endorsement only solidified that. Bush was lobbying hard for the endorsement of New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu but, so far, had had little success as the attacks against him continued to weigh on his campaign. In an effort to fight back against Robertson’s attacks, Bush released a TV ad attacking Robertson for embellishing his service during the Korean War, where he had avoided front-line service despite claims to the contrary. It included testimony from Pete McCloskey, a former California representative who had served with Robertson during the war and was currently the target of a slander charge by Robertson for his statements regarding the matter. The ad hurt Robertson and blunted his momentum while souring relations between Bush and Robertson, who proceeded to go into a back-and-forth of attacks as the Republican primary became increasingly nasty and bitterly contested. While Bush was still leading in polls nationally by the end of November, his lead was tenuous as Dole continued to gain support and Robertson held steady at roughly 20%.

Tragedy struck the race for president when Jesse Jackson collapsed at a campaign rally in Richmond, Virginia on December 6. Questions about his health had been circulating for months and he had been forced to cancel a few rallies in November as his campaign continued to deny that he had any health problems. His collapse, however, had made it clear that they had been covering up a more serious health issue. Indeed, it turns out that Jackson had been complaining about neck pain and stiffness for several months and that his campaign had failed to disclose it because they didn’t believe it was a serious problem. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors discovered that Jackson had an aneurysm in an artery at the base of his skull that had been leaking for a few months before finally bursting during his rally. He was immediately put into surgery where surgeons did their best to repair the artery and stop the bleeding. However, it was too late for them to save him.


Jesse Jackson, only 46 years old, was pronounced dead shortly after midnight on December 7, 1987 having died of a brain aneurysm. The nation mourned at the loss of the civil rights icon and two-time presidential candidate who had been the founder of PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity), a group dedicated to expanding economic opportunities for blacks and poor citizens of all races. In a statement released by the White House, President Reagan said that “although [he] might have disagreed with Mr. Jackson’s politics there was no doubt in [his] mind that Jackson was an exemplary citizen who showed what it meant to fight for the betterment of his fellow man.” All of the Democratic candidates temporarily suspended campaign activities out of respect for Jackson, as memorials were held in African-American communities and progressive enclaves across the country to honor his memory. His memorial service on December 14 was packed with friends, family, and supporters as well as Ferraro, Biden, Babbitt, Hart, and Gephardt. Even Walter Mondale showed up to pay respects to his primary foe from 1984. With Jackson’s death the race in the South was blown wide open as the black vote, which had previously consolidated behind his campaign, came up for grabs. With Super Tuesday less than three months away there was no way of knowing who would emerge victorious in the South but whoever did would likely be the favorite to win the Democratic nomination.
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Very good timeline so far. We're almost.certain of the endgame, but the journey there's proving a fun one. Hopefully Robertson will go down in flames at some point.
Very good timeline so far. We're almost.certain of the endgame, but the journey there's proving a fun one. Hopefully Robertson will go down in flames at some point.

Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying the TL and the intention is indeed to have fun finding out what happens along the way. The 1988 election won't be the end, though, in fact it'll just be the beginning (hopefully).

You'll see what happens with Robertson in due time. ;)
CoD has breached the Shared Worlds barrier.

Ferraro's going to have to deal with a lot of stuff in Eastern Europe (including one random country with a knight on it's coat of arms), so I can't wait to see how she's going to handle that.