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Election Debate with President Clinton and Robert Dole in Hartford, Connecticut (1996)

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Published on May 7, 2012


October 6, 1996

The United States presidential election of 1996 was a contest between the Democratic national ticket of President Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee and the Republican national ticket of former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas for President and former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp of New York for Vice President. Businessman Ross Perot ran as candidate for the Reform Party with economist Pat Choate as his running mate; he received less media attention and was excluded from the presidential debates and, while still obtaining substantial results for a third-party candidate, by U.S. standards, did not renew his success of the 1992 election. Clinton benefited from an economy which recovered from the early 1990s recession and a relatively stable world stage. On November 5, 1996, President Clinton went on to win re-election with a substantial margin in the popular vote and electoral college.

In 1995, the Republican Party was riding high on the gains made in the 1994 congressional elections. In those elections, the Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, captured the majority of seats in the United States House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years and the majority of seats in the U.S. Senate for the first time in eight years.

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.

Clinton easily won primaries nationwide, with margins consistently higher than 80%. Bill Clinton (inc.) - 9,706,802 (88.98%) Lyndon LaRouche - 596,422 (5.47%) Unpledged - 411,270 (3.77%)

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 U.S. Army General Colin L. 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.

Ahead of the 1996 primary contest, Senate majority leader and former vice-presidential nominee 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 Caucus 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, 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 as the GOP's nominee for President.

Popular primaries vote Bob Dole - 9,024,742 (58.82%) Pat Buchanan - 3,184,943 (20.76%) Steve Forbes - 1,751,187 (11.41%) Lamar Alexander - 495,590 (3.23%) Alan Keyes - 471,716 (3.08%) Richard Lugar - 127,111 (0.83%) Unpledged - 123,278 (0.80%) Phil Gramm - 71,456 (0.47%) Bob Dornan - 42,140 (0.28%) Morry Taylor - 21,180 (0.14%)

Convention tally: Bob Dole 1928 Pat Buchanan 47 Steve Forbes 2 Alan Keyes 1 Robert Bork 1


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