1992: Perot Quits the Race, Then Changes His Mind
Texas billionaire independent Ross Perot was the most unorthodox candidate ever to be a serious contender for the Oval Office — at least, until Donald Trump came along [source: Weeks]. For starters, Perot announced his candidacy not in a speech, but in an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live" talk show. (It has since become quite popular for political candidates to announce their runs on talk shows.) Perot didn't give many speeches at all, instead reaching out to voters largely through 30-minute infomercials to present his ideas on trimming the federal debt and stopping the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he opposed [source: Britannica].
With incumbent President George H.W. Bush hindered by an economic downturn and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton weakened by allegations of personal scandals, Perot had an opening, and by June 1992, he actually led in the polls [source: Britannica].
But in July, Perot suddenly dropped out of the race — and, just as suddenly, re-entered it in October. His explanation for the hiatus? He accused the Bush campaign of plotting to ruin his youngest daughter's reputation with a fake photograph, and of hiring an ex-CIA employee to hack into his computerized stock-trading [source: Richter and Fritz].
Hard evidence didn't surface, and Perot ended up losing to Clinton, though he managed to get 19 percent of the vote, the best showing of a third party since the Bull Moose Party in 1912. Perot also ran in the 1996 election but only got 8 percent of the vote [source: Britannica].