United States presidential election, 1996
|Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Dole/Kemp, Blue denotes those won by Clinton/Gore.|
The United States presidential election of 1996 was the 53rd quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 5, 1996. The contest was between the Democratic national ticket of President Bill Clinton from Arkansas and Vice President Al Gore from Tennessee and the Republican national ticket of former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas for President and former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp from New York 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 of the 1992 election. President Clinton benefited from an economy which recovered from the early 1990s recession and a relatively stable world stage. He went on to win re-election with a substantial margin in the popular vote and electoral college.
In 1995, the Republican Party was riding high on the significant gains made in the 1994 mid-term elections. In those races, the Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, captured the majority of seats in the House for the first time in forty years and the majority of seats in the Senate for the first time in eight years. Gingrich became Speaker of the House, while Bob Dole served as Senate Majority leader.
The Republicans of the 104th Congress pursued an ambitious agenda, highlighted by their Contract with America, but were often forced to compromise with President Clinton, who wielded veto power. A budget impasse between Congress and the Clinton Administration resulted in the Federal government shutdown of 1995 and 1996. Clinton, meanwhile, was praised for signing the GOP's welfare reform and other notable bills, but was forced to abandon his own health care plan.
Democratic Party nomination 
- Bill Clinton, President of the United States from Arkansas
- Lyndon LaRouche, Activist from Virginia
- James D. Griffin, Mayor of Buffalo, New York
Candidates gallery 
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 who were barred from the convention. Jimmy Griffin, former Mayor of Buffalo, New York, mounted a brief campaign but withdrew after a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary. Former Pennsylvania 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%.
- Bill Clinton (inc.) – 9,706,802 (88.98%)
- Lyndon LaRouche – 596,422 (5.47%)
- Unpledged – 411,270 (3.77%)
Republican Party nomination 
- Bob Dole, U.S. Senator from Kansas
- Pat Buchanan, conservative columnist from Virginia
- Steve Forbes, newspaper and magazine publisher from New York
- Lamar Alexander, former Governor of Tennessee
- Phil Gramm, U.S. Senator from Texas
- Alan Keyes, former U.S. ECOSOC Ambassador from Maryland
- Richard Lugar, U.S. Senator from Indiana
- Bob Dornan, U.S. Representative from California
- Arlen Specter, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania
- Pete Wilson, Governor of California
- Morry Taylor, CEO from Michigan
Candidates gallery 
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 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 
Ahead of the 1996 primary contest, Senate majority leader and former vice-presidential nominee Bob Dole was seen as the most likely winner. However, Steve Forbes finished first in Delaware and Arizona while paleoconservative firebrand Pat Buchanan managed early victories in Alaska and Louisiana, in addition to a strong second place in the Iowa caucuses and a surprising victory in the small but key New Hampshire primary. Buchanan's New Hampshire win alarmed the Republican "establishment" sufficiently as to provoke prominent Republicans to quickly coalesce around Dole, and Dole won every primary starting with North and South Dakota. Dole resigned his Senate seat on June 11 and the Republican National Convention formally nominated Dole on August 15, 1996 as the GOP's nominee for President.
Popular primaries vote
- Bob Dole – 9,024,742 (58.82%)
- Pat Buchanan – 3,184,943 (20.76%)
- Steve Forbes – 1,751,187 (11.41%)
- Lamar Alexander – 495,590 (3.23%)
- Alan Keyes – 471,716 (3.08%)
- Richard Lugar – 127,111 (0.83%)
- Unpledged – 123,278 (0.80%)
- Phil Gramm – 71,456 (0.47%)
- Bob Dornan – 42,140 (0.28%)
- Morry Taylor – 21,180 (0.14%)
VP Selection 
Former Congressman and Housing Secretary Jack Kemp was nominated by acclamation as Dole's running mate the following day.
Notable endorsements 
- Former Senator and 1964 Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater of Arizona
- Governor George W. Bush of Texas
- Senator William V. Roth of Delaware
- Senator Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming
- Senator Al D'Amato of New York
- Former Governor Pierre S. du Pont IV of Delaware
- Former Governor George Wallace of Alabama
- Governor Mike Foster of Louisiana
- State Senator Dick Mountjoy of California
- Former U.S. National Security Advisor Richard V. Allen
- Former Governor Evan Mecham of Arizona
- Future Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona
- Former Congressman and HUD Secretary Jack Kemp of New York
- Former Senator Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire
W. Phillip Gramm
- Governor William Weld of Massachusetts
- Perot's 1992 running-mate and retired admiral James Stockdale of Illinois
Reform Party nomination 
Two Reform candidates entered the field to challenge the incumbent Democratic President, Bill Clinton. They were:
- Richard Lamm – former Governor of Colorado
- Ross Perot – party founder, ran in 1992 election from Texas
The United States Reform Party nominated party founder Ross Perot of Texas 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 Colorado, 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 Green Party of the United States – Ralph Nader of Connecticut was drafted 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). Nader vowed to spend only $5,000 in his election campaign (to avoid having to file a financial statement with the FEC).
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.
Throughout this campaign, Clinton was always leading in the polls, generally by large margins.
Campaign donations controversy 
In late September 1995, questions arose regarding the Democratic National Committee's fund-raising practices. In February the following year, China's alleged role in the campaign finance controversy first gained public attention after the Washington Post published a story stating that a U.S. Department of Justice 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. 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 Temple in Hacienda Heights, California. 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.
On election day, 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. 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-a state which he failed to win in 1992– 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 that Vermont 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 elections, 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 third-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 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 and the third time in U.S. history that a candidate was elected President twice without receiving an absolute majority of the popular vote in either election (Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson are the others, although all three won pluralities [i.e. the most votes]).
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote||Electoral
|Count||Pct||Vice-presidential candidate||Home state||Elect. vote|
|William Jefferson Clinton||Democratic(a)||Arkansas||47,401,185||49.24%||379||Albert Arnold Gore, Jr.||Tennessee||379|
|Robert Joseph Dole||Republican(b)||Kansas||39,197,469||40.71%||159||Jack French Kemp||Maryland||159|
|Henry Ross Perot||Reform(c)||Texas||8,085,294||8.40%||0||Patrick Choate(d)||Washington, D.C.||0|
|Ralph Nader||Green||Connecticut||684,871||0.71%||0||Winona LaDuke(e)||California||0|
|Harry Browne||Libertarian||Tennessee||485,759||0.50%||0||Jo Jorgensen||South Carolina||0|
|Howard Phillips||Taxpayers||Virginia||184,656||0.19%||0||Herbert Titus||Oregon||0|
|John Hagelin||Natural Law||Iowa||113,670||0.12%||0||Mike Tompkins||Massachusetts||0|
|Needed to win||270||270|
Official Source (Popular Vote): 1996 Official Presidential General Election Results
Source (popular and electoral vote): Federal Elections Commission Electoral and Popular Vote Summary unofficial Secondary Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. 1996 Presidential Election Results. Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (August 7, 2005).
Voting age population: 196,498,000
Percent of voting age population casting a vote for President: 49.00%
(a) In New York, 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 York, 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 Carolina, 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 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.
(e) The Green Party vice presidential candidate varied from state to state. Winona LaDuke was his vice presidential candidate in eighteen of the twenty-two states where he appeared on the ballot. Anne Goeke was Nader's running mate in Iowa and Vermont. Madelyn Hoffman was his running mate in New Jersey. Muriel Tillinghast was his running mate in New York.
(f) Candidates receiving less than 0.05% of the total popular vote.
Results by state 
|States/districts won by Clinton/Gore|
|States/districts won by Dole/Kemp|
Close states 
States where the margin of victory was under 5% (117 electoral votes):
- Kentucky, 0.96%
- Nevada, 1.02%
- Georgia, 1.17%
- Colorado, 1.37%
- Virginia, 1.96%
- Arizona, 2.22%
- Tennessee, 2.41%
- Montana, 2.88%
- South Dakota, 3.46%
- North Carolina, 4.69%
- Texas, 4.93%
States where the margin of victory was between 5% and 10% (143 electoral votes):
- Mississippi, 5.13%
- Indiana, 5.58%
- Florida, 5.70%
- South Carolina, 6.04%
- Missouri, 6.30%
- Ohio, 6.36%
- North Dakota, 6.81%
- Alabama, 6.96%
- New Mexico, 7.32%
- Oklahoma, 7.81%
- Oregon, 8.09%
- Pennsylvania, 9.20%
- New Hampshire, 9.95%
Voter demographics 
|The Presidential vote in social groups (percentages)|
|Social group||Clinton||Dole||Perot|| % of
|Party and ideology|
|Gender and marital status|
|White Religious Right?|
|White 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|
|First time voter?|
|First time voter||54||34||11||9|
|Gay, lesbian, or bisexual||66||23||7||5|
|Not a high school graduate||59||28||11||6|
|High school graduate||51||35||13||24|
|Some college education||48||40||10||27|
|Population over 500,000||68||25||6||10|
|Population 50,000 to 500,000||50||39||8||21|
|Rural areas, towns||45||44||10||30|
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. However, because Clinton won the election by a comfortable margin, there was no major reaction towards the inaccuracy of the polls. The polls were also less inaccurate than the overwhelming majority of those taken in 1948, which predicted that losing candidate Thomas Dewey would beat President Harry Truman by a comfortable margin, and in 1980, which predicted that Reagan would win without a landslide victory.
- "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved 2012-10-21.
- "Election Dates". Uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "Anyone left? The search for a Clinton challenger in 1996.". The Progressive. TheFreeLibrary.com. May 1, 1995. Retrieved December 6, 2010.
- Newton-Small, Jay (November 24, 2009). "Can a Pro-Life Dem Bridge the Health-Care Divide?". Time. Retrieved December 6, 2010.
- "US President – D Primaries Race – Feb 01, 1996". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- Julie Hirschfeld Davis (26 January 2012), "'Stop-Newt' Republicans Confront New Base" Bloomberg News
- "US President – R Primaries Race – July 7, 1996". Our Campaigns.com. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
- "AZ US President – R Primary Race – Feb 27, 1996". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "DE US President – R Primary Race – Feb 24, 1996". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "Candidate – George Corley Wallace". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "LA US President – R Primary Race – Mar 12, 1996". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "Dole wins both Dakotas, but is lagging in Arizona." Toledo Blade. February 28, 1996. Accessed December 2, 2009. Final paragraph: Mr. Mecham is supporting Buchanan "all the way," and he still has an effective organization in the state.
- Berke, Richard L. (October 7, 1996). "Clinton And Dole, Face To Face, Spar Over Medicare And Taxes". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
- "09/02/96 MEDICARE, TAXES, AND BOB DOLE: A TALK WITH THE PRESIDENT". Businessweek.com. 1997-06-14. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- Woodward, Bob and Duffy, Brian, "Chinese Embassy Role In Contributions Probed", Washington Post, February 13, 1997
- Eskenazi, Michael, "For both Gore and GOP, a guilty verdict to watch", CNN.com, March 3, 2000
- Abse, Nathan, "A Look at the 94 Who Aren't Talking", Washington Post, June 9, 1998
- Holmes, Steven A. (November 5, 1992). "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". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
- Presidential Election Exit Poll http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1996/elections/natl.exit.poll/index1.html
- 1996 Election Tracking Polls http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1996/polls/cnn.usa.gallup/tracking/
- "'96 Presidential and Congressional Election Statistics". Official website of the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Archived from the original on January 26, 2006. Retrieved February 17, 2006.
- "November 12, 1996" (PDF). Minutes of the Meetings of the Board of Supervisors. Cerro Gordo County. 1996. Retrieved March 30, 2006.
- Fernandez, Sonia (2000-02-22). "Nader '55 to run for president". The Daily Princetonian (Daily Princetonian Publishing Company, Inc). Retrieved 2006-03-30.
- "Electors of President and Vice President". Cattaraugus County: Board of Elections: 1996 Election Results. Cattaraugus County, New York State. Retrieved March 30, 2006.
- "1996 Presidential Exit Polls Results". CNN.
- "Polls". .psych.purdue.edu. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- "Were The Polls Right?". .psych.purdue.edu. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
- Mitofsky, W. J. (1998). "Review: Was 1996 a Worse Year for Polls Than 1948?". The Public Opinion Quarterly 62 (2): 230–249. doi:10.1086/297842.
Further reading 
- Laurence W. Moreland and Robert P. Steed, eds., ed. (1997). The 1996 Presidential Election in the South: Southern Party Systems in the 1990s. ISBN 0-275-95951-1.
- Ceaser, James W.; Andrew E. Busch (1997). Losing to Win: The 1996 Elections and American Politics. ISBN 0-8476-8405-9.
- Clinton, Bill (2005). My Life. Vintage. ISBN 1-4000-3003-X.
- Green, John C. (1999). Financing the 1996 Election. ISBN 0-585-26014-1.
- Pomper, Gerald M.; et al. (1997). The Election of 1996: Reports and Interpretations. ISBN 0-585-22457-9.
- Jelen, Ted G.; Marthe Chandler (2000). "Culture Wars in the Trenches: Social Issues as Short-Term Forces in Presidential Elections, 1968–1996". The American Review of Politics 21: 69–87.
Web references 
- "Libertarian Party Historical Overview". Retrieved January 25, 2006.
- "Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail '96". Retrieved December 21, 2011.
- The Election Wall's 1996 Election Video Page
- 1996 popular vote by counties
- 1996 popular vote by states
- 1996 popular vote by states (with bar graphs)
- CNN: 1996 Presidential Campaign Ads
- Popular vote data from the Federal Election Commission
- How close was the 1996 election? — Michael Sheppard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Clinton-Gore 1996 website screen shots
- Dole-Kemp 1996 website