Bob Dole, Former Republican Senate Leader Who Lost 1996 Presidential Bid, Dies at 98

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Bob Dole, the longtime Republican legislator who lost his 1996 presidential bid to incumbent Bill Clinton, died in his sleep Sunday. He was 98.

His passing was announced via the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. The statement reads:

“It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep. At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years. More information coming soon. #RememberingBobDol.”

The Kansas Republican, who announced on Feb. 18, 2021 that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 before his election to the Senate. He led the Republican caucus for 11 years, including three years as Senate Majority Leader, before resigning in June 1996 in the midst of his unsuccessful run for the presidency.

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In 1976, Dole had also run as Gerald Ford’s running mate in Ford’s post-Watergate re-election bid. The pair lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. Dole joined the presidential race in 1980, but lost his party’s nomination to Ronald Reagan.

While serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he was seriously injured by machine gun fire in Italy that left him with limited mobility in his right arm and numbness in his left arm. He consistently clutched a pen in his right hand to minimize the awkwardness of being unable to do a traditional handshake.

Health care was central to Dole’s 1996 presidential platform, which promised to “seek ways to make health care more accessible and affordable for all Americans” and “ensure that individuals who change jobs do not lose their coverage or face pre-existing condition limitations.”

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After his presidential loss, Dole remained in the public eye as a lobbyist, chairman of the organization to build the National World War II Memorial and founder of his own institute at the University of Kansas to foster bipartisanship in U.S. politics.

Dole was noted for his dry Midwestern wit, which made him a popular if unlikely celebrity pitchman for products ranging from Viagra to Dunkin’ Donuts to Pepsi (in a memorable TV ad featuring Britney Spears). And in 2003, he rejoined his political nemesis Bill Clinton as a commentator on “60 Minutes” in a series of televised mini-debates on various issues.