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Ross Perot (1930 – 2019), billionaire and independent presidential candidate in 1992 and ‘96

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His 1992 campaign was one of the strongest independent runs in the 20th century

Ross Perot was a self-made billionaire businessman who made headlines as he ran for president as an independent in 1992 and 1996. The Texas native founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in 1962, a data processing firm that quickly grew and made its owner rich. He went on to found IT provider Perot Systems and to become an angel investor in Steve Jobs’ NeXT, Inc. before throwing his hat in the political ring. His 1992 presidential campaign was one of the most successful independent runs of the 20th century, winning nearly 20% of the popular vote. As the 1996 election approached, he founded the Reform Party, which would attract other notable political candidates including Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader, and Jesse Ventura.

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Died: July 9, 2019 (Who else died on July 9?)

Details of death: Died of leukemia at the age of 89.


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Perot in 1992: Perot attracted attention to his 1992 campaign as a populist folk hero figure, sinking his own money into advertising and refusing to take donations over five dollars. His campaign promises included a balanced budget, an end to outsourced jobs, and the implementation of “electronic town halls.” He bought half-hour segments on major networks to illustrate his plans to balance the budget, using charts and a pointer, and generating a national catchphrase: “It’s just that simple.” He performed well in debates and at one point was polling ahead of his prominent opponents, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Though he won 18.9% of the popular vote, he didn’t win any states and gained zero electoral votes.

1996 and beyond: In the lead-up to the 1996 presidential election, Perot founded the Reform Party and won their nomination to run for president. But he didn’t perform as well in this election cycle as he had in 1992, and his support took a downturn. He ultimately won only 8% of the popular vote, which was higher than typical for a third-party candidate though a substantial drop from his 1992 showing. In later years, Perot endorsed Republican candidates including George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.

Notable quote: “If you’re paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory south of the border, pay $1 an hour for your labor, have no health care, have to environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement, and you don’t care for anything but making money, then there will be a giant sucking sound going south.” —Perot’s frequently-quoted soundbite from the 1992 presidential debates

What people said about him: “Texas and America have lost a strong patriot. Ross Perot epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit and the American creed. He gave selflessly of his time and resources to help others in our community, across our country, and around the world. He loved the U.S. military and supported our service members and veterans. Most importantly, he loved his dear wife, children, and grandchildren. Laura and I send our heartfelt condolences to the entire Perot family as they celebrate a full life.” —former President George W. Bush

“He was a brilliant businessman, a true American patriot, and a generous philanthropist. From humble start in Texarkana, USA he lived and proved the American Dream. Condolences to his wonderful family.” —former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

“RIP Ross Perot. He was a stick of dynamite in the pond of US politics back in 1992, and he was an American original, who got a larger portion of the vote (19%) than anyone since Bull Moose’s Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.” —author Larry Sabato

Full obituary: Dallas News

Related lives:

  • George H.W. Bush (1924 - 2018), 41st president and Perot’s 1992 opponent
  • Eugene McCarthy (1916 - 2005), U.S. senator and independent presidential candidate
  • Lyndon LaRouche (1922 - 2019), third-party candidate ran for president eight times