It was the culmination of nearly a lifetime of ambition, dedication and determination. A young Arkansan from humble roots had served his way to the pinnacle of American power.
As then-Arkansas Democrat-Gazette political editor Rex Nelson succinctly put it in his lead story for the Nov. 4, 1992, Page 1: Gov. Bill Clinton was elected president of the United States on Tuesday.
Nelson noted that Clinton, then 46, would become the third-youngest president in U.S. history.
Clinton won the day with about 43% of the vote, with then-President George H.W. Bush getting about 37% and outlier Ross Perot claiming nearly 19%, a record for a third-party candidate. Clinton amassed an electoral landslide with 370 electoral votes to Bush’s 168.
Early on Election Day at a rally in Denver, Clinton cited John F. Kennedy’s “unrestrained faith” in the future of America. Clinton, who met Kennedy at the White House as a teenage Boys Nation delegate, was foreseen by some as giving promise to “Camelot with a Southern accent.”
The scene in downtown Little Rock that night was electric. Tens of thousands gathered at the Old State House, where Clinton thrust his fist in the air and gave an emotional speech thanking friends and supporters.
“My fellow Americans, on this day, with high hopes and brave hearts, in massive numbers, the American people have voted to make a new beginning,” the governor said in his address about 11:25 p.m., according to Democrat-GazetteWashington Bureau correspondent Randy Lilleston. Clinton added that he believed his wife, Hillary, “will be one of the greatest first ladies in the history of the republic.” Chants of “Hillary” rose from the crowd.
Among accompanying articles was a report from staff writer Jane Fullerton on Bush’s concession speech in Houston. “The people have spoken,” he said. “We respect the majesty of the democratic system.” Another report, from staff writer Terry Lemons, looked at the task Clinton faced in putting together his team to take on the challenges of a changing world.
Clinton would take office with high hopes and great intentions. Many pitfalls, successes and setbacks awaited, but this night was his, and Arkansas shared in the moment as the whole world watched.
Another front-page story noted problems with voting in Pulaski County. The large turnout and broken machines caused delays, made worse by an afternoon rainstorm, staff writer Bobbi Ridlehoover wrote.
At the bottom of the page, a close race for the 4th District congressional seat was detailed. Republican Jay Dickey was winning over Democrat Bill McCuen.
A list of results from other races on the page included one item of note. An initiative setting term limits for state officials and lawmakers carried by a wide margin.
— Terry L. Austin
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