DATE OF EVENT: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 1996
DATE PUBLISHED: Thursday, Aug. 15, 1996, in The Kansas City Star
Editor’s note: When Bob Dole was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate in 1996, it was the last of his several attempts to reach the White House: first as Ford’s vice presidential nominee in 1976 and, in 1980 and 1988, as a contender in presidential primaries. The former Senate majority leader lost in the November general election to President Bill Clinton, with 40.7 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 49.2 percent.
SAN DIEGO — Seizing a political brass ring that eluded him twice before, Bob Dole was nominated as the Republican candidate for U.S. president Wednesday, capping a political career that took root in Kansas 46 years ago.
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In traditional fashion, Dole’s home state put him over the top during the roll call of states.
But first, delegates to the Republican National Convention got a rare glimpse into Dole’s life on a night designed to showcase the laconic Kansan, with his small-town upbringing and war-hero past, for a national television audience.
The evening’s events set the stage for Dole’s acceptance speech tonight — an address that Dole advisers believe could put the campaign within striking distance of Clinton as they go into the fall political season.
After devoting its first day to a theme of unity, and its second to attacks on the Clinton administration, convention organizers felt a need to shine the spotlight on Dole’s life story — as a father, husband, war hero and lawmaker.
Dole, known to the nation as the consummate legislator, is hardly as emotive as President Clinton, and his nearly taciturn ways have made him come across as dour and grim.
Looking to soften the image, Dole’s 41-year-old daughter, Robin, described the 35-year congressional veteran in terms that few Americans are likely to associate with Dole.
“When I close my eyes and call up the memories of my childhood, I feel the rock of my dad’s love, his steadiness and the absolute certainty that he would always be there,” she said. …
The evening began with a reprise of the partisan speeches that characterized Tuesday’s convention session. Former South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell, whom Dole had considered as a potential running mate, chided Clinton for breaking his economic promises. “He promised a balanced budget, but he vetoed the bill that would have accomplished it,” Campbell said. “And still the people demand: Cut the taxes and control the spending.
“Bill Clinton’s policies are destroying the American dream.” …
But the prime time portion of the evening — that which guaranteed the highest viewership — was devoted to Dole and Dole alone. …
Sen. Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas, who served with Dole in the Senate since 1978, acknowledged that she and the senior senator from Kansas sometimes disagreed. But she said Dole “believes honest people can disagree.”
“Bob Dole is a person who makes things happen,” she said. “He doesn’t just talk about what should be done. He puts in the long hours, the hard work and the energy necessary to produce real change. For Bob, actions speak louder than words. That’s the way Kansans are.”
Based on data culled from polls and surveys, Dole aides are convinced the public isn’t aware of Dole’s personal history — his small-town Kansas childhood, his World War II service, the wound that left him with a useless right arm and the perseverance that drove him to become the longest serving Republican majority leader in the U.S. Senate.