History’s lessons: A Gallup poll showed Michael Dukakis holding a 17-point lead over George H.W. Bush

History’s lessons: A Gallup poll showed Michael Dukakis holding a 17-point lead over George H.W. Bush
Michael Dukakis (Image: YouTube screen grab)

By Chris White

Former Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis held a significant lead over then-former Vice President George H.W. Bush in polls after the 1988 Democratic National Convention before ultimately losing the presidency in a landslide.

Roughly 55% of voters preferred to see Dukakis win that year’s presidential election, while just 38% said the same about Bush, The New York Times reported on July 26,1988, citing a Gallup poll at the time. Former Vice President Joe Biden is holding a similar lead over President Donald Trump ahead of the 2020 November election. (RELATED: The silent majority won’t be so silent come November)

The former vice president opened up a 13-point lead on the incumbent in the state of Florida, according to a Quinnipiac poll published on July 23. He now leads Trump 51-38 in that state, the poll shows. Trump trails Biden in five other battleground states the president won in 2016.

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Biden led the presidential race by seven points in Arizona, nine points in North Carolina, and 10 points in Pennsylvania, according to an New York Times poll conducted in late June. Trump’s poor numbers coincide with a surging pandemic and civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in May after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.

Floyd’s death led to massive demonstrations and a movement to defund police departments, media reports show(RELATED: Biden Opens Up 13 Point Advantage Over Trump In Florida, Latest Quinnipiac Poll Shows)

Dukakis, for his part, warned Biden in early July that holding a significant lead in the polls so far outside the election does not guarantee a victory.

“Particularly this year, [polls] should be studied cautiously,” Dukakis told the Boston Globe on July 3. “Biden can and should win, but being at 50, no matter how weak your opponent is, is no guarantee of success.”

Dukakis added: “I think I dropped eight points in the week Reagan called me ‘the invalid.’ I never took those early polls seriously.” He was speaking of Ronald Reagan, the incumbent president in 1988, who suggested during a press conference that year that Dukakis was disabled.

As it turns out, Bush won the presidency after Dukakis’s support plummeted following a notable public relations gaffe in which his campaign published a photograph of Dukakis in a tank, which was intended to portray him as tough on foreign policy, but the stunt backfired. The Bush campaign also painted the Democratic nominee as soft on crime.

Bush won 40 states, claiming 426 electoral votes to Dukakis’s 111.

Trump is attempting to depict Biden as weak on crime as well following a recent surge in violent crimes across the country. The president’s reelection campaign released a July 21 TV ad suggesting a Biden presidency would result in 911 phone calls from senior citizens going unanswered.

The former vice president has said he does not support defunding the police despite voices in his party promoting the idea as a possible response to police-related killings of black people. Biden instead seeks to reform U.S. police departments and shift resources away from departments unless they can meet certain criteria.

“No, I don’t support defunding the police,” Biden said during an interview with CBS in June. “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness. And, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.”

Biden recently said he “absolutely” agrees that police funding could be reallocated.

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