H. Ross Perot, the Dallas billionaire who offered his business background and homespun wisdom to U.S. voters as a third-party candidate for president in 1992 and 1996, has died. He was 89.

His death was reported by the Associated Press, which cited a family spokesman. No cause was given.

Whether on education reform or U.S. foreign policy, a company’s balance sheet or the federal budget, Perot had no shortage of prescriptions over the years, delivered with certainty, simplicity and his Texarkana twang.

“If someone as blessed as I am is not willing to clean out the barn, who will?” he said during his 1992 campaign.

Before taking American politics by storm, Perot did the same to American business. He sold the first firm he founded, Electronic Data Systems Corp., to General Motors Corp. for $2.6 billion, and the second, Perot Systems Corp., to Dell Inc. for $3.9 billion. He amassed a net worth of $4.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Perot began calling out U.S. leaders on the federal budget deficit in 1988, describing the problem as a “crazy aunt that we keep in the basement” that someday would break out and cause havoc. He stepped up his critiques in 1991, as an economic recession and rising unemployment rate were puncturing the approval ratings of the Republican president, George H.W. Bush.

Election Drive

By the end of that year, an anti-incumbent movement in Florida had spun off an effort to draft Perot for president. His on-again, off-again campaign would provide one of the great spectacles in modern politics.

It began with a Feb. 20, 1992, appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” Asked whether he would run for president, he answered with a flat “no.” By the end of the hour, he had boasted about his strengths (“creating jobs and fixing things”), bemoaned the nation’s mind-set (“See, we understand sports in this country, don’t understand business”) and finally suggested he might run, if “you, the people, are that serious” and “register me in 50 states.”

Over the next three months, as Bill Clinton, the former Arkansas governor, emerged as the Democratic challenger to Bush, Perot helped his supporters compile the signatures needed to get him on state ballots. He dominated the political discussion and soared in polls, even as he was criticized for offering few details on what he would do as president, beyond holding electronic town halls and attacking the budget deficit.

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