1996–Anti-Dole Ad–Amina Haleem
Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton won a decisive victory in the 1996 general election against formidable Republican opponent Bob Dole. He was the first Democrat to win a reelection to the Presidency since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. Clinton won 49.2% of the popular vote, while Dole won only 40.7%. The Reform Party candidate, Ross Perot, won a significant 8.4% of the popular vote (but no electoral votes) which most likely caused Clinton’s votes not to reach over 50%. Perot was always excluded from any presidential debate even though he was allowed to participate in the 1992 debates (gaining him a little over 18% of the popular vote- significant for a third party candidate) which led him to bring his complaints to the courts.
Before Dole was chosen as the official presidential candidate, the Republican Party courted a number of other prominent Republican Party members such as Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, although none of them chose to run for the nomination. Dole was nevertheless praised for his wholesome beliefs and commitment to family morals. He served in the United States Army where he suffered from temporary paralysis due to injuries sustained in battle, demonstrating his American heroism and courage. However, Dole’s age was consistently used against him due to the stark contrast in age difference between him (73) and Clinton (50). Clinton was also considered much better looking, however if Dole had one the election, Andrew Johnson would still hold the record for the only impeached president).
Due to the lack of opposition in the primaries, Clinton had more time to campaign and raise funds leading up to the general election. The Republican Party was still scrambling to find an appropriate candidate. With the support of his Party, Clinton was able to focus on reaching his constituents and gathering all his accomplishments over his first term as president to make him the strongest candidate. (Remember: Ross Perot was also running a campaign, albeit he received little to no media attention). Clinton also had one of the longest records of reigning peace in the United States in regards to international diplomacy, which only helped his case. Clinton had the highest approval rating of any president since Franklin Roosevelt in World War II. Something interesting to note is that the Clinton Administration is responsible for the first White House website in 1994, which vastly increased the communication ability between the President and his constituents. His support of information technology was his way of bridging the digital divide between American generations and classes. He proposed broader access to technology and also used it to aid his ’96 campaign.
Clinton was a very likable and charismatic speaker who was able to convey his message and plan of action throughout his campaign quite clearly. The Democratic use of negative campaigning and television advertisements against Dole helped point out the glaring differences between his and Dole’s policies as well as their demeanor. Dole was seen as an “angry” speaker with sarcastic humor and at times unnecessarily mean as compared to Clintons straightforward and relaxed nature. Clinton associated Dole with the Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to create an undesirable team of Republicans who worked against Medicare and Social Security. On the other side of the debate, Dole also chose to attack Clinton’s administration on ethical grounds on cynicism between parties and White House scandals regarding the fiscal budget.
In a thirty second Clinton ad entitled “Wrong for Our Future,” Clinton and the Democratic Party cover Dole’s past thirty years in politics and the policy choices he made during that time. His extremely conservative politics were used by Clinton to convey to the American people that Dole was not the right candidate to lead the U.S. into a progressive society. He also never seemed to connect with the voters. As a Congressman, Dole voted against things like Medicare, the creation of student loans and higher minimum wage. The advertisement even makes a reference to the relationship between Dole and Newt Gingrich who wanted to cut the Medicare budget by over two million dollars. The tagline of the ad is “Bob Dole: Wrong in the Past, Wrong for Our Future”. Again, this is where Dole’s age comes into play, and Clinton’s liberal social policies coupled with his ability for articulation and incumbency made him the more likely candidate for 1996.