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Senator Bob Dole on women's issues

Published on 10 February 2012

Senator - January 3, 1969 – June 11, 1996

Senator Bob Dole on women's issues

Presidential primaries can be truly brutal. Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) was a dyed-in-the-wool conservative and genuine war hero, but even he could not run the gauntlet of the Republican presidential primary without some bloodletting.

He angered many conservatives when he reversed his earlier support for a so-called Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Since the Reagan era, the Republican Party platform had declared a vague support for a Constitutional amendment to create flat ban on abortion, but during the primary campaign Dole clarified that he would allow for exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or risk to the life of the mother.

This did not sit well with the party’s extreme right. And while Senator Bob Dole defended himself on the right, he also faced attacks from the left.

President Bill Clinton and the Democrats hammered Dole for his support for slashes to social programs like Head Start, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, student loans, and more.

Of course, Dole characterized his positions as an attempt to save social programs that were headed for inevitable bankruptcy, but many of these government programs were so entrenched in the consciousness of Americans, any attempt to alter them was seen as an assault.

It certainly didn’t help that Dole was challenging a sitting president during a time of relative economic prosperity. While in the past labels like “liberal” were used successfully to bludgeon Democratic opponents (notably against Senator George McGovern (D-SD) and Governor Michael Dukakis (D-MA)), Dole found the southern, centrist Clinton to be impervious to such attacks.

In the end, Dole suffered a landslide defeat to President Bill Clinton, and nowhere was that defeat more lopsided than amongst women voters. Clinton garnered 54% of the women vote compared to Dole’s 38%.

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