Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts quickly became the Democratic front-runner in 1988 after early favorite Gary Hart withdrew due to allegations of sexual improprieties. One by one, Dukakis' opponents withdrew as the primary season moved forward. When the convention took place in Atlanta, only Jesse Jackson remained. Dukakis won on the first ballot, after receiving 2,876 votes, compared to Jacksonís 1,218. Dukakis chose Senator Lloyd Benson of Texas as his vice-presidential running mate. The future president and then governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton nominated Dukakis.
When the campaign began, Governor Dukakis held a clear lead over Vice President Bush. Then, the Republicans successfully attacked Dukakis in a number of ways. One of the most notable criticisms was an attack on Dukakis surrounding the furlough release of Willie Horton, an African American convicted of murder. Horton was released on a weekend furlough from prison while Dukakis was governor. Bush stated: "Don't let murders out on vacation to terrorize innocent people... Dukakis owes the people an explanation of why he supported this outrageous program".
The Republicans then went on to sponsor a series of television ads with pictures of Horton and the related crime scenes, claiming it was Dukakis who had let that happen. The fact that the program was started by Dukakis' Republican predecessor, and that while President Reagan had been governor of California it had been instituted there as well, was not mentioned. This and other attack ads were very effective. Governor Dukakis was not a very effective campaigner. He hurt his campaign badly when, at a debate, Dukakis stated he would not advocate the death penalty for someone who had raped and murdered his wife. Consequently, George Bush won by a large margin.
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