Robert Joseph Dole (born July 22, 1923) is best known as a former Republican United States Senate Majority Leader and Senator from Kansas. He was also the unsuccessful Republican nominee for President in the 1996 election.
Dole was born in Russell, Kansas. He graduated from Washburn Municipal University in Topeka, Kansas with an undergraduate degree and law degree in 1952. He also attended the University of Kansas from 1941 - 1943 and the University of Arizona from 1948 - 1949.
During World War II, Dole served as a combat infantry officer with the U.S. 10th Mountain Division in Italy. He was wounded twice and hospitalized for thirty-nine months. He received two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star. He eventually lost almost all use of his right arm due to his war injuries.
Dole was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice of law in his hometown in 1952.
He ran for office and was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives serving a two-year term ending in 1953.
He became county attorney of Russell County, performing in this capacity until 1961. In 1960, Dole was elected as a Republican to the United States House of Representatives for the 87th Congress and to three succeeding Congresses, spanning from January 3, 1961 to January 3, 1969.
In 1968 he was elected to the United States Senate, and was re-elected in 1974, 1980, 1986, and 1992, until resigning on June 11, 1996 to focus his efforts on his Presidential campaign. While in the Senate he also served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1971 until 1973.
His roles in Senate politics include:
- Chairman of the Committee on Finance (1981 - 1985);
- Special Committee on Security and Cooperation in Europe (1985 - 1987);
- Majority Leader (1985 - 1987) and (1995 - 1996); and
- Minority Leader (1987 - 1995).
In 1976 Dole ran unsuccessfully for Vice President of the United States on a ticket headed by Gerald Ford, replacing incumbent Vice President Nelson Rockefeller who many Republicans regarded as too moderate. He also ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, losing to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.
In the 1996 Presidential Election, Dole received the Republican nomination easily against weak challengers. Dole and Clinton's debates were highly anticipated, as Clinton was viewed as a weak incumbant and Dole a Neo-Reagen Era Conservative. Surprising to the Republicans, Clinton held his ground and came out in the polls much better than before the debates. Bob Dole's point lead over Clinton in 1995 had been reduced to 15%. During this election, Clinton was behind in the polls in the South-east (other than Florida). Dole was defeated, as pundits had long expected, by Bill Clinton in the 1996 election. Clinton won in a 379-159 Electoral College landslide, capturing only 49.2% of the vote (against Dole's 40.7%). President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom two months after the election, for his service in the military and his political career.
Dole has worked part-time for a Washington, DC law firm, and engaged in a career of writing, consulting, public speaking, and television appearances. This has included becoming a television commercial spokesman for such products as Viagra and Pepsi-Cola, and as an occasional political commentator on the popular American interview program Larry King Live. On that show he had a heated exchange with Democratic presidential primary candidate Wesley Clark in which he correctly predicted that Clark would lose the New Hampshire primary and other primaries. Among the books Dole has written is one on jokes told by the presidents of the United States, in which he classifies presidents according to their humorousness. He himself is believed by many to have a gift for humor. He also received the American Patriot Award on December 3, 2004 for his lifelong dedication to America and his service in World War II
Dole married Phyllis Holden, an occupational therapist at a Veterans Hospital, in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1948. His daughter Robin was born in 1954. Dole and Phyllis divorced in 1972.
Dole is married to Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina. She was named Elizabeth Hanford when they married in 1975. Elizabeth ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination for President in 2000 and was elected to the United States Senate 2002.
This article incorporates facts obtained from the public domain Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.  (http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000401)
- His official website (http://www.bobdole.org/)
- His hometown's biography of him (http://www.russellks.org/BobDole.htm)
- His remarks at the dedication of the Dole Institute of Politics (http://www.ur.ku.edu/News/03N/JulyNews/July22/doleremarks.html) at the University of Kansas
- His memorial to Ronald Reagan after Reagan's death (registration required) (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/07/opinion/O7DOLE.html)
- This American Life: 1996 broadcast on Bob Dole (http://www.thislife.org/ra/29.ram), in RealAudio format
- The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics (http://www.doleinstitute.org)