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Unformatted text preview: 76 Politics by Other Mean: including his deputy chief of staff, Harold Ickes, and senior adviser, George Stephanopoulos. The Morris strategy, however, was calcu— lated to rob the Republicans of their most potent issues in the 1996 elections.20 The 1995—1996 budget battle played into Mor— ris‘s hands by allowing him to portray Clinton as a moderate, eager to find room for compromise, while congressional Republicans were pilloried as militant extremists by the national media. “The most important event of 1995,” said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, “was that the Republicans vacated the center in a radical way, and President Clinton was very smart and very effective in fill- ing the vacuum and occupying the center in American politics.”21 Later Morris was forced to resign after the publication of a series of newspaper stories revealed that the architect of Clinton’s move to the center and family values campaign had a close relationship with a Washington prostitute. Clinton, on the other hand, was able to raise tens of millions of dollars and to display the same vig- orous and articulate campaign style that had carried him to victory in 1992. A third consequence of the 1995—1996 budget battle was the character of Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. The GOP's i g- nominious defeat in the budget battle convinced Dole that mili— tancy and radicalism in the struggle against the Democrats were the route to failure and that his own more moderate and cautious instincts were the correct ones. It was Dole who organized the se— ries of compromises that ended the budget stalemate and Dole who urged congressional Republicans to attempt to shed their rad— ical image by moderating their rhetoric and positions. Dole was al— ready widely seen as the front—runner for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination, and he now saw his presidential chances undermined by the GOP’s disastrous budget confrontation with President Clinton. His effort to undo the damage of this defeat shaped his entire 1996 campaign. First, of course, Dole had to win the Republican nomination, and this proved more difficult than many analysts had anticipated. Of the 1996 Republican hopefuls, only Texas Senator Phil Gramm Electoral Deadlock 77 seemed a real threat to Dole, and Gramm proved to be a lacklus- ter campaigner who was never able to generate much support even in his home region. Dole, on the other hand, boasted a lengthy and illustrious political career and unmatched ability as a fund-raiser. He entered the GOP presidential primaries with the support of most important Republican leaders and access to substantial fi- nancial support. Nevertheless, Dole stumbled badly in the early contests held in February. He barely eked out a victory in the Iowa caucuses and then suffered a humiliating defeat in the February 20 New Hamp- shire primary at the hands of conservative radio commentator Patrick Buchanan, with former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander running a close third. The next week publishing heir Malcolm (“Steve”) Forbes won the Arizona and Delaware pri— maries, though Dole carried the Dakotas. Beginning with the March 2 South Carolina primary, however, Dole’s organization, contacts, and support began to assert themselves. Dole carried South Carolina by a wide margin, despite Buchanan’s efforts to take advantage of the conservatism of the state's Republican vot- ers. Dole then swept to victory in Georgia, New York, Colorado, and Maryland, and he won seven primaries on March 12 alone. All the Republican contenders but Buchanan withdrew from the race, in effect handing Dole the Republican nomination months before the GOP’s August convention. During the months before the convention and at the convention itself, Dole's strategy continued to be shaped by the perceived need to project a moderate image. On May 15, 1996, Dole startled po— litical observers by resigning from the Senate to devote his full at— tention to the race for the White House. The major purpose of this move was to distance himself from the increasingly unpopu- lar congressional Republicans, especially House Speaker Newt Gingrich.22 At the convention Dole refused to cede any points to Buchanan and his militantly conservative followers, with the ex- ception of a few platform planks that Dole promptly repudiated, claiming to have no interest in even reading them. Dole arranged ...
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