Revolving Door (advertisement)

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Revolving Door
Revolving Door ad screenshot.png
A frame from Revolving Door
Client1988 George H.W. Bush presidential campaign
Release date(s)October 5, 1988
CountryUnited States

"Revolving Door" was a famous negative television commercial made for Republican nominee George H.W. Bush's campaign during the 1988 United States presidential election. Along with the racially-charged Willie Horton ("Weekend Passes") commercial, it is considered to have been a major factor in Bush's defeat of Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis. The ad was produced by political consultant Roger Ailes with help from Bush campaign manager Lee Atwater, and first aired on October 5, 1988. "Revolving door syndrome" is a term used in criminology to refer to recidivism; however, in the ad, the implication is that prison sentences were of an inconsequential length.


The ad shows a line of convicts (portrayed by actors) casually walking in and out of a prison (filmed in Draper, Utah) by means of a revolving door. The narration states that as governor of Massachusetts, Dukakis vetoed mandatory minimum sentencing for drug dealers, that he vetoed the death penalty, and that he gave weekend furloughs to first-degree murderers. The narrator goes on to point out that while furloughed, many of the convicts committed crimes including kidnapping and rape, and are still at large. The ad concludes with the phrase: "Now Michael Dukakis says he wants to do for America what he's done for Massachusetts. America can't afford that risk." The disclaimer at the end indicates the ad was paid for and endorsed by the Bush/Quayle campaign.


A CBS News/New York Times poll showed that of all of the political ads of the 1988 presidential campaign, this one had the greatest impact on respondents. The percentage of poll respondents who felt Bush was "tough enough" on crime rose from 23 percent in July 1988 to 61 percent in late October 1988 while the proportion saying Dukakis was "not tough enough" on crime rose from 36 to 49 percent during the same period.[1]

Women particularly were affected by the ad. Said Dukakis campaign manager Susan Estrich, "The symbolism was very can't find a stronger metaphor, intended or not, for racial hatred in this country than a black man raping a white woman....I talked to people afterward....Women said they couldn't help it, but it scared the living daylights out of them."[1]

Furlough program[edit]

The original State inmate furlough program, for which convicted first-degree murderers were ineligible, was actually signed into law by Republican Governor Francis W. Sargent in 1972. After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that this right extended to first-degree murderers, the Massachusetts legislature quickly passed a bill prohibiting furloughs for such inmates. However, in 1976, Dukakis vetoed this bill. The program remained in effect through the intervening term of governor Edward J. King and was abolished during Dukakis' final term of office on April 28, 1988. This abolition only occurred after the Lawrence Eagle Tribune had run 175 stories about the furlough program and won a Pulitzer Prize.[2] Dukakis continued to argue that the program was 99 percent effective; yet, as the Lawrence Eagle Tribune pointed out, no state outside of Massachusetts, nor any federal program, would grant a furlough to a prisoner serving life without parole.

Related ads[edit]

2014 Gubernatorial Election in Illinois[edit]

In the 2014 Illinois governors' race, Republican gubernatorial candidate (and eventual governor) Bruce Rauner created an attack ad entitled "Unthinkable," alleging that then-governor Pat Quinn "secretly" released 230+ violent offenders early, such as wife-beaters, rapists, sex offenders, and murderers. The ad went on to say that the consequences were "unthinkable": sexual assault of a minor, aggravated assaults, domestic abuse, and more murders. The video ends with the voiceover saying "Now Pat Quinn Wants Four More Years?".[3]


  1. ^ a b InsidePolitics. "Candidate Ads: 1988 George Bush "Revolving Door"". Retrieved 2006-10-29.
  2. ^ "So What?". Columbia Journalism Review. 1995. Archived from the original on 2008-01-23.
  3. ^ "Bruce Rauner: Unthinkable".

External links[edit]