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The United States presidential election of 1996 was a contest between the Democratic national ticket of President Bill Clinton of Arkansasmarker and Vice President Al Gore of Tennesseemarker and the Republican national ticket of former Senator Bob Dole of Kansasmarker for President and former Cabinet Secretary Jack Kemp of New Yorkmarker 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 in 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 United States 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 forty years and the majority of seats in the U.S. Senate for the first time in eight years.


Democratic Party nomination

Democratic candidates

Candidates gallery

Image:Bill Clinton.jpg|President Bill Clinton of Arkansasmarker

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 that were barred from the convention. Former Pennsylvaniamarker 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%.

Republican Party nomination

Republican Candidates

Candidates gallery

Image:Bob Dole, PCCWW photo portrait.JPG|Senator Bob Dole of KansasmarkerImage:Patrickjbuchanan.JPG|Conservative Columnist Pat Buchanan of VirginiamarkerImage:Steve_Forbes.jpg‎ |Newspaper and magazine publisher Steve Forbes of New YorkmarkerImage:Lamar Alexander official portrait.jpg|Former Governor Lamar Alexander of TennesseemarkerImage:Alan Keyes.jpg|Former U.S. ECOSOC Ambassador Alan Keyes of MarylandmarkerImage:Dick Lugar offical photo.jpg|Senator Richard Lugar of IndianamarkerImage:PhilGramm.jpg|Senator Phil Gramm of TexasmarkerImage:DornanBob.jpg|Representative Bob Dornan of Californiamarker

Image:Arlen Specter official portrait.jpg|Senator Arlen Specter of PennsylvaniamarkerImage:Pete Wilson meeting with Les Aspin, Feb 3, 1993 - cropped to Wilson.JPEG|Governor Pete Wilson of CaliforniamarkerImage:Harold E. Stassen.jpg|Former Governor Harold E. Stassen of Minnesotamarker

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.

Primaries and convention

Going into the 1996 primary contest, Senate majority leader and former vice-presidential nominee Bob Dole was seen as the most likely winner. However, in the primaries and caucuses, social conservative Pat Buchanan received early victories in Alaskamarker, Louisianamarker and New Hampshiremarker, and Steve Forbes in Delawaremarker and Arizonamarker which put Dole's leadership in doubt. However, Dole won every primary starting with Northmarker and South Dakotamarker, which gave him a lock on the party nomination. Dole resigned his Senate seat on June 11. The Republican National Convention formally nominated Dole on August 15, 1996 as the GOP candidate for the fall election.

Popular primaries vote

Convention tally:

Former Congressman and Cabinet secretary Jack Kemp was nominated by acclamation as Dole's running mate the following day.

Other politicians mentioned as possible GOP V.P. nominees before Kemp was selected included:

Notable endorsements

Bob Dole

Pat Buchanan

Steve Forbes

Lamar Alexander

W. Phillip Gramm

Pete Wilson

Reform Party nomination

2 Reform candidates entered the field to challenge the incumbent Democratic President, Bill Clinton. They were:

The United States Reform Party nominated party founder Ross Perot of Texasmarker 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 his opponent, former Governor Richard Lamm of Coloradomarker, 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. Economist Pat Choate was nominated for Vice President.

Other nominations

The United States Green Party - Ralph Nader of Connecticutmarker was draft 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). Mr. Nader vowed to spend only $5,000 in his election campaign (to avoid having to file a financial statement with the FEC).

The Socialist Party USA nominated Mary Cal Hollis of Colorado and Eric Chester of Massachusettsmarker.

The Libertarian Party nominated free-market writer and investment analyst, Harry Browne of Tennessee, and selected Jo Jorgensen of South Carolinamarker as his running-mate.

The U.S. Taxpayers Party, now known as the Constitution Party, nominated former aide to President Ronald Reagan and Chairman of the American Conservative Union Howard Phillips for President.

General election


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. 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 four decades earlier. A few days later Dole would make a joke about the remark 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.)

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". 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.

Throughout the run-up to the general election, Clinton maintained comfortable leads in the polls over Dole and Perot. 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.

Campaign donations controversy

In late September 1995, questions arose regarding the Democratic National Committee's fund-raising practices. In February the following year, the People's Republic of Chinamarker's alleged role in the campaign finance controversy first gained public attention after the Washington Post published a story stating that a U.S.marker Department of Justicemarker 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.marker was used for coordinating contributions to the DNC 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 Templemarker in Hacienda Heights, Californiamarker. 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. 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.


[[Image:1996prescountymap.PNG|thumb|right|400px|Election results by county.
In the end, President Clinton won a decisive victory over Dole, becoming the first Democrat to win presidential reelection since Franklin Roosevelt. In the popular vote, he outpolled Dole by over 8.2 million votes, even though like in 1992 he did not receive a majority in the popular vote. 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 in 1992), while Clinton became the first Democrat to win the state of Arizona since Harry Truman in 1948. In the South, Clinton took Florida from the Republicans in exchange for the less electoral-vote-rich Georgia. The election helped to cement Democratic Presidential prospects in states including California, Vermont, Maine, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Delaware, and Connecticut; all went on to vote Democratic in subsequent Presidential elections, having voted Republican in the three prior to 1992. Those states also voted for Richard Nixon in the 1972 landslide. 1996 marked the first time since the 1944 Presidential contest that New Hampshire voted for a Democrat in two successive elections.

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, Reform Party nominee Ross Perot's supporters drew from Clinton and Dole equally. In polls directed at Perot voters as to who would be a second choice, Clinton consistently held substantial leads.

Although he hailed from Arkansas, Clinton carried just four of the eleven states of the American South, tying his 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 election, the Democrats would fail to carry even one of the Southern 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 1960. However, in 2008, the Democrats were able to win three Southern States, but that was still worse than Clinton's performances in both 1992 and 1996. This was the last election in which a 3rd party candidate carried over 3% of the national popular vote. 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 8.5 percentage popular vote margin since 1940 (except 1964), and no Democratic Presidential candidate has surpassed his electoral vote margin since 1944 (except 1964).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.

This was the last time the following states voted Democratic: Arizonamarker, Arkansasmarker, Tennesseemarker, Louisianamarker, Kentuckymarker, West Virginiamarker and Missourimarker as of the 2008 election.

Official Source (Popular Vote): 1996 Official Presidential General Election Results

Source (popular and electoral vote): Federal Elections Commission Electoral and Popular Vote SummaryunofficialSecondary Source (Popular Vote):

Voting age population: 196,498,000

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

(a) In New Yorkmarker, the Clinton vote was a fusion of the Democratic and Liberal slates. There, Clinton obtained 3,649,630 votes on the Democratic ticket and 106,547 votes on the Liberal ticket.

(b) In New Yorkmarker, the Dole vote was a fusion of the Republican, Conservative, and Freedom slates. There, Dole obtained 1,738,707 votes on the Republican ticket, 183,392 votes on the Conservative ticket, and 11,393 votes on the Freedom ticket.

(c) In South Carolinamarker, the Perot vote was a fusion of the Reform and Patriot slates. There, Perot obtained 27,464 votes on the Reform ticket and 36,913 votes on the Patriot ticket.

(d) On the Californiamarker, Indianamarker, Iowamarker, Kansasmarker, Louisianamarker, Mainemarker, Marylandmarker, Missourimarker, Montanamarker, Oregonmarker, South Dakotamarker, Tennesseemarker, and Texasmarker election ballots, James Campbell of California, Perot's former boss at IBM, was listed as a stand-in Vice-Presidential candidate until Perot decided on Pat Choate as his choice for Vice President.

(e) The Green Party vice presidential candidate varied from state to state, giving Nader a total of four running mates. Winona LaDuke was his vice presidential candidate in nineteen of the twenty-two states where he appeared on the ballot. Anne Goeke was Nader's running mate in Iowa and Pennsylvania. Madelyn Hoffman was Nader's running mate in New Jersey. And Muriel Tillinghast was the running mate in New York.


Close states

States where margin of victory 5%
  1. Kentucky, 0.96%
  2. Nevada, 1.02%
  3. Georgia, 1.17%
  4. Colorado, 1.37%
  5. Virginia, 1.96%
  6. Arizona, 2.22%
  7. Tennessee, 2.41%
  8. Montana, 2.88%
  9. South Dakota, 3.46%
  10. North Carolina, 4.69%
  11. Texas, 4.93%

Source: David Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections- County Data

Voter demographics

The Presidential vote in social groups (percentages)
Social group Clinton Dole Perot % of
total vote
Total vote 49 41 8 100
Party and ideology
Liberal Republicans 44 48 9 2
Moderate Republicans 20 72 7 13
Conservative Republicans 6 88 5 21
Liberal independent 58 15 18 4
Moderate independents 50 30 17 15
Conservative independents 19 60 19 7
Liberal Democrats 89 5 4 13
Moderate Democrats 84 10 5 20
Conservative Democrats 69 23 7 6
Gender and marital status
Married men 40 48 10 33
Married women 63 28 7 33
Unmarried men 49 35 12 15
Unmarried women 62 28 7 20
White 43 46 9 83
Black 84 12 4 10
Hispanic 72 21 6 5
Asian 43 48 8 1
White Protestant 36 53 10 46
Catholic 53 37 9 29
Jewish 78 16 3 3
Born again/religious right 26 65 8 17
18–29 years old 53 34 10 17
30–44 years old 48 41 9 33
45–59 years old 48 41 9 26
60 and older 48 44 7 24
Not a high school graduate 59 28 11 6
High school graduate 51 35 13 24
Some college education 48 40 10 27
College graduate 44 46 8 26
Postgraduate education 52 40 5 17
Family income
Under $15,000 59 28 11 11
$15,000–$29,999 53 36 9 23
$30,000–$49,999 48 40 10 27
Over $50,000 44 48 7 39
Over $75,000 41 51 7 18
Over $100,000 38 54 6 9
Eastmarker 55 34 9 23
Midwest 48 41 10 26
South 46 46 7 30
West 48 40 8 20
Community size
Population over 500,000 68 25 6 10
Population 50,000 to 500,000 50 39 8 21
Suburbs 47 42 8 39
Rural areas, towns 45 44 10 30
Source: Voter News Service exit poll, reported in The New York Times, November 10, 1996, 28.

Polling controversy

Some post-election debate focused on the alleged flaws in the pre-election polls, almost all of which overstated Clinton's lead over Dole, some by a substantial margin. For example, a CBS/New York Times poll overstated Clinton's lead by 10 points despite having an error margin of 2.4%. The odds against this sort of error occurring were 15,000:1. A less extreme example was a Pew poll which overstated Clinton's lead by 5 points, the chances of this happening were 10:1 against. Gerald Wasserman, having examined eight pre-election polls, argued that pure chance would produce such a skewed result in favor of Clinton only once in 4,900 elections. Some Republicans believe that the large leads Clinton enjoyed throughout the campaign caused many conservatives to write off the Dole candidacy as a lost cause.

See also


  1. [1]
  3. Our Campaigns - AZ US President - R Primary Race - Feb 27, 1996
  4. Our Campaigns - DE US President - R Primary Race - Feb 24, 1996
  5. Our Campaigns - Candidate - George Corley Wallace
  6. Our Campaigns - LA US President - R Primary Race - Mar 12, 1996
  7. Clinton And Dole, Face To Face, Spar Over Medicare And Taxes - New York Times
  9. Woodward, Bob and Duffy, Brian, "Chinese Embassy Role In Contributions Probed", Washington Post, February 13, 1997
  10. Eskenazi, Michael, "For both Gore and GOP, a guilty verdict to watch",, March 3, 2000
  11. Abse, Nathan, "A Look at the 94 Who Aren't Talking", Washington Post, June 9, 1998
  12. THE 1992 ELECTIONS: DISAPPOINTMENT - NEWS ANALYSIS An Eccentric but No Joke; Perot's Strong Showing Raises Questions On What Might Have Been, and Might Be - New York Times
  13. Presidential Election Exit Poll
  14. 1996 Election Tracking Polls
  15. Polls
  16. Were The Polls Right?

Further reading



Web references

External links

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