Election of 1996: Ross Perot Made It Interesting

In the election of 1996, the Democrats were aided by a good economy and stable international affairs, as well as the momentum of an incumbency in the White House. Republican tried to provide a solid reason for the electorate to change the decision it made in 1992, but were unsuccessful. H. Ross Perot ran again, this time with the support of the Reform Party, but gathered less than half the support he did in 1992.

Senator Robert Dole of Kansas had the mantle of leadership for the Republican Party as their leader in the United States Senate. He parlayed this into a strong early performance in the primaries. Once again, Pat Buchanan ran as a conservative alternative to mainstream Republicanism, and his campaign required Dole to focus on primary problems at a time when Clinton could raise money with the sole purpose of a strong general election campaign.

At the 1996 Republican national convention in San Diego, held from August 12 to August 15, the delegates gave the nomination for president to Bob Dole, who picked as his running mate Jack Kemp, a former congressman from Buffalo, New York. Kemp was highly regarded in conservative circles for his views on taxes, and the Dole-Kemp campaign proposed a sharp cut in federal tax rates.

There was no significant opposition to the renomination of President Clinton and Vice-President Gore by the 1996 Democratic convention delegates, who met in Chicago between August 26 and August 29. The successful convention managed to erase many of the bad memories from the violent 1968 convention in the same city.

During the campaign, the Democrats used several tactics against the Republican ticket. One was to associate it with the unpopular Newt Ginrich. Another was to blast the proposed tax cuts at a time when progress was being made to cut the deficits. Finally, there was the subtle suggestion that Dole was too old. Dole did not help himself when he fell onstage at a campaign event, and inadvertently referred to the "Brooklyn Dodgers," who had moved to Los Angeles three decades earlier.

Ross Perot this time had the support of an official party, but his message was not as well received as in the election of 1992. His Reform Party nominated him for president, but the second place finisher accused his supporters of blocking people from voting for him and some disaffected delegates split off to form yet another reform party. Excluded from the presidential debates in 1992, Ross Perot gathered less than half his 1992 popular vote percentage and was not a factor in any subsequent campaigns.

Ralph Nader was the candidate of the Green parties in several states and gathered less than 1% of the vote. His candidacy had no significant impact, in stark contrast with the situation in the election of 2000.

On election day, November 5, 1996, Clinton and Gore won both the popular and electoral college contests by wide margin. The electoral college results were not greatly different from 1992. Once again, Perot's votes took enough away from Clinton that he was denied a popular majority, gaining a fraction more than 49% of the popular vote.

On the Congressional level, Democrats were not able to take over control of either house. They picked up 9 seats in the House, and had a tiny majority of the popular vote, but actually lost two more seats in the Senate, where they wound up behind the Republicans by 55 to 45.

Election of 1996
Candidates
Party Electoral
Vote
Popular
Vote
Bill Clinton (AR)
Al Gore (TN)
Democratic 379 47,401,898
Bob Dole (KS)
Jack Kemp (NY)
Republican 159 39,198,482
H. Ross Perot (TX)
Pat Choate (DC)
Reform ... 8,085,373


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