The 1996 U.S. presidential election was the 53rd quadrennial presidential election. The election took place on November 5, 1996, and was a contest between Democrat President Bill Clinton, who was running for re-election, and Republican Senator Bob Dole of Kansas.
President Clinton had won his first election in 1992 against incumbent President George Bush. In this election, Clinton had only won 43% of the popular vote due to independent businessman Ross Perot of Texas receiving over 19.7 million popular votes. Clinton faced very little serious opposition and was renominated by the Democrats with current Vice President Al Gore as his running mate. This is despite several missteps in his first presidential term, including the Democrats losing their majority in the House of Representatives for the first time since the 1950s two years into Clinton’s presidency. Bob Dole faced a strong challenge against other Republican nominees, including businessman Steve Forbes, a former diplomat and conservative commentator Alan Keyes, and former Tennessee Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. Dole picked up almost every victory during the primary season and captured the Republican nomination. He resigned from the U.S. Senate and selected Jack Kemp to be his vice-presidential running mate. Running as a candidate of the Reform Party was Ross Perot who would not have as much success in the 1996 election as he did in the 1992 election.
During the general election campaign, topics of discussion included the Oklahoma City bombing, the economy, and the Waco siege. While Clinton’s party lost both the House of Representatives and the Senate during his first term as president, he would be able to use the strengthened economy that was beginning to recover from the early 1990s recession. Clinton also connected Dole with New Gingrich, the unpopular Republican Speaker of the House. In the general campaign, Dole promised a 15% reduction in federal income taxes across the board and attacked President Clinton as being part of the “spoiled” Baby Boomer generation. Dole’s attacks on Clinton’s age only exacerbated the issues that surrounded his own age throughout the campaign. Clinton was 50 years old during the presidential campaign and Dole was 73.
President Clinton won the following states in the 1996 election:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Bob Dole won the following states in the 1996 election:
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
In the popular vote, President Clinton received 45,590,703 votes and Bob Dole received 37,816,307. This resulted in Clinton receiving 379 electoral votes and Dole receiving 159 electoral votes. Ross Perot of the Reform Party received 8,085,294 popular votes but did not receive any electoral votes. From the 1992 election, five states switched their vote in the 1996 election: Colorado, Georgia, and Montana moved away from Clinton, and Arizona and Florida voted for Clinton. Clinton was the first Democrat since 1948 to win Arizona and the first since 1976 to win Florida. President Clinton’s second inauguration was on January 20, 1997.