Remember When Mike Dukakis Led George Bush by 17 Points?

1988 polls should worry Hillary Clinton

michael dukakis hillary clinton

The New York Times just kicked off its new campaign podcast “The Run-Up” with an episode called “The Landslide Odds,” which says Hillary Clinton’s advantage over Donald Trump is better than anyone’s since her husband, Bill Clinton, beat Bob Dole in 1996.

But anyone thinking Hillary Clinton will cruise to a crushing win might want to look back eight more years, to 1988. About this time 28 years ago, Massachusetts Gov. Mike Dukakis had what appeared to be an insurmountable lead over then-Vice President George H. W. Bush. He came out of his Democratic National Convention at the end of July with a 17-point lead.

Looking up stories about the 1988 campaign on the Times’ website can make you wonder if history will repeat itself. On the left are the old stories — about Dukakis’ strength. On the right are the top stories of today — about Clinton’s.

Most interesting, to me, is a May 17, 1988 story. Thanks to a fluke of page design, a paragraph about how many Reagan voters were abandoning Bush for Dukakis, the Democrat, appears immediately to the left of a link to a modern-day story about how Clinton hopes Republicans will abandon Trump for her.

Trump Clinton Dukakis Bush polls

Spoiler alert: Things did not work out for Dukakis. Bush won the popular vote, 53 percent to 46 percent.

Newt Gingrich, the Times’ podcast guest, said that in the social media age, the entire world can change in 72 or 96 hours. It took a little longer than that for Dukakis’ lead to crumble — thanks in part to an ill-fated ride in a tank and campaign ads about convict Willie Horton.

But crumble it did. And so can Clinton’s lead. She may want to stay out of tanks.