Bill Clinton debates Bob Dole

Bill Clinton debates Bob Dole

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On October 6, 1996, Democratic President Bill Clinton faces his Republican challenger, Senator Bob Dole from Kansas, in their first debate of that year’s presidential campaign.

The debate, which took place in Hartford, Connecticut, and was moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS, gave the candidates a chance to put forth their views on education, the economy, Medicare and tax cuts. Clinton took credit for improving the economy and slashing the budget deficit he had inherited from George H.W. Bush when he took over the presidency in 1992. Dole challenged Clinton’s “ad hoc” approach to foreign affairs, challenged his record on crime and spending and proposed a whopping tax cut of more than $550 billion.

The debate was civil and devoid of personal attacks except on the subject of recreational drug use. Dole criticized Clinton’s policy regarding the illegal importation and use of drugs, saying the president’s chosen drug czar was “soft” on the issue. He then referred to Clinton’s admission during his first presidential campaign that he had tried marijuana in his youth but “didn’t inhale.” Dole asked the crowd “is that the kind of leadership we need? And I won’t comment on other things that happened in your administration or your past about drugs.” Clinton dodged the issue of his own drug experiment, and insisted he agreed with Dole that drugs were a serious problem in America. “We just have a different approach. But let me remind you, my family has suffered from drug abuse. I know what it’s like to see somebody you love nearly lose their life, and I hate drugs, Senator.” Bill Clinton’s half-brother, Roger, had struggled with alcohol and drug addiction and had been arrested for dealing cocaine in 1984.

Dole and Clinton met again to debate on October 16. Polls indicated that most voters considered Clinton the winner of the debates and he handily won re-election to a second term in November.

READ MORE: 7 Things You May Not Know About US Presidential Debates

1996 United States presidential debates

The United States presidential election debates were held during the 1996 presidential election. Two debates were held between Republican candidate, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Democratic incumbent President Bill Clinton, the major candidates. One debate was held with their vice presidential running mates, Jack Kemp and Al Gore. All three debates were sponsored by the non-profit Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which has organized presidential debates since its establishment in 1987.

The vice presidential debate was held on October 9 at the Mahaffey Theater. The presidential debates were held on October 6 at The Bushnell and October 16 at University of San Diego, ahead of the November 7 Election Day. Jim Lehrer moderated each of the presidential debates. In each of the first two debates, the candidates received questioned in turn with two minutes to answer and a 60-second rebuttal. The third and final debate featured a town hall meeting format.

Debate Night: Clinton/Dole, 1996

S ometimes the results of elections aren’t that exciting. Though the 2012 election certainly seemed tense at the time, in sweet 20/20 hindsight it just looks like we should have trusted Nate Silver. That retrospection magnifies even more intensely for elections over 15 years in the rearview mirror. Case in point: the 1996 presidential race was a landslide. When all was said and done, Bill Clinton won reelection with an extraordinary 379 electoral votes to Bob Dole’s 159. Clinton, who had become extremely popular in the period after the 1994 midterms, more or less coasted to victory. But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t anything to learn from the election in general and the debates in the election more specifically. We’ll get there by looking at one of the Republican primary debates and the first general election debate.

Though there was no Democratic primary race, the Republican primary was still fascinating (in a parallel to the 2012 election). Clinton’s unpopularity in his first two years in office meant many Republican candidates entered the field expecting an easy general election race. However, as Clinton became increasingly popular, those candidates found themselves in an uncomfortable position, and the group of viable candidates narrowed quickly. Those who chose not to run ended up as a who’s who of the next Republican administration – Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush himself were all heavily courted to enter the race and chose not to do so.

In addition to Senator Majority Leader and former vice-presidential nominee Dole, the other major Republican candidates were Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes. Again, the primary race was something of a foregone conclusion. Dole was consistently the frontrunner, and wound up with the nomination. But, as with the 2012 primaries, there were important results of the primary process, and some substantial electoral bumps along the way for the crowned nominee. Dole’s position as the frontrunner was challenged by weak performances in the early primaries, including Buchanan (particularly the New Hampshire primary) and Forbes (Delaware) victories. Throughout, Dole presented himself as an extremely conservative candidate, attacking the other potential nominees for being too liberal in ads like this one:

Dole’s use of conservative rhetoric is fascinating, particularly as the focal point for his televised strategies. During the transitional period where Clinton seemed vulnerable, it’s plausible that a conservative strategy seemed appealing, though it would later box Dole in substantially in the general election (as we’ll see).

Those primaries also featured several debates, including one in Tempe, Arizona, featuring most of the major candidates (sans Dole). That debate presented some evidence backing up the conclusions from earlier presidential primary cycles. We’re lucky here to have the very literally titled How A Presidential Primary Debate Changed Attitudes Of Audience Members , a study of the effects of that Arizona debate by political scientists at Arizona State University. Though this debate didn’t feature frontrunner Dole, the authors still had some relevant insights into the primary debate process. Here are some of the more interesting things to take away from their study of the debate:

  • Primary debates have a much greater effect on voter attitudes of candidates than general election debates, most likely because voters have less information and less well-defined opinions of those candidates in primaries.
  • At the very least, audience members for debates are willing to change their pre-existing perceptions of the candidates. Though a substantial portion of respondents thought Buchanan would likely win the debate, most were willing to admit that Forbes’ performance was superior.
  • Viability is open to the most volatility as a result of debates. As we’ve seen before, debates can often lead voters to decide that a particular candidate is simply not a viable contender for the position of Commander in Chief.

In fact, almost 40 percent of respondents changed the candidate they were planning to vote for after the debate. So how does the effect of primary debates play into their role as televised events (since I doubt anyone is looking for a dissection of the political science)? One possibility is the size of the audience. Even when primary debates are televised, they aren’t nearly as much “event television” as the general election debates, which are consistently some of the most widely viewed broadcasts of all time. The smaller audience not only allows an intimacy with the candidates (particularly since partisans will feel each candidate is on “their side” and thus be more open to their candidacy), it also means the candidates feel freer to say what’s actually on their mind and not engage in the elaborate dance of general election debates.

Sadly, as in 2012, the frontrunner candidate wound up as the victor in the primaries after all was said and done. Dole managed to run a campaign without really getting his hands dirty, positioning himself as a staunch conservative through ads like this one: By the time the general election season rolled around, President Clinton was looking at an excellent position in the polls.

It’s true that Clinton was poised to win easily heading into the debates, but Dole’s performance in the first debate was so bad that his decision not to participate in the primary debates turned out to have been unfortunately wise. Potentially more than any other candidate we’ve encountered, Bob Dole tool all of the inherent possibilities of television as a medium for debates and used them to crash and burn. Not only was Dole the least telegenic candidate since Nixon, he seemed throughout the debate to lack a clear grasp of what one had to do to come off well in the format. There were two debates in the 1996 cycle, and Dole proved himself the candidate least capable of taking advantage of the ordinary challenger bonus in debates.

In Dole’s opening statement in the first debate in Hartford, he didn’t even remotely attack Clinton. The closest Dole came to actually advocating for himself was telling the audience that, “Jack Kemp and I want to share with you some ideas tonight,” a poor attempt at folksiness with no teeth whatsoever. There are constant refrains for increased civility in politics (not without justification), but at a certain point candidates need to make a definitive contrast. Take a look at this snippet of the debate (sorry guys, C-SPAN disabled embedding), which exemplifies most of Dole’s problems throughout.

First, he refused to use the sort of clear, decisive language that would make for not only good sound bites but would also present him as charismatic and a good leader. When he tried to paint Clinton as a hyperpartisan Democratic, the closest he could muster was criticizing the president for pushing through a budget agreement that “some didn’t like.” Oh no! Imagine voters at home trying to understand why they should reject President Clinton and hearing that “some” didn’t like his budget proposal.

Even worse than his weak language, Dole just seemed to lack the confidence necessary to be the Commander in Chief. During this exchange, he used a variation on Reagan’s famous debate line, saying, “There he goes again.” Though this could have been a bold attempt to reassert himself as the standard bearer of the party of Reagan, Dole bungled this line enormously. He refused to even directly address Clinton, seeming even less confrontational or assertive in a field where successful candidates must appear powerful. Though Jim Lehrer attempted to enforce a rule whereby the candidates did not directly question each other, the 2012 cycle demonstrated how effective breaking that rule could be. And none of this is even mentioning Dole’s tendency to refer to himself in the third person, something that helps make figures memorable, but probably not presidential.

Dole also self-consciously referenced Reagan’s famous debate moment, saying, “That line has been used before” almost as an aside. If a candidate is going to reference one of the most famous moments from the history of presidential debates, it seems reasonable to assume he should do it in a well-prepared fashion. By contrast, Clinton’s response to Dole’s attack was calm, collected, and confident, as he carefully explained the reasons Dole’s charges were wrong and made the case for a second term. He even managed to close his answer with another reference to Reagan, asserting that, “We are better off than we were four years ago.”

That first debate was disastrous for Dole. Though he gained slightly in head-to-head polls (as almost all challengers are wont to do after appearing on the debate stage for the first time), he was widely perceived to have lost the debate . That’s the only time a challenger hasn’t come across as the winner in the first debate – after all, the challenger doesn’t have four years of a record as president to defend, and appears more qualified for the job to skeptical voters by simply appearing on the same stage as the sitting president. After a first debate performance like that, what more is there to say?

As we get closer to the most recent election, the factors at play in the 2012 debates have come into focus somewhat. In what ways did Romney take advantage of factors that Bob Dole failed to utilize? How did the 2012 debates differ? The 1996 debate included several charges of flip-flopping from a sitting Democratic president on a candidate who presented himself as conservative – a pretty familiar situation, that played itself out in roughly the same way electorally. Though the 1996 debates might not have been that exciting to live through, from a historical perspective they might have offered some insight for those looking to predict the most recent debates. The historical significance of the debates will only increase once we get to one of the more exciting modern contests – Bush v. Gore.

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In 1995, the Republican Party was riding high on the significant gains made in the 1994 mid-term elections. In those races, the Republicans, led by whip Newt Gingrich, captured the majority of seats in the House for the first time in forty years and the majority of seats in the Senate for the first time in eight years. Gingrich became Speaker of the House, while Bob Dole elevated to Senate Majority leader.

The Republicans of the 104th Congress pursued an ambitious agenda, highlighted by their Contract with America, but were often forced to compromise with President Clinton, who wielded veto power. A budget impasse between Congress and the Clinton Administration eventually resulted in a government shutdown. Clinton, meanwhile, was praised for signing the GOP's welfare reform, and other notable bills, but was forced to abandon his own health care plan.

Candidates gallery Edit

With the advantage of incumbency, Bill Clinton's path to renomination by the Democratic Party was uneventful. At the 1996 Democratic National Convention, Clinton and incumbent Vice President Al Gore were renominated with token opposition. Incarcerated fringe candidate Lyndon LaRouche won a few Arkansas delegates who were barred from the convention. Jimmy Griffin, former Mayor of Buffalo, New York, mounted a brief campaign but withdrew after a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary. Former Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey contemplated a challenge to Clinton, but health problems forced Casey to abandon a bid. [3] [4]

Clinton easily won primaries nationwide, with margins consistently higher than 80%. [5]

    , U.S. Senator from Kansas and Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States in 1976 , conservative columnist from Virginia , newspaper and magazine publisher from New York , former Governor of Tennessee , U.S. Senator from Texas , former U.S. ECOSOC Ambassador from Maryland , U.S. Senator from Indiana , U.S. Representative from California , U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania , Governor of California , CEO from Michigan

Candidates gallery Edit

A number of Republican candidates entered the field to challenge the incumbent Democratic President, Bill Clinton.

The fragmented field of candidates debated issues such as a flat tax and other tax cut proposals, and a return to supply-side economic policies popularized by Ronald Reagan. More attention was drawn to the race by the budget stalemate in 1995 between the Congress and the President, which caused temporary shutdowns and slowdowns in many areas of federal government service.

Former Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin of Illinois, who served in the United States House of Representatives from Illinois's 16th District and was the 1990 Republican U.S. Senate nominee losing to incumbent Paul Simon conducted a bid for most of 1995, but withdrew before the Iowa caucuses as polls showed her languishing far behind. She participated in a number of primary Presidential debates before withdrawing. [6] Martin's predecessor in Congress, John Anderson had made first a Republican then Independent Presidential bid in 1980. Also, Simon who defeated Martin for the U.S. Senate had run for President as a Democrat in 1988.

Former U.S. Army General Colin Powell was widely courted as a potential Republican nominee. However, on November 8, 1995, Powell announced that he would not seek the nomination. Former Secretary of Defense and future Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney was touted by many as a possible candidate for the presidency, but he declared his intentions not to run in early 1995. Former and future Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld formed a presidential campaign exploratory committee, but declined to formally enter the race. Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Secretary of Education William Bennett both flirted with bids, both even set up exploratory committees, for a number of months but both finally declared within days of each other they would not run either. [7]

Primaries and convention Edit

Ahead of the 1996 primary contest, Republican Leader of the United States Senate and former vice-presidential candidate Bob Dole was seen as the most likely winner. However, Steve Forbes finished first in Delaware and Arizona while paleoconservative firebrand Pat Buchanan managed early victories in Alaska and Louisiana, in addition to a strong second place in the Iowa caucuses and a surprising victory in the small but key New Hampshire primary. Buchanan's New Hampshire win alarmed the Republican "establishment" sufficiently as to provoke prominent Republicans to quickly coalesce around Dole, [8] and Dole won every primary starting with North and South Dakota. Dole resigned his Senate seat on June 11 and the Republican National Convention formally nominated Dole on August 15, 1996 for President.

    – 9,024,742 (58.82%) – 3,184,943 (20.76%) – 1,751,187 (11.41%) – 495,590 (3.23%) – 471,716 (3.08%) – 127,111 (0.83%)
  • Unpledged – 123,278 (0.80%) – 71,456 (0.47%) – 42,140 (0.28%) – 21,180 (0.14%)

Former Representative and Housing Secretary Jack Kemp was nominated by acclamation for vice president, the following day. This was the only Republican ticket between 1976 and 2008 that did not include a member of the Bush family.

Candidates gallery Edit

Party Founder Ross Perot, from Texas

The United States Reform Party had great difficulty in finding a candidate willing to run in the general election. Lowell Weicker, Tim Penny, David Boren and Richard Lamm were among those who toyed with the notion of seeking its presidential nomination, though all but Lamm decided against it Lamm had himself come close to withdrawing his name from consideration. Lamm designated Ed Zschau as his vice presidential candidate.

Ultimately, the Reform Party nominated its founder Ross Perot from Texas in its first election as an official political party. Although Perot easily won the nomination, his victory at the party's national convention led to a schism as supporters of Lamm accused him of rigging the vote to prevent them from casting their ballots. This faction walked out of the national convention and eventually formed their own group, the American Reform Party, and attempted to convince Lamm to run as an Independent in the general election Lamm declined, pointing out a promise he made before running that he would respect the Party's final decision.

Economist Pat Choate was nominated for Vice President.

Parties in this section obtained ballot access in enough states to theoretically obtain the minimum number of electoral votes needed to win the election. Individuals included in this section completed one or more of the following actions: received, or formally announced their candidacy for, the presidential nomination of a third party formally announced intention to run as an independent candidate and obtained enough ballot access to win the election filed as a third party or non-affiliated candidate with the FEC (for other than exploratory purposes). Within each party, candidates are listed alphabetically by surname.

Libertarian Party nomination Edit

    – writer and investment analyst from Tennessee
  • Rick Tompkins – former candidate for Senator from Arizona – writer and prominent figure in the tax protester movement from Nevada
  • Douglas J. Ohmen – political activist from California
  • Jeffrey Diket – political activist from Louisiana

The Libertarian Party nominated free-market writer and investment analyst, Harry Browne from Tennessee, and selected Jo Jorgensen from South Carolina as his running-mate. Browne and Jorgensen drew 485,798 votes (0.5% of the popular vote).

The Balloting
Presidential Ballot 1st
Harry Browne 416
Rick Tompkins 74
None 61
Irwin Schiff 32
Douglas J. Ohmen 20
Jeffrey Diket 1
Jo Jorgensen 1

Green Party nomination Edit

The Green Party of the United States – Ralph Nader of Connecticut was drafted as a candidate for President of the United States on the Green Party ticket. He was not formally nominated by the Green Party USA, which was, at the time, the largest national Green group instead, he was nominated independently by various state Green parties (in some areas, he appeared on the ballot as an independent). Nader vowed to spend only $5,000 in his election campaign (to avoid having to file a financial statement with the FEC). Winona LaDuke, a Native American activist and economist from Wisconsin, was named as his running-mate. In Iowa and Vermont, Anne Goeke was listed as Nader's running mate in New Jersey it was Madelyn Hoffman and in New York it was Muriel Tillinghast.

Nader and his running mates drew 685,128 votes (0.71% of the popular vote).

Natural Law Party nomination Edit

The Natural Law Party for a second time nominated scientist and researcher John Hagelin for president and Mike Tompkins for vice president. The party platform included preventive health care, sustainable agriculture and renewable energy technologies. During his campaigns, Hagelin favored abortion rights without public financing, campaign finance law reform, improved gun control, a flat tax, the eradication of PACs, a ban on soft money contributions, and school vouchers, and was a believer in "yogic flying."

Hagelin and Tompkins drew 113,671 votes (0.1% of the popular vote).

U.S. Taxpayers' Party nomination Edit

The U.S. Taxpayers Party had run its first presidential ticket in 1992, it being head by Howard Phillips who had failed to find any prominent conservative willing to take the mantle. In 1996 the situation ultimately proved the same, though Pat Buchanan for a time was widely speculated to be planning on bolting to the Taxpayers' Party should the expected Republican nominee, Senator Bob Dole, name a pro-choice running-mate. When Jack Kemp, who is pro-life, was tapped for the position Buchanan agreed to endorse the Republican ticket. Again, Phillips found himself at a temporary post that was made permanent, with Herbert Titus being nominated for the Vice Presidency.

Phillips and Titus drew 182,820 votes (0.2% of the popular vote).

Campaign Edit

Without meaningful primary opposition, Clinton was able to focus on the general election early, while Dole was forced to move to the right and spend his campaign reserves fighting off challengers. Political adviser Dick Morris urged Clinton to raise huge sums of campaign funds via soft money for an unprecedented early TV blitz of swing states promoting Clinton's agenda and record. As a result, Clinton could run a campaign through the summer defining his opponent as an aged conservative far from the mainstream before Dole was in a position to respond. Compared to the 50-year-old Clinton, then 73-year-old Dole appeared especially old and frail, as illustrated by an embarrassing fall off a stage during a campaign event in Chico, California. Dole further enhanced this contrast on September 18 when he made a reference to a no-hitter thrown the day before by Hideo Nomo of the "Brooklyn Dodgers", a team that had left Brooklyn for Los Angeles 38 years earlier. A few days later Dole would make a joke about the remark by saying, "And I'd like to congratulate the St. Louis Cardinals on winning the N.L. Central. Notice I said the St. Louis Cardinals, not the St. Louis Browns." (The Browns had left St. Louis after the 1954 season to become the Baltimore Orioles.)

Dole chose to focus on Clinton as being "part of the spoiled baby boomer generation" and stating, "My generation won [World War II], and we may need to be called to service one last time." Although his message won appeal with older voters, surveys found that his age was widely held as a liability and his frequent allusions to WWII and the Great Depression in speeches and campaign ads "unappealing" to younger voters. To prove that he was still healthy and active, Dole released all of his medical records to the public and published photographs of himself running on a treadmill. After the falling incident in California, he joked that he "was trying to do that new Democratic dance, the macarena." [10]

The Clinton campaign avoided mentioning Dole's age directly, instead choosing to confront it in more subtle ways such as the campaign slogan "Building Bridges to the Future" in contrast to the Republican candidate's frequent remarks that he was a "bridge to the past", before the social upheavals of the 1960s. Clinton, without actually calling Dole old, questioned the age of his ideas. [11]

With respect to the issues, Dole promised a 15% across-the-board reduction in income tax rates and made former Congressman and supply side advocate Jack Kemp his running mate. Bill Clinton framed the narrative against Dole early, painting him as a mere clone of unpopular House Speaker Newt Gingrich, warning America that Bob Dole would work in concert with the Republican Congress to slash popular social programs, like Medicare and Social Security, dubbed by Clinton as "Dole-Gingrich". [12] Bob Dole's tax-cut plan found itself under attack from the White House, who said it would "blow a hole in the deficit," which had been cut nearly in half during his opponent's term. [13]

The televised debates featured only Dole and Clinton, locking out Perot and the other minor candidates from the discussion. Perot, who had been allowed to participate in the 1992 debates, would eventually take his case to court, seeking damages from not being in the debate, as well as citing unfair coverage from the major media outlets.

In a first for either major party in a presidential election, both the Clinton and Dole campaigns had official websites. Dole invited viewers to visit his “homepage” at the end of the first debate. [14]

Throughout the campaign, Clinton maintained leads in the polls over Dole and Perot, generally by large margins. In October, Republican National Committee "operatives urg[ed] their party's Congressional candidates to cut loose from Bob Dole and press voters to maintain a Republican majority" [15] and spent $4 million on advertising in targeted districts. [16]

Presidential debates Edit

Three debates, organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, took place—two between the presidential candidates and one between the vice presidential candidates:

Campaign donations controversy Edit

In late September 1995, questions arose regarding the Democratic National Committee's fund-raising practices. In February the following year, China's alleged role in the campaign finance controversy first gained public attention after The Washington Post published a story stating that a U.S. Department of Justice investigation had discovered evidence that agents of China sought to direct contributions from foreign sources to the DNC before the 1996 presidential campaign. The paper wrote that intelligence information had showed the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. was used for coordinating contributions to the DNC [18] in violation of U.S. law forbidding non-American citizens from giving monetary donations to U.S. politicians and political parties. Seventeen people were eventually convicted for fraud or for funneling Asian funds into the U.S. elections.

One of the more notable events learned involved Vice President Al Gore and a fund-raising event held at Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, California. The Temple event was organized by DNC fund-raisers John Huang and Maria Hsia. It is illegal under U.S. law for religious organizations to donate money to politicians or political groups due to their tax-exempt status. The U.S. Justice Department alleged Hsia facilitated $100,000 in illegal contributions to the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election campaign through her efforts at the Temple. Hsia was eventually convicted by a jury in March 2000. [19] The DNC eventually returned the money donated by the Temple's monks and nuns. Twelve nuns and employees of the Temple refused to answer questions by pleading the Fifth Amendment when they were subpoenaed to testify before Congress in 1997. [20]

Results Edit

On election day, President Clinton won a decisive victory over Dole, becoming the first Democrat to win two consecutive presidential elections since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, 1940, and 1944. In the popular vote, he out-polled Dole by over 8.2 million votes. The Electoral College map did not change much from the previous election, with the Democratic incumbent winning 379 votes to the Republican ticket's 159. In the West, Dole managed to narrowly win Colorado and Montana (both had voted for Clinton four years earlier), while Clinton became the first Democrat to win Arizona since Harry Truman in 1948. In the South, Clinton won Florida, a state he had failed to win in 1992, but lost Georgia, a state that he had carried. The election helped to cement Democratic presidential control in California, Vermont, Maine, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut all went on to vote Democratic in every subsequent presidential election after having voted Republican in the five prior to 1992. 1996 marked the first time that Vermont voted for a Democrat in two successive elections. Pennsylvania and Michigan both voted Democratic, and would remain in the Democratic presidential fold until 2016. Although Clinton won a victory in the popular vote that was slightly greater than that achieved by his previous rival President George H.W. Bush, he won fewer Electoral states due to under-performance in rural counties nationwide – a precursor of the trend where future Democratic contenders for the Presidency perform well in populous metropolitan areas but vastly underperform in rural counties.

Reform Party nominee Ross Perot won approximately 8% of the popular vote. His vote total was less than half of his performance in 1992. The 1996 national exit poll showed that just as in 1992, [21] Perot drew supporters from Clinton and Dole equally. [22] In polls directed at Perot voters as to who would be a second choice, Clinton consistently held substantial leads. [23] Perot's best showing was in states that tended to strongly favor either Clinton (such as Maine) or Dole (particularly Montana, though the margin of victory there was much closer). Perot once again received his lowest amount of support in the South.

Although Clinton is a native of Arkansas, and his running mate hailed from Tennessee, the Democratic ticket again carried just four of the eleven states of the American South. This tied Clinton's 1992 run for the weakest performance by a winning Democratic presidential candidate in the region before 2000 (in terms of states won). Clinton's performance seems to have been part of a broader decline in support for the Democratic Party in the South. In the 2000 and 2004 elections, the Democrats would fail to carry even one of the former Confederate states, contributing to their defeat both times. This completed the Republican takeover of the American South, a region in which Democrats had held a near monopoly from 1880 to 1948. However, in 2008, the Democrats were able to win three former Confederate states (Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida), but that was still worse than Clinton's performances in both 1992 and 1996. Since 1984, no winning presidential candidate has surpassed Bill Clinton's 8.5 percentage popular vote margin, or his 220 electoral vote margin since 1988. Also note that no Democratic presidential candidate has surpassed Clinton's electoral vote margin since 1964 and except Lyndon B. Johnson in that election no Democratic presidential candidate has surpassed his 8.5 percentage popular vote margin since 1940.

The election was also notable for the fact that for the first time in U.S. history the winner was elected without winning the male vote and the third time in U.S. history that a candidate was elected President twice without receiving an absolute majority of the popular vote in either election (Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson are the others, although all three won pluralities, i.e. the most votes). [22]

Clinton was the first Democrat to win re-election to the presidency since Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the first Southern Democrat to win re-election since Andrew Jackson in 1832. Following the 2020 election, 1996 remains the last time the following states voted Democratic: Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Clinton also remains the last presidential candidate of either party to win at least one county in every state [a] and the last Democrat to win a majority or plurality in Ross County, Ohio, Spokane County, Washington, Pinal and Gila Counties, Arizona, Washington County, Arkansas, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Oneida County, New York and Anoka County, Minnesota. [24] Clinton was also the last Democrat to win Arizona until 2020.

Electoral results
Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote Electoral
Running mate
Count Percentage Vice-presidential candidate Home state Electoral vote
William Jefferson Clinton (Incumbent) Democratic [b] Arkansas 47,401,185 49.24% 379 Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. Tennessee 379
Robert Joseph Dole Republican [c] Kansas 39,197,469 40.71% 159 Jack French Kemp New York [26] 159
Henry Ross Perot Reform [d] Texas 8,085,294 8.40% 0 Patrick Choate [e] Washington, D.C. 0
Ralph Nader Green Connecticut 685,297 0.71% 0 Winona LaDuke [f] California 0
Harry Browne Libertarian Tennessee 485,759 0.50% 0 Jo Jorgensen South Carolina 0
Howard Phillips Taxpayers Virginia 184,656 0.19% 0 Herbert Titus Oregon 0
John Hagelin Natural Law Iowa 113,670 0.12% 0 Mike Tompkins Massachusetts 0
Other [g] 113,667 0.12% Other [g]
Total 96,277,634 100% 538 538
Needed to win 270 270

Source (popular and electoral vote): Federal Elections Commission Electoral and Popular Vote Summary unofficial Secondary Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. "1996 Presidential Election Results". Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections . Retrieved August 7, 2005 .

Voting age population: 196,498,000

Percent of voting age population casting a vote for President: 49.00%

Presidential Candidates Debate

1996-10-06T20:54:19-04:00 President Bill Clinton and former Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) met in Hartford, Connecticut, for the first of two presidential debates prior to the 1996 presidential election. The debate was moderated by Jim Lehrer, who questioned the candidates. He asked the candidates questions in the following manner: the candidate had 90 seconds to respond, the opponent had 60 seconds to rebut and the candidate had 30 seconds to respond to the rebuttal. There were two minute opening and closing statements. Following the debate, the candidates shook hands with their families and friends and members of the selected audience. The audience in the Bushnell theater remained quiet throughout the debate.

The debate focused on domestic issues, especially the role of the federal government in citizens' lives, who should get a tax cut and for what reason, and drug abuse, especially among young people.

President Bill Clinton and former Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) met in Hartford, Connecticut, for the first of two presidential debates prior to… read more

President Bill Clinton and former Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) met in Hartford, Connecticut, for the first of two presidential debates prior to the 1996 presidential election. The debate was moderated by Jim Lehrer, who questioned the candidates. He asked the candidates questions in the following manner: the candidate had 90 seconds to respond, the opponent had 60 seconds to rebut and the candidate had 30 seconds to respond to the rebuttal. There were two minute opening and closing statements. Following the debate, the candidates shook hands with their families and friends and members of the selected audience. The audience in the Bushnell theater remained quiet throughout the debate.

The debate focused on domestic issues, especially the role of the federal government in citizens' lives, who should get a tax cut and for what reason, and drug abuse, especially among young people. close


Dole was born on July 22, 1923, in Russell, Kansas, the son of Bina M. (née Talbott 1904–1983) and Doran Ray Dole (1901–1975). [4] His father, who had moved the family to Russell shortly before Robert was born, earned money by running a small creamery. One of Dole's father's customers was the father of his future Senate colleague Arlen Specter. [5] The Doles lived in a house at 1035 North Maple in Russell and it remained his official residence throughout his political career. [6]

Dole graduated from Russell High School in the spring of 1941 [7] and enrolled at the University of Kansas the following fall. Dole had been a star high school athlete in Russell, and Kansas basketball coach Phog Allen traveled to Russell to recruit him to play for the Jayhawks basketball team. While at KU, Dole played for the basketball team, the track team, and the football team. In football, Dole played at the end position, earning varsity letters in 1942 and 1944. In 1942 he was a teammate of former Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams, Adams's only season playing football at Kansas. [8] While in college, Dole joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity, and in 1970 was bestowed with the Fraternity's "Man of the Year" honor. [9] Dole's collegiate studies were interrupted by World War II, when he enlisted in the United States Army. [10]

Dole attended the University of Arizona from 1948 to 1949, before transferring to Washburn University and graduating with both undergraduate and law degrees in 1952. [11]

In 1942, Dole joined the United States Army's Enlisted Reserve Corps to fight in World War II, becoming a second lieutenant in the Army's 10th Mountain Division. In April 1945, while engaged in combat near Castel d'Aiano in the Apennine mountains southwest of Bologna, Italy, Dole was seriously wounded by a German shell, being struck in his upper back and right arm, shattering his collarbone and part of his spine. "I lay face down in the dirt," Dole said. "I could not see or move my arms. I thought they were missing." As Lee Sandlin describes, when fellow soldiers saw the extent of his injuries, all they thought they could do was to "give him the largest dose of morphine they dared and write an 'M' for 'morphine' on his forehead in his own blood, so that nobody else who found him would give him a second, fatal dose." [12]

Dole was paralyzed from the neck down and transported to a military hospital near Kansas, expected to die. Suffering blood clots, a life-threatening infection and a fever of almost 109 degrees after large doses of penicillin were not successful, he overcame the infection with the administration of streptomycin, which at the time was still an experimental drug. [13] He remained despondent, "not ready to accept the fact that my life would be changed forever." He was encouraged to see Hampar Kelikian, an orthopedist in Chicago who had been working with veterans returning from war. Although during their first meeting Kelikian told Dole that he would never be able to recover fully, the encounter changed Dole's outlook on life, who years later wrote of Kelikian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, "Kelikian inspired me to focus on what I had left and what I could do with it, rather than complaining what had been lost." Dr. K, as Dole later came to affectionately call him, operated on him seven times, free of charge, and had, in Dole's words, "an impact on my life second only to my family." [14]

Dole recovered from his wounds at the Percy Jones Army Hospital. This complex of federal buildings, no longer a hospital, is now named Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in honor of three patients who became United States Senators: Dole, Philip Hart and Daniel Inouye. Dole was decorated three times, receiving two Purple Hearts for his injuries, and the Bronze Star with "V" Device for valor for his attempt to assist a downed radioman. The injuries left him with limited mobility in his right arm and numbness in his left arm. He minimizes the effect in public by keeping a pen in his right hand, and learned to write with his left hand. [15] In 1947, he was medically discharged from the Army as a captain.

Dole ran for office for the first time in 1950 and was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, serving a two-year term. [16] During his term in the Kansas House of Representatives he served on the following committees: Assessment and Taxation, Gas and Oil, Military Affairs and Soldiers Compensation. [17] In 1952, he became the County Attorney of Russell County. [18] In 1960, Dole was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Kansas' 6th Congressional District. [19] After his first term, Kansas lost a congressional district, and most of Dole's district was merged with the neighboring 2nd District to form a new 1st District, encompassing much of central and western Kansas. Dole was elected from this merged district in 1962 and was reelected two more times.

During his tenure in the House, Dole voted in favor of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, [20] [21] and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. [22]

In 1968, Dole defeated former Kansas Governor William H. Avery for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate to succeed retiring Senator Frank Carlson, subsequently being elected. Dole was re-elected in 1974, 1980, 1986, and 1992, before resigning on June 11, 1996, to focus on his Presidential campaign. [23]

While in the Senate, Dole served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1971–73, the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee from 1975–78, and the chairman of the Finance Committee from 1981–85. [24] [25] [26] In November of 1984, Dole was elected Senate Majority leader, defeating Ted Stevens 28-25, in the fourth round of balloting. [ citation needed ]

Over time in the Senate, Dole was seen by some as having a moderate voting record. [27] During the 1970s, he partnered with Senator George McGovern to help pass legislation making food stamps more accessible. [28] In 1982, The New York Times referred to Dole as changing from "hard-line conservative" to "mainstream Republicanism". [29]

In a January 3, 1996 Briefing Room address, amid the ongoing United States federal government shutdowns of 1995–1996, President Clinton noted Dole as a lawmaker that was "working together in good faith" to reopen the government. [30]

In 1976, Dole ran unsuccessfully for vice president on a ticket headed by President Gerald Ford. Incumbent Vice President Nelson Rockefeller had announced the previous November his retirement from politics, opting against running for a full term as vice president, and Dole was chosen as Ford's running mate. Dole stated during the Vice Presidential debate with Walter Mondale, "I figured it up the other day: If we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans — enough to fill the city of Detroit". [31]

Dole ran for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, eventually won by Ronald Reagan. Despite Dole's national exposure from the '76 campaign, he finished behind Reagan, George H.W. Bush and four others in Iowa and New Hampshire, receiving only 2.5% and 0.4% of votes cast in those contests, respectively. [32] Dole ceased campaigning after New Hampshire and announced his formal withdrawal from the race on March 15, instead being re-elected to his third term as Senator that year. [33]

Dole made another attempt in 1988, formally announcing his candidacy in his hometown of Russell, Kansas on November 9, 1987. [34] At the ceremony, Dole was presented by the VFW with a cigar box, similar to the one he had used to collect donations for his war-related medical expenses, containing $7,000 in campaign donations. [35] Dole started out strongly by defeating Vice President George H. W. Bush in the Iowa caucus—Bush finished third, behind television evangelist Pat Robertson. [36]

However, Bush would defeat Dole in the New Hampshire primary a week later. After the returns had come in on the night of that primary, Dole appeared to lose his temper in a television interview with Tom Brokaw, saying Bush should "stop lying about my record", in response to a Bush commercial which accused Dole of "straddling" on taxes. [37]

Despite a key endorsement by Senator Strom Thurmond, Dole was defeated by Bush again in South Carolina in early March. Several days later, every southern state voted for Bush in a Super Tuesday sweep. This was followed by another loss in Illinois, which persuaded Dole to withdraw from the race. [38]

1996 presidential campaign

The Republicans took control of both the Senate and House of Representatives in the 1994 mid-term elections, due to the fallout from President Bill Clinton's policies including his health care plan, and Dole became Senate Majority Leader for the second time. In October 1995, a year before the presidential election, Dole and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich led the Republican-controlled Congress to pass a spending bill that President Clinton vetoed, leading to the federal government shutdown from 1995–96. On November 13, Republican and Democratic leaders, including Vice President Al Gore, Dick Armey, and Dole, met to try to resolve the budget and were unable to reach an agreement. [39] [40] By January 1996, Dole was more open to compromise to end the shutdown (as he was campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination), but was opposed by other Republicans who wanted to continue until their demands were met. In particular, Gingrich and Dole had a tense working relationship as they were potential rivals for the 1996 Republican nomination. [41] Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos cited the shutdown as having a role in Clinton's successful re-election campaign. [42]

Despite the 1994 elections, President Clinton's popularity soared due to a booming economy and public opinion polls supporting him in the 1995 budget shutdown. As a result, Clinton and vice president Al Gore faced no serious opposition in the Democratic primaries. [43] A few months before his death in April 1994, Richard Nixon warned Dole "If the economy's good, you're not going to beat Clinton." [44] Dole was the early front runner for the GOP nomination in the 1996 presidential race. At least eight candidates ran for the nomination. Dole was expected to win the nomination against underdog candidates such as the more conservative Senator Phil Gramm of Texas and more moderate Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Pat Buchanan upset Dole in the early New Hampshire primary, however, with Dole finishing second and former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander finishing third. Speechwriter Kerry Tymchuk observed, "Dole was on the ropes because he wasn't conservative enough". [43]

Dole eventually won the nomination, becoming the oldest first-time presidential nominee at the age of 73 years, 1 month (President Ronald Reagan was 73 years, 6 months in 1984, for his second presidential nomination). If elected, he would have been the oldest president to take office and be the first Kansas native to become president (as Dwight Eisenhower was born in Texas). Dole found the initial draft of the acceptance speech written by Mark Helprin too hardline, so Kerry Tymchuk who was part of the "'Let Dole be Dole' crowd" revised the speech to cover the 'themes of honor, decency and straight talk. It included the following line, a swat at the all-or-nothing rookie Republicans who had been swept into Congress in the 1994 midterm GOP wave: "In politics honorable compromise is no sin. It is what protects us from absolutism and intolerance"'. [43]

In his acceptance speech, Dole stated, "Let me be the bridge to an America that only the unknowing call myth. Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith, and confidence in action," [45] to which incumbent president Bill Clinton responded, "We do not need to build a bridge to the past, we need to build a bridge to the future." [46]

Dole was the first sitting Senate Party Leader to receive his party's nomination for president. He hoped to use his long experience in Senate procedures to maximize publicity from his rare positioning as Senate Majority Leader against an incumbent president but was stymied by Senate Democrats. On June 11, 1996, Dole resigned his seat to focus on the campaign, saying he had "nowhere to go but the White House or home". [47]

As told in the Doles' joint biography, Unlimited Partners, speechwriter and biographer Kerry Tymchuk wrote "that he was going to make a statement. He was going to risk it all for the White House. He knew his time as leader was over. It would have been tough to come back [to the Senate as leader] if he lost in November. He knew it was time to move up or move out." [43]

Dole promised a 15% across-the-board reduction in income tax rates and made former Congressman and supply side advocate Jack Kemp his running mate for vice president. Dole found himself criticized from both the left and the right within the Republican Party over the convention platform, one of the major issues being the inclusion of the Human Life Amendment. Clinton framed the narrative against Dole early, painting him as a mere clone of unpopular then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, warning America that Dole would work in concert with the Republican Congress to slash popular social programs, like Medicare and Social Security, dubbed by Clinton as "Dole-Gingrich". [48] Dole's tax-cut plan found itself under attack from the White House, who said it would "blow a hole in the deficit". [49]

With the infancy of the Internet, Dole-Kemp was the first presidential campaign to set up a website, edging out Clinton-Gore, which was set up by Arizona State college students Rob Kubasko and Vince Salvato. [43] The Dole-Kemp presidential campaign page is still live as of 2020. [50] [51]

Concerns over Dole's age and lagging campaign were exemplified by a memorable incident on September 18, 1996. At a rally in Chico, California, he was reaching down to shake the hand of a supporter, when the railing on the stage gave way and he tumbled four feet. While only minorly injured in the fall, "the televised image of his painful grimace underscored the age difference between him and Clinton" and proved an ominous sign for Republican hopes of retaking the White House. [52] [53]

During the latter half of October 1996, Dole made a campaign appearance with Heather Whitestone, the first deaf Miss America, where both of them signed "I love you" to the crowd. Around that time, Dole and his advisers knew that they would lose the election, but in the last four days of the campaign they went on the "96-hour victory tour" to help Republican Congressional candidates. [54]

Dole lost, as pundits had long expected, to incumbent President Bill Clinton in the 1996 election. Clinton won in a 379–159 Electoral College landslide, capturing 49.2% of the vote against Dole's 40.7% and Ross Perot's 8.4%. [55] As Richard Nixon had predicted to Dole a few months before his death in April 1994, Clinton was able to ride a booming economy to a second term in the White House. [44]

Dole is the last World War II veteran to have been the presidential nominee of a major party. During the campaign, Dole's advanced age was brought up, with critics stating that he was too old to be president.

In his election night concession speech, Dole remarked "I was thinking on the way down in the elevator – tomorrow will be the first time in my life I don't have anything to do." [54] Dole later wrote "I was wrong. Seventy-two hours after conceding the election, I was swapping wisecracks with David Letterman on his late-night show". [44] During the immediate aftermath of his 1996 loss to Clinton, Dole recalled that his critics thought that "I didn't loosen up enough, I didn't show enough leg. They said I was too serious . . . It takes several months to stop fretting about it and move on. But I did." Dole remarked that his decisive defeat to Clinton made it easier for him to be "magnanimous". On his decision to leave politics for good after the 1996 presidential election campaign, despite his guaranteed stature as a former Senate leader, Dole stated "People were urging [me] to be a hatchet man against Clinton for the next four years. I couldn't see the point. Maybe after all those partisan fights, you look for more friendships. One of the nice things I've discovered is that when you're out of politics, you have more credibility with the other side . . . And you're out among all kinds of people, and that just doesn't happen often for an ex-president he doesn't have the same freedom. So it hasn't been all bad." [56]

The 1996 presidential election, despite ending in a loss, opened up numerous opportunities for Dole owing in part to his sense of humor. He has engaged in a career of writing, consulting, public speaking, and television appearances. Dole was the first defeated presidential nominee to become a political celebrity. [56]

He became a television commercial spokesman for such products as Viagra, Visa, Dunkin' Donuts and Pepsi-Cola (with Britney Spears), and as an occasional political commentator on the interview program Larry King Live, and has been a guest a number of times on Comedy Central's satirical news program, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Dole was, for a short time, a commentator opposite Bill Clinton on CBS's 60 Minutes. Dole guest-starred as himself on NBC's Brooke Shields sitcom Suddenly Susan in January 1997 (shortly after losing the presidential election). He also made a cameo appearance on Saturday Night Live, parodying himself in November 1996. [44]

From 1998 to 2002, Dole was head of the Federal City Council, a group of business, civic, education, and other leaders interested in economic development in Washington, D.C. [57]

After leaving office, Dole joined the Washington, D.C. firm Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, where he was a registered lobbyist on behalf of foreign governments (including Kosovo, Taiwan, and Slovenia) the American Society of Anesthesiologists Tyco and the Chocolate Industry Coalition. [58] In 2003, after Verner, Liipfert was acquired by Piper Rudnick, [58] [59] Dole joined the Washington, D.C. law and lobbying firm Alston & Bird LLP, where he continued his lobbying career. [60] [61] [62] While working for Alston & Bird, Dole has been registered as a foreign agent in order to represent the government of Taiwan in Washington. [60] [61]

Dole was also involved in many voluntary organizations. He served as national chairman of the World War II Memorial Campaign, [59] which raised funds for the building of the National World War II Memorial. [58] He also teamed up in 2001 with Clinton, his former 1996 campaign rival on the Families of Freedom Foundation, a scholarship fund campaign to pay for college educations for the families of 9/11 victims. [63]

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, housed on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kansas, was established to bring bipartisanship back to politics. The Institute, which opened in July 2003 to coincide with Dole's 80th birthday, has featured such notable speakers as former President Bill Clinton and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. [ citation needed ]

Dole's legacy also includes a commitment to combating hunger both in the United States and around the globe. In addition to numerous domestic programs, and along with former Senator George McGovern (D-South Dakota), Dole created an international school lunch program through the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which, funded largely through the Congress, helps fight child hunger and poverty by providing nutritious meals to children in schools in developing countries. [64] [65] This internationally popular program would go on to provide more than 22 million meals to children in 41 countries in its first eight years. [66] [67] It has since led to greatly increased global interest in and support for school-feeding programs—which benefit girls and young women, in particular—and won McGovern and Dole the 2008 World Food Prize. [67]

In 2004, on the Larry King show, Dole had a heated exchange with Democratic presidential primary candidate Wesley Clark in which Dole correctly predicted that Clark would lose the New Hampshire primary and other primaries. [ citation needed ]

On September 18, 2004, Dole offered the inaugural lecture to dedicate the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, during which he chronicled his life as a public servant and also discussed the importance of public service in terms of defense, civil rights, the economy, and in daily life. [68] Dole also gave the 2008 Vance Distinguished Lecture at Central Connecticut State University. [69]

Dole has written several books, including one on jokes told by the Presidents of the United States, in which he ranks the presidents according to their level of humor. On April 12, 2005, Dole released his autobiography One Soldier's Story: A Memoir, which talks of his World War II experiences and his battle to survive his war injuries. [70]

Dole also served as a director for the Asia Universal Bank, a bank domiciled in Kyrgyzstan during the discredited Bakiyev presidential regime which was subsequently shut down owing to its involvement in money laundering. [71]

In 2007, President George W. Bush appointed Dole and Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, as co-chairs of the commission to investigate problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. [72] [73] That same year, Dole joined fellow former Senate majority leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, and George Mitchell to found the Bipartisan Policy Center, a non-profit think-tank that works to develop policies suitable for bipartisan support. [74]

Dole appears in the 2008 documentary on political consultant and Republican strategist Lee Atwater, Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story. In the film, Dole says, "I don't comment on Atwater," and, additionally, "This isn't politics, this is garbage." [ citation needed ]

On January 26, 2012, Dole issued a letter critical of Newt Gingrich, focusing on Dole and Gingrich's time working together on Capitol Hill. [75] The letter was issued immediately before the Florida primary. Dole endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination. [76]

Dole has cited the association made between himself and Gingrich as fellow Congressional leaders in Democratic advertisements as a key factor for his 1996 presidential defeat. [77]

On December 4, 2012, Dole made an appearance on the Senate floor to advocate ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Democratic Senator John Kerry explained: "Bob Dole is here because he wants to know that other countries will come to treat the disabled as we do." The Senate rejected the treaty by a vote of 61–38, less than the 66 required for ratification. Many Republican senators voted against the bill, fearing it would interfere with American sovereignty. [78]

In early 2014, Dole began a reunion tour of his home state of Kansas, in which he sought to visit each of the state's 105 counties. At each stop he spent approximately an hour speaking with old friends and well-wishers. [79] Dole endorsed and campaigned for incumbent Kansas Senator Pat Roberts during the latter's 2014 re-election bid. [80]

In 2015, Dole endorsed former Florida governor Jeb Bush in his presidential campaign. After Bush ended his campaign following the South Carolina primary, Dole endorsed Florida senator Marco Rubio's campaign. [81] During the campaign, Dole criticized Texas senator Ted Cruz, stating that he "question[ed] his allegiance to the party" and that there would be "wholesale losses" if he were to win the Republican nomination. [82] Dole endorsed Donald Trump after the latter clinched the Republican nomination, [83] while all other then-living Republican presidential nominees, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney refused to do so, [84] and became the lone former nominee to attend the 2016 Republican National Convention. [85] Dole had attended every GOP convention since 1964, and did not consider skipping the 2016 edition even though Trump's politics were closer to that of Dole's 1996 primary rival Pat Buchanan. [43]

Former Dole advisers, including Paul Manafort, played a major role in Trump's presidential campaign. [85] Following Trump's electoral victory, Dole coordinated with the Trump campaign and presidential transition team to set up a series of meetings between Trump's staff and Taiwanese officials as well as assisting in successful efforts to include favorable language towards Taiwan in the 2016 Republican Party platform. [86] In February 2016 Dole donated $20,000 to help pay for a camp for children with cancer in central Kansas. [87]

In January 2018, Dole was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his service to the nation as a "soldier, legislator and statesman. [88] Despite being immobile, Dole signaled over to an aide to assist him in standing for the national anthem prior to the ceremony. [89]

Dole, age 95, using a wheelchair, stood up with the help of an aide at the funeral of George H. W. Bush in the United States Capitol rotunda on December 4, 2018, and saluted to pay his respects to the late president and fellow World War II veteran. [90] [91]

Dole expressed concern the Commission on Presidential Debates were biased against President Trump and his reelection campaign in a public statement on October 9, 2020, saying how he knew all the Republicans on the Commission and feared that "none of them support[ed]" the president. [92]

On January 18, 1989, Dole was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Reagan.

On January 17, 1997, Senator Dole was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton for his service in the military and his political career. In his acceptance remarks in the East Room of the White House, Dole remarked "I had a dream that I would be here this historic week receiving something from the president — but I thought it would be the front-door key". [44]

In 1997, Dole received the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards. [93]

In October 2001, Dole received the Gold Good Citizenship award from the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Dole received the American Patriot Award in 2004 for his lifelong dedication to America and his service in World War II.

On September 30, 2015, the National Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial (NCAGC) honored former Senator Bob Dole with the organization's Survivor's Gratitude Award in the category of "Hero of Responsibility and Principle" for his tireless efforts in raising attention to the Armenian Genocide and its victims. [94]

For his lobbying efforts on behalf of Kosovo Albanians before, during and after the Kosovo War, in May 2017, Albanian President Bujar Nishani awarded Dole Albania's highest civilian honor, the National Flag Order medal, at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. [95]

On January 17, 2018, Dole was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his service to the nation as a "soldier, legislator and statesman." [96]

In 2019, the U.S. Congress unanimously passed a bill promoting the 95-year-old Dole from captain to colonel for his service during World War II. [1] [2] "I've had a great life and this is sort of icing on the cake. It's not that I have to be a colonel I was happy being a captain and it pays the same," Dole said, jokingly.

Dole has been awarded several honorary degrees. These include:

Location Date School Degree
Kansas September 27, 1969 Washburn University Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [97]
Kansas May 18, 1985 Washburn University Doctor of Civil Laws (D.C.L.) [97]
Kansas December 13, 1986 University of Kansas Doctorate [98]
District of Columbia 1996 Gallaudet University Doctorate [99]
Kansas December 14, 2011 University of Kansas Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [100]
New Hampshire June 25, 2014 University of New Hampshire Doctorate [101]
Vermont June 25, 2015 Norwich University Doctor of Public Administration (D.P.A.) [102]
Kansas May 13, 2016 Fort Hays State University Doctor of Arts (D.Arts) [103]

Dole married Phyllis Holden, an occupational therapist at a veterans hospital, in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1948, three months after they met. Their daughter, Robin, was born on October 15, 1954. Dole and Holden divorced January 11, 1972. [104] Holden died on April 22, 2008.

Dole met his second wife, Elizabeth, in 1972. The couple was married on December 6, 1975. They have no children.

Dole is a Freemason and a member of Russell Lodge No. 177, Russell, Kansas. In 1975, Dole was elevated to the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite. [105] [106] [107]

Dole often refers to himself in the third person in conversation. [108] [109] He has no relation to the Dole Food Company or its namesake James Dole, [110] [111] although confusion between the two did lead to the mayor of Izmir, Burhanettin Ozfatura, to ban the sale of Dole bananas in the city in February 1995. [111]

Health issues

After prostate surgery, Dole had erectile dysfunction and made a public service announcement speaking up about it. [112] He subsequently did endorsements for Viagra. [113]

In 2001, Dole, at age 77, was treated successfully for an abdominal aortic aneurysm by vascular surgeon Kenneth Ouriel. Ouriel said Dole "maintained his sense of humor throughout his care." [114]

In recent years, Dole has struggled with health problems. In December 2004, he had a hip-replacement operation that required him to receive blood thinners. One month after the surgery, it was determined that Dole was bleeding inside his head. Dole spent 40 days at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and upon release, his stronger arm, the left, was of limited use. Dole told a reporter that he needed help to handle the simplest of tasks, since both of his arms are injured. He undergoes occupational therapy for his left shoulder once a week, but doctors have told him that he might not regain total use of his left arm.

In 2009, Dole was hospitalized for an elevated heart rate and sore legs for which he underwent a successful skin-graft procedure. In February 2010, Dole was hospitalized for pneumonia after undergoing knee surgery. He spent ten months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, recovering from the surgery, and experienced three bouts with pneumonia. He was released from the hospital in November 2010. In January 2011, however, Dole was readmitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and spent about six days there, being treated for a fever as well as a minor infection.

Dole was hospitalized in the latter part of November 2012 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, according to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. [115] On September 13, 2017, Dole was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for low blood pressure. [116] He stayed for 24 hours before returning home. [117]

In February 2021, Dole announced he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and will undergo treatment. [118] [119]

The Republican Party re-nominated Kemp. The Democrats in an attempt to appeal to the moderates, nominated Senator Evan Bayh. However, Kemp won by a landslide due to a mostly positive experience over the last four years.

Kemp's Second Term

President attempts to reform Social Security but is blocked by the Democrats. Kemp and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal earn high praise for their handling of Hurricane Katrina.

2006 Mid-Term Elections

Republicans gain seats in both houses bringing their total to 61 Senate seats and 259 House seats.

“I’m A Dole Man” 1996

One of the campaign buttons used in the 1996 Presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Bob Dole (R-KS).

Bob Dole, a popular World War II veteran and much respected member of Congress, was first elected to national office in 1960. He became involved in Presidential politics in 1976 when he served as Gerald Ford’s running mate in a losing contest to the Democrat’s slate of Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. Again in 1980 and 1988, Dole sought the Republican presidential nomination, losing out both times in the primaries, respectively, to Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr.

Bob Dole on Senate floor, June 11, 1996, announcing his farewell to colleagues to focus on his Presidential bid.

In the summer of 1996, Sam Moore, who 30 years earlier was a member of the rock n’ roll duo “Sam & Dave,” re-recorded a 1967 hit song that he and partner Dave Prater had made popular, entitled “Soul Man.” Moore adapted the song for use in Bob Dole’s campaign, keeping the same underlying sound and melody but adding a few new lyrics.

In the process, the song’s namesake and chief refrain of “I’m a soul man” became “I’m a Dole man.” Dole then started using the song at his campaign rallies.

The lyrics and origins of this song, however — coming out of Detroit’s inner city and forming the beginnings of 1960s African American soul music — were somewhat far afield from the conservative heritage of Kansan Bob Dole.

“Soul Man”
Sam & Dave

Coming to you on a dusty road
Good loving, I got a truck load
And when you get it,
you got something
Don’t worry, ’cause I’m coming

I’m a soul man, I’m a soul man
I’m a soul man, I’m a soul man

Got what I got the hard way
And I make it better,
each and every day
So honey, said don’t you fret
‘Cause you ain’t seen nothing yet

[Repeat refrain]
I was brought up on a side street
I learned how to love
before I could eat
I was educated at Woodstock
When I start loving,
whoa I can’t stop

[Repeat refrain…]
Just grab the rope and
I’ll pull you in
Give you hope and be
your only boyfriend
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

I’m talking about a soul man,
soul man, soul man, soul man….

Song History

“Soul Man” was written in 1967 by Isaac Hayes and David Porter who then worked in Detroit for the Stax record label of Atlantic Records. At least part of the inspiration for “Soul Man” reportedly came to Hayes in July 1967, in the aftermath of the 12th Street riot in Detroit, Michigan.

During those troubled days, black Detroit residents had selectively marked certain buildings with the word “soul” to protect them from damage. The buildings so marked where mostly stores or other structures owned and/or operated by African-Americans.

In the midst of those times, Hayes and songwriting partner David Porter were moved to write something that captured “a story about one’s struggle to rise above his present conditions,” as well as a song that conveyed a measure of pride — almost a kind boasting — as in, “I’m a soul man, and proud of it.”

Music Player
“I’m A Soul Man”-1967

In any case, Hayes and Porter crafted the song and lyrics that summer. Singers Sam Moore and Dave Prater recorded it on the Stax record label, with the musical backing of the house band at the time, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, a band that had their own hit songs, such as the 1962 instrumental, “Green Onions.” But Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” was issued in the summer of 1967. It became the most successful Stax single to date upon its release.

During October-November 1967, the single peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart for about seven weeks, and at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for about three weeks. It stayed in the Top 40 for nearly three months.

Early Soul Artists

“Soul Man” was the first successful pop hit single for Sam and Dave. An earlier song, “Hold On, I’m Comin”, had been a No. 1 hit on the R& B charts in the summer of 1966. “Soul Man” was later followed by other hits through 1968, including: “I Thank You”, “When Something is Wrong with My Baby”, “Wrap It Up”, and others.

Bob Dole speaks at a campaign rally in Madison, September 5, 1996. Photo by Joseph W. Jackson III, Wisconsin State Journal.

Politics & Music

Politicians for years have sought slogans, catchy jingles, and popular music to use in their campaigns. For Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s it was “Happy Days are Here Again,” also a perennial favorite of Democrats and practically any candidate who wins. One of FDR’s later Democrat rivals, Al Smith, used “East Side, West Side” in one of his campaigns. Jack Kennedy in 1960 had Frank Sinatra sing a little ditty for his campaign. And in recent years, some politicians have sought to associate themselves with one or another genre of music or particular musicians, all to curry favor with certain voter blocs.

In the 1992 campaign, candidate and then Arkansas Governor, Bill Clinton, had made good use of a baby boomer- favored Fleetwood Mac tune, “Don’t Stop” (a use which initially brought some objection from songwriter and band member Christine McVie, who in early 1992 asked Governor Bill Clinton to stop using it). By 1996, Dole, who was then 73 years old, wanted music that helped him reach younger audiences. “Soul Man” was a good jumpy tune, and could get folks in a good mood, part of the role of any campaign music. Sam Moore had re-written the lyrics for the campaign, with some lines that — at least in one version — purposely spoofed Dole’s age, which was something of an issue in the campaign. But the song also included a few digs that were aimed at the opposition, such as: “And he [Dole] ain’t from Hope, and he don’t have no girl friends, no!” The Dole team liked what they heard and began using the song pretty regularly at rallies and campaign stops.

In 1996, of course, Bob Dole wasn’t the only candidate using popular music during the campaign season. In fact, as the two political conventions rolled out that August, a whole range of music was used as part each party’s respective “show,” ever mindful of the TV and listening audiences — as well as the need to fire up convention delegates.

Campaign button for Repub- lican Convention, San Diego, CA, August 1996.

“…So the band in San Diego had a role like Paul Shaffer’s group on The Late Show With David Letterman. Each top speaker was ushered in like a talk-show guest, with a theme [song] that had a more or less obvious allusion: state songs for elected officials, ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ for Gen. Colin L. Powell, ‘My Girl’ for the nominee’s wife, Elizabeth Dole.

1996 Republican campaign button featuring the Bob Dole-Jack Kemp ticket.

Bob Dole made his entrance to the theme from ‘Rocky,’ seeking the mantle of the good-hearted, hard-punching, working-class underdog. After Mr. Dole’s acceptance speech, in which he invoked the honorable values of past eras, the country singer Travis Tritt sang a stern postscript, declaring, ‘I wish I could turn the clock back to the way my daddy said it was before.’…

When the Republican band wanted to ratchet up enthusiasm, it turned to soul standards. Mr. Dole’s theme on the road has been ‘Dole Man’… ‘Shout,’ the Isley Brothers song, provided the beat for the convention’s biggest floor demonstration. Mr. Dole has been denouncing the indulgences of the generation represented by Bill Clinton, but he has latched on to baby-boomer favorites for the campaign…..”

At the Democratic convention, too, a range of pop tunes and live performances were prominent parts of the program, from the cast of the Broadway play Rent performing “Seasons of Love” and Emmylou Harris singing “Abraham, Martin and John,” to Aretha Franklin doing the national anthem. There was also a hint of Chicago’s “Beginnings” following Clinton’s acceptance speech, with its Latin percussion, big-band horns, and lyrics that promised “only the beginning, only just the start.”

In September 1996, Bob Dole was joined by his ally Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at the American Legion's convention in Salt Lake City.

“Dole Man” Continues

Following the conventions, and into September, Dole’s campaign continued using Sam Moore’s “Dole Man” adaptation at its rallies. However, it turned out that Sam Moore was not really in a position to grant Dole the legal right to use this song, even in its variant and parody forms with adjusted lyrics. For Sam Moore neither owned the song nor its music publishing rights. The song was written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter as described above, and publishing company Rondor Music International Inc.,also had some control over the song’s rights and use. Rondor was owned by Jerry Moss and Herb Alpert, who were politically liberal. The holders of music publishing rights can object to the use of the composition if it is used in ways that can be seen as “commercial,” or if the song is at risk of losing its integrity, as in this case, by changing words, such as from “soul” to “Dole.”

Rondor Music sent a letter to the Dole campaign threatening to sue if the campaign continued to use the song. Rondor did not agree with the claim by the Dole camp that their use of the song was “fair use”as parody. “…[P]eople may get the impression that David [Porter] and I endorse Bob Dole, which we don’t.”
– Isaac Hayes, Sept 1996 In the September 10th, 1996 letter to Dole, Rondor threatened to sue Dole for up to $100,000 each time the song was played at an event. Rondor said that the campaign’s altering the lyrics resulted in an “unauthorized derivative work” that required permission to use. There were also other issues involved, not the least of which was an aura of endorsement the song gave to Dole by association, suggesting the song’s creators were Dole backers. “Soul Man’s” co-writer, Isaac Hayes, spoke out about the song’s use in an interview with the New York Daily News. “Nobody gave any permission here,” Hayes said referring to Dole’s use of the song without permission. “As a U.S. Senator, he ought to know that you can’t do that. It also bothers me because people may get the impression that David [Porter] and I endorse Bob Dole, which we don’t.” In the end, however, no legal action transpired, as the Dole campaign quit using “I’m a Dole Man.”

Bob Dole on the stump, 1996.

Press Critique

In addition to the legal threats, a few press accounts ran that were critical of Dole for using the tune. Charles Memminger of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, for example, offered some of his views in a September 13, 1996 column, having a little fun at Dole’s expense:

“…Playing a hip song like ‘Soul Man’ is supposed make people forget that Dole is older than time. The usual routine is for Dole to bound onto the stage like a mummified rock star while the crowd sings ‘I’m a Dole Man! I’m a Dole Man!’ Republicans can be so cool when they have to be.
Actually, I thought the choice of song was kind of stupid. Half the time, I thought the crowd was bellowing ‘I’m a Dull Man.’ Or ‘I’m a Sold Man.’ It left just too much room for misinterpretation. …Connecting Bob Dole to ‘Soul Man’ is like con- necting Jeffrey Dahmer [mass murderer] to ‘Feel- ings.’
-Charles Memminger
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
It may not matter, since Rondor Music International, which owns the song, says it’ll sue if Dole doesn’t give up their ‘Soul.’
I think Dole has a legal leg to stand on, since song parodies are considered free speech. And anyone who doesn’t consider “Dole Man” a parody doesn’t understand irony. Connecting Bob Dole to ‘Soul Man’ is like connecting Jeffrey Dahmer [mass murderer] to ‘Feelings.’
Anyway, this is a battle Dole doesn’t have to fight. There are a lot of other songs out there he could rip off that would give him the same chance — which is to say very little — of overcoming his 20 point poll deficit to Bill Clinton…”

Mark Steyn, writing in in October 1996 observed that “Soul Man” was “so un-Dole.” He also called it a parody, adding: “Dole obviously has never heard of it, any more than he’s heard of Tupac Shakur or those other gangsta rappers his advisers periodically call on him to denounce…” More ironic, continued Steyn, “is that the song is an exquisite musicalization of the candidate’s most frequently cited defect: his campaign’s lack of any central theme. ‘Dole Man’ isn’t about anything at all….”

Springsteen & Rabbitt

That prompted Springsteen himself to write an open letter to his local newspaper, The Press of Asbury Park, New Jersey: “I read in The Press this morning that my music was appropriated for the Republican rally for Bob Dole in Red Bank yesterday. Just for the record, I’d like to make clear that it was used without my permission and I am not a supporter of the Republican ticket.”

Dole’s campaign then went the country music route, asking for permission to use the song “American Boy” by Eddie Rabbitt, a song released in 1990 from Rabbitt’s Jersey Boy album, shown below. The song was quite popular then, reaching No. 11 on country charts, Rabbitt’s first in the Top 40. The song was also especially popular among U.S. servicemen and their families during the 1991 Gulf War. The song, for many Dole supporters, was seen as a much more appropriate “Bob Dole” tune.

I’m an American boy.
Drive me a Chevy, ain’t got no Peugeot.
My older brother was a G.I.-Joe.
Red, white and blue from my head to my toes.
I’m an American boy.

The song also includes, at certain points, words and speech excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr., Neil Armstrong and John F. Kennedy. In October 1996, Dole’s campaign asked Rabbitt for permission to use the song at their political rallies, with Dole reportedly saying in the request: “I’m really a big fan and I really enjoy your music and I really like your song.” Rabbitt gave Dole’s campaign permission to use the song, personally responding, “with my pleasure, you can use my song.” For a time, the Dole campaign was also using the theme from Rocky, the 1976 Sylvester Stallone film.

Bob Dole photo, 1990s.

In January, 1997 at a White House ceremony, Dole was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award made to persons deemed to have made especially meritorious contributions to the nation. Dole also served as the National Chairman of the World War II Memorial Campaign for the monument that was constructed in Washington, D.C. Back in his home state of Kansas, meanwhile, The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics was opened at the University of Kansas in July 2003. The $11 million, 28,000-square-foot facility houses Dole’s papers and hosts frequent political events and seminars. Dole’s 1996 opponent, Bill Clinton, gave one of the first “Bob Dole Lectures” there in 2004.

Sam Moore on 'The Tavis Smiley Show,' Sept 2007.

However, in one interesting turn of events in the 2008 presidential election, Sam Moore once again became involved with political campaign music. In 2008, Moore sent a cease and desist letter to Barack Obama’s campaign to stop the using the Sam & Dave song “Hold On I’m Coming” at political rallies. Yet, apparently there were no hard feelings here, as in January 2009, Moore performed with Sting and Elvis Costello at one of Barack Obama’s inaugural balls.

Additional stories at this website on music and politics, include, for example: “I Won’t Back Down,1989-2008″ (on the use of Tom Petty’s song by Republicans and Democrats and other venues) “Baracuda Politics, 2008″ (on Sarah Palin and RNC’s use of the song “Baracuda” by rock group, Heart includes RNC video) and, “Reagan & Springsteen, 1984” (about President Ronald Reagan’s campaign trail remarks mentioning Bruce Springsteen and some of his music also includes a related George Will Washington Post column). Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 3 December 2009
Last Update: 5 August 2019
Comments to: [email protected]

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “I’m A Dole Man, 1996”, December 3, 2009.

Sources, Links & Additional Information

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.

Inside the main hallway of The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.

“Sam and Dave,”in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, p. 856.

Jon Pareles, “The Dance Within the Hit Parade,” New York Times, Saturday, August 31, 1996, p. 9.

Rob Bowman, Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records, New York: Schirmer Trade, 1997.

Charles Memminger, “Some Looney Tunes for The Dole Man,” Honolulu Lite, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Friday, September 13, 1996.

Jan Uebelherr, “Striking the Wrong Chord Dole’s Deeds Irk The Boss, Bozo,” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 10, 1996.

“Dole Finally Finds an Agreeable Tune- smith,”Albany Times Union (NY), October 13, 1996.

“Dole Finds a Friend,” St. Petersburg Times, (FL) October 13, 1996.

Shana Alexander, ” ‘Call Me Al’? ‘I’m a Dole Man’?,” New York Times, November 3, 1996.

“American Boy”(Eddie Rabbitt song), Wiki-, November 2009.

Sarah Wheaton, “Accompaniments Theme Songs and Others,” New York Times, February 16, 2008.

Nicole Colson,”Sing a Song of Hypocrisy Do the Political Candidates Pick the Songs That Fit Them?,”, March 28, 2008, Issue 667.

“The GOP in San Diego, August 12-15, 1996,” Online NewsHour: Convention 󈨤, PBS.

Roger L. Sadler, Electronic Media Law, Sage, 2005, p. 296.

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics,, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.

One version of the “I’m a Dole Man” song had been posted earlier online at

Karen De Witt, “The 1992 Campaign: Media MTV Puts the Campaign on Fast Forward,” New York Times, Saturday, February 8, 1992.