Elvis and the 1992 Presidential Campaign

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May 1st, 2005

Hours of surfing the Internet for Elvis stuff can be rewarding when you discover a true gem. Such was the case when I found the text of a 1993 San Francisco Examiner column by Greil Marcus. That name should be familiar to you because Marcus is the author of two famous Elvis books: Mystery Train (1997) and Dead Elvis (1999)

Mystery Train.... Dead Elvis

Marcus reported that during the 1992 Presidential campaign, the press corps started comparing Bill Clinton to Elvis, although the candidate never did this himself. The press made references to Clinton's campaign plane as "Air Elvis."

Clinton and Elvis

Bill Clinton and Elvis on Stamp from the Republic of Chad in Africa

His opponent, George H W Bush, felt compelled to repond:

"Clinton is on all sides of every issue. He's been spotted more places than Elvis Presley. I guess you'd say his plan really is 'Elvis Economics'. America will be checking into Heartbreak Hotel."

Bush didn't get much traction with these quotes:

Elvis and G. W. Bush

Autographed 1973 Photo of President George H W Bush and Elvis

In fact, "Heartbreak Hotel" may have worked in Clinton's favor. Many believe he turned the race around when he wore dark glasses and played the song on the Arsineo Hall Show.

Clinton and Arsenio

Bill Clinton Plays "Heartbreak Hotel" on the Arsineo Hall Show

Marcus contends that an Elvis reference in any politician's campain speech is a guaranteed sound-bite on the evening news, although there is no guarantee what the public's response will be. This quote is said to have lost votes for former President Bush in his re-election campaign:

"I finally figured out why Clinton compares himself to Elvis. The minute he takes a stand on something, he starts wiggling."

The funniest thing in the Marcus column is this quote from noted dull and stiff politician, Al Gore, as he accepted the 1992 vice-presidential niomination at the convention in New York.

"I've been dreaming of this moment since I was a kid - that one day I'd have a chance to come here to Madison Square Garden and be the warm-up act for Elvis."

Yep, that would really get the fans revved up. Dream on, Al.