U.S. presidential election, 1996

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Presidential electoral votes by state.

The U.S. presidential election of 1996 was a contest between incumbent President Bill Clinton and Senator Bob Dole of Kansas. Clinton benefitted from a booming economy and a lack of credible foreign threats, and won the election handily over Dole, who was thought to have run a lackluster campaign.



This election took place on November 5, 1996.

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 both the United States House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for the first time in forty years.


Republican Party nomination

A number of Republican candidates entered the field to challenge the seemingly weak incumbent William J. Clinton. The list included:

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 Gen. 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.

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 Louisiana and New Hampshire which put Dole's leadership in doubt. However, Dole won a string of victories, starting in South Carolina, which cemented his lead over his rivals. With the party nomination a lock, 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. Former Congressman and Cabinet secretary Jack Kemp was nominated as Dole's running mate.

Democratic Party nomination

The United States Democratic Party nomination process was very uneventful. Incumbent president Bill Clinton was nominated with only token opposition from other Democrats.

Other nominations

The United States Green Party nominated Ralph Nader as its presidential candidate. Nader accepted the nomination, but vowed to spend only $5,000 in his election campaign.

The United States Reform Party nominated party founder Ross Perot in its first election as an official political party. Perot had run for President in 1992 as an independent.

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. 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.

Throughout the runup 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.

In the end, Clinton won with a clear lead over Dole and Perot won less than half as many votes as he had in 1992, although Clinton was narrowly denied the absolute majority of votes he had hoped for.

Although he hailed from Arkansas, Clinton carried just four of the eleven states of the American South, the worst performance ever by a winning Democratic presidential candidate in the region. In 1992, Clinton had managed to carry five Southern states. 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 Southern states, leading to their defeat both times. This completed the Republican takeover of the American South, a region in which Democrats had held a near monopoly for a century after Reconstruction.


Template:Start U.S. presidential ticket box Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box other Template:End U.S. presidential ticket box (a) On the California, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas 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.

Voting Age Population: 196,498,000

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

Sources: U.S. Office of the Federal Register (electoral vote) (http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/electoral_college/scores.html#1996), Federal Election Commission (popular vote) (http://www.fec.gov/pubrec/fe1996/summ.htm)

Close states

  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%
  12. Mississippi, 5.13%
  13. Indiana, 5.58%
  14. Florida, 5.70%
  15. South Carolina, 6.04%
  16. Missouri, 6.30%
  17. Ohio, 6.36%
  18. North Dakota, 6.81%
  19. Alabama, 6.97%
  20. New Mexico, 7.33%
  21. Oklahoma, 7.81%
  22. Oregon, 8.09%
  23. Pennsylvania, 9.20%
  24. New Hampshire, 9.95%

See also



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