I think many people underestimate the significance Ross Perot had back in the 90's. It really had nothing to do with Ross Perot himself as much as it had to do with the overall mood of the Republican party at the time of this election. Perot just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
I remember that there was a lot of dissatisfaction with Bush Sr. Many moderate Republicans simply did not want him in office for another term but as most people who know Republicans know, Republicans struggle with the idea of leaving the party.
Ross Perot proposed an alternative. He was big on business but low key on the religious stuff. He seemed to have a common sense approach to life, politics and business and he seemed to be able to say it the way he saw it. So, for those Republicans who couldn't bring themselves to vote for a Democrat, Ross Perot was the perfect compromise.
Significantly, these dissatisfied voters got a taste for voting against the party. I know, I was one of them. I voted for Ross Perot both times. This was me trying out leaving the party.
When Clinton won, I hoped that the Republicans would regroup and reconsider where the party was offtrack. Initially, when G.W. came onto the scene, I thought he was going in the right direction. (And now as I see how McCain has been carrying himself, we might actually have dodged a bullet by electing him) It was during Bush's second term after the Democrats backed off from all of their attacks that I was able to see him for who he really was.
The bottom line, the Republicans never re-grouped. And while listening to McCain lately as he comes up with whatever he can pull out of the air, I discover, they still don't have a clue. I am of the opinion that the reason the Republican Party cannot change is because they sincerely believe they are failing because everyone else is stupid, immoral or unpatriotic. They are completely unable to reflect on their ideology and ask themselves if maybe they should tweak it a little. They seem to prefer the ivory tower.
The challenge the party faces now is that they have alienated so many people over the last 8 years they have no idea what will bring enough constituents back to the party to win an election. And as McCain continues to propose left-wing solutions to our economic problems it shows how fast and furiously they seem to be willing to abandon their platform just to win an election.
It's easy for me now. I really like Obama and since I've already voted against the party once, it won't be new for me to vote against them again. I've already felt the guilt and worked past it. I can do it. I can vote for a Democrat who I think embodies most of what I believe. And I believe I am not alone and that there are hundreds of thousands of Republicans who feel they have been so let down by their party and who see hope in Barack Obama.
It is almost as if a new party is emerging from the moderates of both parties. Wow, wouldn't that be so cool? If indeed this is happening, I wonder what they will call themselves.