December 5, 2021

1996 Election | Bill Clinton vs. Dole

1996 Election | Bill Clinton vs. Dole

A failed bid for healthcare reform, a backlash toward a perceived pro-gay agenda, and a loss by the Democrats of the House and Senate just two years prior, weighed heavily on the incumbent president, Bill Clinton. Not to mention, 50 years had passed since the last time a Democrat had won reelection after serving a full term.  

In order to regain control of the presidency the Republicans turned to Senator Robert Dole, a veteran from World War II and a two-time Purple Heart recipient. While 15 years prior, the country looked fondly on Ronald Reagan despite his advancing years, Robert Dole’s age became a significant liability. At 73 he had a difficult time resonating with younger voters, and seemed out of touch with the younger generations. Accidentally referring to the Los Angeles Dodgers as the Brooklyn Dodgers didn’t help matters. In the end, his quest to supplant President Clinton proved futile. Throughout the entire year the Kansas Senator never led in the polls, and was often trailing by as many as 15 percentage points. When the day of the election finally came Bill Clinton defeated his challenger, though the voter turnout was the lowest since 1924 at only 49%.