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How Perot '92 Will Affect Election 2012

"He's one of my favorite characters, and it's so remarkable because it's so forgotten," Posner says. "1992 is like ancient history now by Internet standards, but if Twitter, Facebook and things like that had existed when Perot was around, he would have been a more powerful force. Though he might not have been using social media, social media would have loved him."

So why isn't there a Perot for the Internet era? Though he probably wouldn't share Perot's enthusiasm for the war on drugs or his tax plan, Texas Congressman Ron Paul may be the closest the current field comes. His huge online following that delivers both presence and "moneybomb" financing mirrors the Perot campaign's enthusiasm. What they lack is Perot's deep pockets, which nullified the professional fundraising of the major parties.

"What he has that Ron Paul doesn't have and that nobody's really had since is an enormously fat wallet," Posner says. "He scared the hell out of the Democrats and Republicans not only because he tapped into the discontent as Paul does, but because he could write a check to compete with the Democrats and Republicans if he wanted to."

Conversely, Paul also lacks the Perot persona. That plain-spoken, straight-talking Texas delivery made him relatable to a disgruntled American public despite his millions, but also made him a vulnerable and mercurial candidate. It helped draw volunteers, push unorthodox campaign strategy such as buying up half-hour blocks on major networks to spell out his economic plan with graphs and a pointer and win debates by parrying questions about his political experience with quips such as "Well, they've got a point. I don't have any experience running up a $4 trillion debt."

"In 1992, there was such a great opportunity to create a real-life third party if you had a charismatic leader," Barta says. "You had that leader in Perot ... right now the same sentiment exists with the American people, but there isn't a charismatic leader who can capitalize on it."

That personality also made him extremely sensitive to the suggestions of campaign advisers such as former Jimmy Carter adviser Hamilton Jordan and former Ronald Reagan campaign adviser Ed Rollins, who drew Perot's ire for demanding that he increase ad spending. The latter was accused by Perot of being tied to the CIA and running information for the Bush campaign. Though Perot was also bothered by the revelation he'd funded a private investigation of the Bush family in the 1980s and by a rumored Republican plot to disrupt his daughter's wedding, his insecurities about starting the race too soon resulted in his withdrawal from the campaign by July and his re-emergence in October.

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