November 1, 1996 – Campaign ’96: Down To The Wire – The Sprint – The Promises – The Coattails.
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November 1, 1996 – Campaign ’96, the Presidential election down to the remaining few days and the ritual mad-dash across the country, stumping for votes. And pundits peering into crystal balls with predictions at the ready.
But this year things were a bit different. The odds were no longer in favor of the incumbent winning and speculation was rife on what a Dole White House was going to look like.
Clinton’s chances of winning were initially considered slim in the middle of his term as his party had lost both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 1994 for the first time in decades. He was able to regain ground as the economy began to recover from the early 1990s recession with a relatively stable world stage. Clinton tied Dole to Newt Gingrich, the unpopular Republican Speaker of the House. Dole promised an across-the-board 15% reduction in federal income taxes and attacked Clinton as a member of the “spoiled” Baby Boomer generation. Dole’s age was a persistent issue in the election, and gaffes by Dole exacerbated the issue for his campaign.
Clinton maintained a consistent polling edge over Dole, and he won re-election with a substantial margin in the popular vote and the Electoral College. Clinton became the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win two straight presidential elections. Dole won 40.7% of the popular vote and 159 electoral votes, while Perot won 8.4% of the popular vote. Despite Dole’s defeat, the Republican Party was able to maintain a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Turnout was registered at 49.0%, the lowest for a presidential election since 1924.
There was other news this day, but everything seemed to take a backseat to the subject at hand. In America it was about voting and politics and the focus was trained on that.
And to get an idea of what this day in 1996 was like, here is a half-hour slice of NPR’s Morning Edition from November 1, 1996.