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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Perot's Autocratic Manner Rebuffing Former Backers

DALLAS -- Ross Perot, the self-made Texas billionaire who turned U.S. politics upside down in 1992, has faltered this year -- his reformist plank tarnished by an autocratic style that has turned off some supporters.


Perot, 66, has run as nominee of the Reform Party -- his own creation -- on a promise to end the power of interest groups in Washington and form a team of professionals to tackle the budget deficit, reform the Social Security old-age pension system and renegotiate foreign trade pacts.


But while the message is much the same as four years ago, when he won a strong 19 percent of the vote against winner Bill Clinton and then-president George Bush, Perot's 1996 campaign has seldom exceeded 6 percent in polls.


Many voters, including some who backed him before, say they are put off by Perot -- whose blunt, assertive style strikes some as feisty and honest but others as overbearing and egotistical -- even if they like his ideas.


His campaign started badly, with a bitter fight against former Colorado governor Richard Lamm for the nomination of the independent Reform Party that Perot set up with his own money.


Lamm was promised a fair race but complained Perot aides blocked him from making his case. Many were persuaded that Perot, who made his name in the dog-eat-dog world of big business, was an autocrat ill-suited to the consensus-building central to the art of politics.


"He can't compromise," said Gerald Posner, who wrote a biography of Perot. "He would be in Washington telling everyone what to do. You can't do that."


Curtis Gans, director of the non-partisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, said that "Perot came out of 1992 as tarnished goods, and the dynamics of this campaign didn't set him up for serious consideration."


Gans said the anti-establishment anger that fuelled Perot's cause in 1992 is not as strong a factor this year.