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Bob Dole is a former member of the U.S. House (1961-69) and U.S. Senate (1969-96) from Kansas. In 1996, he was the Republican Party's candidate for the presidency.
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A longtime U.S. senator from Kansas told Dole that he was retiring, and that Dole should not hesitate to begin campaigning for the seat. Dole did this with the same vigor and determination with which he had run for his seat in the House years before. Again, his work was rewarded with a resounding win. Dole was elected senator the same year that Richard Nixon was elected president: 1968. Dole became an advocate for Nixon against Democratic criticisms,
and the Nixon administration took notice. Nixon became an adviser to Dole and helped him be named Republican National Chairman in 1972.
Also in 1972, Dole finalized a divorce with his first wife. His dedication to politics and work had taken its toll on his marriage and family life: over the course of an entire year, he had eaten only two meals with his wife and daughter. Despite Dole's long absences, his former wife said she "was pretty stunned" when her husband of over twenty-three years first told her, in 1971, that he wished to end their marriage. In 1972, Dole met Elizabeth Hanford, who became his second wife in 1975. The couple remains married today.
Dole served in the Senate until 1996, winning re-elections in 1974, 1980, 1986 and 1992. During this time, he chaired many committees and established a conservative voting record as well as a reputation as a "hatchet man." This description refers to Dole's notoriety for speaking out adamantly against policies or proposals he thought unwise. This quality was an important factor in his being chosen as Gerald Ford's running mate in the 1976 presidential election. During the election, though, Dole was widely criticized for a comment he made about World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War being "Democrat wars." It is possible that this comment was one reason the campaign failed; Democrat Jimmy Carter was elected.
Bob Dole's White House hopes were not dashed with the failed 1976 campaign. Next time, though, Dole intended to run for the presidency himself. He entered the Republican primary in 1980 and again in 1988. He lost both years, despite serving as acting Senate majority leader from 1985 to 1987, and as minority leader from 1987 to 1995. While again holding the position of majority leader in 1996, Dole finally won the Republican primary and was pitted against Democrat Bill Clinton, who was running for his second term as president.
Dole's campaign resembled the Ford run in at least one major way: Dole was often criticized for being his own worst enemy. Dole lost the election to Clinton, and, having resigned from the Senate after winning the primary to focus fully on running for the presidency, left the life of an elected official for good.
In the years after his presidential run, Bob Dole dedicated his time and energy to his law firm, political activism, speaking engagements and philanthropic endeavors. He also starred in a widely seen commercial for Viagra. His wife, Elizabeth, also a former Republican senator, lost her seat in the 2008 elections.
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