1996 Republican National Convention
1996 presidential election
Dole and Kemp
Date(s)August 12–15, 1996
CitySan Diego, California
VenueSan Diego Convention Center
Keynote speakerSusan Molinari
Presidential nomineeBob Dole of Kansas
Vice presidential nomineeJack Kemp of New York
‹ 1992  ·  2000 ›

The 1996 Republican National Convention convened at the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC) in San Diego, California, from August 12 to August 15, 1996. The convention nominated former Senator Bob Dole from Kansas, for president and former Representative and secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp, from suburban Buffalo, New York, for vice president.


Political context

Further information: U.S. presidential election, 1996

After a bitter primary, Dole had secured the Republican nomination—but at high cost, financially and politically. The Party had lost momentum after President Bill Clinton successfully co-opted the historically Republican issues of crime and welfare reform and portrayed House Speaker Newt Gingrich as an extremist.

Within his own party, Dole was under pressure from both sides of the political spectrum. Social liberals such as California Governor Pete Wilson and Massachusetts Governor William Weld loudly argued to remove the Human Life Amendment plank from the convention platform. On the right, primary opponents Patrick Buchanan and Alan Keyes withheld endorsements—Buchanan staged a rally for his supporters in nearby Escondido on the eve of the San Diego convention.[1] Indeed, past comments by Kemp labeling Dole as a tax-raiser surfaced. The long, bitter primary had also left the Dole campaign short of funds as a result of federal election spending limits in the months leading up to the convention.

The Dole campaign sought to use the convention to unite the party, to appeal to political moderates, and to highlight Dole's honorable service in World War II and in the U.S. Senate. Nearly all floor speeches were delivered by moderate or liberal Republicans, including the keynote address by New York Representative Susan Molinari, and Dole was nominated by fellow veteran and Arizona Senator John McCain. Gingrich, who less than two years earlier had been a star of the party, was denied a prime time slot altogether, as was Buchanan, who had finished in second place for the nomination, with over 200 delegates. However, supporters in the socially conservative grassroots organizations such as the Christian Coalition directed the convention to adopt a conservative platform with little controversy, and Buchanan released his delegates at the last minute.

The convention ran smoothly overall, and the Dole-Kemp team seemed to benefit in the short term. Opinion polls taken shortly after the conclusion of the convention showed the Republicans with a significant "bump" of increased support. However, this bump was extremely temporary, and they continued to trail the incumbent Clinton-Gore team; they went on to lose the election by almost nine points.

Site selection

The Republican National Committee asked 30 cities to submit bids. Their finalist cities were Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, San Antonio, and San Diego.[2] Chicago withdrew their bid after winning their bid to host the 1996 Democratic National Convention.[2] San Diego, ultimately, beat out the remaining finalists to win the RNC.[2] The selection of San Diego was announced in January 1995.[3]

The 1996 RNC was the first presidential nominating convention to be held in San Diego, and the only Republican National Convention held in Southern California. (The 1972 RNC was scheduled for the San Diego Sports Arena but relocated to Miami Beach, Florida, due to scandal.)[4] Indeed, San Diego's bid had been considered unlikely to win. The SDCC was far smaller than its predecessor venues, the Astrodome in Houston and the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, and its normal seating layout left several sections and skyboxes with obstructed views. Ardent lobbying by Mayor Susan Golding, who some named as a potential candidate for U.S. Senate in 1998, and by Governor Wilson, himself to seek the 1996 presidential nomination, helped secure San Diego's selection in 1994.


Finalist cities[2][5]
City Venue Proposed financing for convention Previous major party conventions hosted by city
Name Capacity
Chicago, Illinois (withdrew bid) United Center Democratic: 1864, 1884, 1892, 1896, 1932, 1940, 1944, 1952, 1956, 1968
Republican: 1860, 1868, 1880, 1884, 1888, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1916, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1952, 1960
New Orleans, Louisiana Louisiana Superdome 40,000 $14.6 million Republican: 1988
New York City, New York Madison Square Garden 20,924 $30.5 million Democratic: 1868, 1924, 1976, 1980, 1992
San Antonio, Texas Alamodome 43,311 $17.3 million
San Diego, California San Diego Convention Center 18,000 $14 million
Other bids

In mid-February 1994, Los Angeles, California withdrew its bid to have the Los Angeles Convention Center host the convention, citing the previous month's 1994 Northridge earthquake as the reason the city could not afford to finance such a gather in 1996.[6]

In late-March 1994, St. Louis, Missouri withdrew its bid.[7]


The San Diego Convention Center was the site of the 1996 Republican National Convention
The San Diego Convention Center was the site of the 1996 Republican National Convention

The San Diego Host Committee, "Sail to Victory '96," was organized on September 8, 1995.

This was the first national party convention since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which sparked heightened concerns over terrorism. The possibility that the explosion of TWA Flight 800 weeks before was a terrorist incident also weighed on convention planners. The Convention Center was located on the waterfront, near a harbor frequented by thousands of small boats—upon one of which Dole and Kemp made their ceremonial arrival. The police, Coast Guard, and other security presence was massive.

Convention planners situated the designated protest area several blocks away from the convention center, sparking criticism and legal action. It was later moved to a parking lot closer to the building which had originally been designated as a transportation center for the handicapped.

The convention was successful for San Diego, bringing positive publicity to the city and its revitalized waterfront and Gaslamp Quarter. The convention committee, however, overran its budget by some $20 million, largely because of the extra costs of security.

Due to the limited 27 foot (10 m) ceiling height of the convention hall, the podium was elevated a mere 6 feet (0 m) above the convention floor, as opposed to the 50 feet (20 m) that the podium had been elevated at the preceding 1992 Republican convention.[8]

Convention speakers

John Marelius of the San Diego Union-Tribune described the convention's lineup of speakers as portraying a, "diverse, inclusive Republican Party of stirring orators, women, minorities, disabled people and Democrats who switched parties." Marelius regarded the convention as contrasting with the preceding 1992 Republican convention, which had given prominent platform for Pat Buchanan's "religious war". Some religious conservatives took issue with the sparse inclusion of "pro-life" (anti-abortion) rhetoric in the convention.[9]


August 12

August 13

August 14

August 15

Notable speeches

Bob Dole's presidential nomination acceptance speech

Bob Dole bioguide.jpg

Tonight, I stand before you tested by adversity, made sensitive by hardship, a fighter by principle, and the most optimistic man in America. My life is proof that America is a land without limits. And with my feet on the ground and my heart filled with hope, I put my faith in you and in the God who loves us all. For I am convinced that America's best days are yet to come.

—Bob Dole at the 1996 Republican National Convention[16]

Dole's acceptance speech provided a heavy focus on the issue of trust, highlighting not just the need for the American public to have trust in government, but also the need for the government to have trust in the American public.[17] Dole declared, "the fundamental issue is not of policy, but of trust -- not merely whether the people trust the president, but whether the president and his party trust the people, trust in their goodness and their genius for recovery. For the government cannot direct the people, the people must direct the government."[17]

In his speech, Dole denounced intolerance, including racism and religious intolerance.[18][19] Dole declared the Republican to be, "broad and inclusive," claiming that it represented, "many streams of opinion and many points of view". Dole exclaimed, "if there’s anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you — tonight this hall belongs to the party of Lincoln, and the exits, which are clearly marked, are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise."[20]

In comments that were seen as partially alluding to his longevity of age, Dole, who at the age of 74 Dole was older than any previous United States president had been when elected to their first term, hailed himself as prospectively being, "the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith and confidence in action," exclaiming, "to those who say it was never so, that America had not been better, I say, you're wrong, and I know. Because I was there. I have seen it. I remember."[20]

Dole touted the value of political compromise, proclaiming, "in politics, honorable compromise is no sin. It is what protects us from absolutism and intolerance."[20]

Dole characterized his Democratic opponent, incumbent president Bill Clinton, as having failed to, "provide for our future defense" in regards to defense spending.[21]

Dole issued negative characterizations of a varied array of groups and elements, including attacks on teachers unions, liberal judges, criminals, and government bureaucracies.[21] Dole negatively characterized the book It Takes a Village (which was written by First Lady Hillary Clinton, the wife of Dole's Democratic opponent Bill Clinton), as calling for state collectivist childcare, which he argued ran counter to the concept of family responsibility.[21]

Dole's speech was written over a period of several months. However, days before he was scheduled to deliver it, four aides of Dole were brought in to overhaul the speech's conclusion.[22]

The Houston Chronicle reviewed Dole's speech as making, " his strongest case yet," for why he should become president'[9] The New York Times editorial board gave the speech a mixed review, describing it as illustrating, "both the strengths and the weaknesses" of Dole's candidacy. It took issue on Dole's criticism of Clinton's defense spending as insufficient, arguing that with his proposed 15% across-the-board tax cut, Dole was, "in no position to declare that he will spend more" on defense spending.[21] John Marelius of the San Diego Union-Tribune characterized the speech as lacking either, "soaringly memorable language or a thematic spine." However, he also opined that, by highlighting the issue of mutual trust government and the public, Dole articulated, "a rationale for his candidacy that had so often been missing on the campaign trail."[17] The Chicago Tribune's editorial board, in its endorsement of Dole, hailed Dole's "eloquent" remarks against religious and racial intolerance.[19]

Jack Kemp's vice presidential nomination acceptance speech

This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (March 2022)

Elizabeth Dole

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February 2022)

Presidential nominee Bob Dole's wife, Elizabeth, spoke at convention. In tandem with his Democratic opponent Bill Clinton's wife, Hillary Clinton, later speaking at the Democratic convention, 1996 became the year in which it became established practice that both major party candidates spouses speak at their party's convention.[23]

Susan Molinari's keynote address

This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (March 2022)

Pat Buchannan

This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (March 2022)

George H. W. Bush

President George H. W. Bush (1997).jpg

It breaks my heart when the White House is demeaned, the presidency itself diminished. Bob Dole, as president, will treat the White House with respect, his staff will be beyond even the appearance of impropriety and in the process he will increase respect for the United States of America all across the world.

—George H. W. Bush at the 1996 Republican National Convention[24]

Former president George H. W. Bush, who been unseated in the previous 1992 election, delivered a speech on the convention's opening night.[25]

Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford (1997a).jpg

My friends, I know a thing or two about Bob Dole. And if there was anything I didn't know, I checked it out before choosing him as my running mate in 1976. I found Bob Dole fit to be President then; I find him even more qualified now.

Remember when you read today's national polls, Ford and Dole came from 30 points behind that August to win 49.9 percent of the actual ballots cast. We lost a cliff hanger. The only poll that accounts this year is still three months away.

—Gerald Ford at the 1996 Republican National Convention[26]

Former president Gerald Ford, who had selected Dole as his vice presidential running mate in the 1976 United States presidential election, delivered a short speech on the convention's opening night.[25][26]

Ford, in light of the Republican ticket trailing by double-digits in the polls at the time of the 1996 Republican National Convention, reminded voters that the 1976 Ford-Dole ticket gained 30 points in the polls before November 1976.[25]

In his remarks, Ford made an automobile pun, quipping, "a few years ago, when I suddenly found myself President, I said I was a Ford, not a Lincoln. Today, what we have in the White House is neither a Ford or a Lincoln. What we have is a convertible Dodge. Isn't it time for a trade-in?".[25][26]

Colin Powell

Colin Powell (48171134477) (1).jpg

He is a man of strength, maturity and integrity. He is a man who can bring trust back to government and bring Americans together again. He is a fighter possessed of endless energy, drive and commitment. Bob Dole is a candidate most qualified by virtue of his beliefs, his character and competence to be the next President of the United States of America.

—Colin Powell at the 1996 Republican National Convention[24]

Retired general Colin Powell delivered a speech on the convention's opening night. This was Powell's first major partisan political speech. Powell had only formally joined the Republican Party the previous year. Powell's speech was largely a call for compassion and inclusion, and touched on his upbringing by parents who were black immigrants from Jamaica. In endorsing Dole, Powell did not directly attack the Democratic ticket.[25]

Nancy Reagan

This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (March 2022)

Stephen Fong

On the closing night of the convention, Stephen Fong, then-president of the San Francisco chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, spoke at the dais as part of a series of speeches from "mainstreet Americans," but was not publicly identified as gay.[13] Fong was the first openly gay speaker at a Republican National Convention.[27]

Presidential nomination

Senator John McCain placed Bob Dole's name in nomination

Republican National Convention presidential vote, 1996[28]
Candidate Votes Percentage
Bob Dole 1,928 97%
Pat Buchanan 47 2.29%
Steve Forbes 2 0.1%
Alan Keyes and
Robert Bork
1 each 0.05% each
Totals 2,066 100.00%

Vice Presidential tally

New York Governor George Pataki placed Jack Kemp's name into nomination, after which the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was nominated by voice vote.


On August 16, the day after the close convention, John Marelius of the San Diego Union-Tribune characterized different polls as showing conflicting indicators as to whether Dole was rising or declining in the polls.[17]

Ever since the 1996 election, which both the Democratic Republican conventions featuring the spouses of the presidential nominees as speakers, it has become standard practice that both major parties feature the spouses of their presidential nominees as convention speakers.[23]

See also


This article includes a list of general references, but it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (April 2009) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
  1. ^ Buchanan Rejects Offer for Small Role at Convention. The New York Times. July 30, 1996.
  2. ^ a b c d "AllPolitics - San Diego Convention - Quest". www.cnn.com. CNN. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  3. ^ "AllPolitics - San Diego Convention - Quest". CNN. 1996. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  4. ^ Ancona, Vincent S. (Fall 1992). "When the Elephants Marched Out of San Diego". The Journal of San Diego History. Vol. 38, no. 4. San Diego Historical Society. Retrieved July 8, 2013.
  5. ^ Lewis, David L. (4 Aug 1994). "It's Fun City for GOP bigs". Newspapers.com. Daily News (New York City). Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  6. ^ Rainey, James (15 Feb 1994). "L.A. Halts Bid to Host GOP, Democratic Conventions". Newspapers.com. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  7. ^ Mannies, Jo (31 Mar 1994). "City To '96 GOP: Not Here". Newspapers.com. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  8. ^ "AllPolitics - 1996 GOP Convention Fun Facts!". CNN. 1996. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  9. ^ a b "AllPolitics - Editorial Reactions To Dole's Speech - Aug. 16, 1996". CNN. 1996.
  10. ^ Gifts of Speech – Nancy Reagan
  11. ^ a b c d e "AllPolitics - San Diego RNC '96 - As It Happened - Aug. 13, 1996". CNN. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  12. ^ "Elizabeth Dole "Honors her husband at 1996 RNC" Transcript". www.speeches-usa.com. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  13. ^ a b Tafel, Richard (1999) Party Crasher, New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-83764-1, p. 174.
  14. ^ "Senator Bob Dole 1996 Republican Convention Speech". www.4president.org. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  15. ^ "AllPolitics - Text Of Bob Dole's Speech - Aug. 15, 1996". CNN. 1996. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  16. ^ "AllPolitics - Text Of Bob Dole's Speech - Aug. 15, 1996". CNN. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  17. ^ a b c d Monteagudo, Merrie (15 August 2021). "From the Archives: Republican National Convention in San Diego made headlines 25 years ago". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  18. ^ Camera, Lauren (August 14, 2017). "GOP Leaders Have Talked About Racism and Their Party in the Past". www.usnews.com. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  19. ^ a b "Bob Dole for President". Chicago Tribune. October 20, 1996. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  20. ^ a b c Bort, Ryan (5 December 2021). "Bob Dole, Longtime Senator and Republican Presidential Candidate, Dead at 98". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  21. ^ a b c d "Opinion | Bob Dole's Mixed Message". The New York Times. 16 August 1996. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  22. ^ Hosler, Karen (August 15, 1996). "Candidate fine-tunes his acceptance speech Address is Dole's chance to define himself, his message for voters; CAMPAIGN 1996; REPUBLICAN CONVENTION". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  23. ^ a b "Trump, Biden Favorable Ratings Both Below 50%". Gallup.com. 18 September 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  24. ^ a b "USA: SAN DIEGO: GENERAL COLIN POWELL SPEECH | AP Archive". www.aparchive.com. Associated Press. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  25. ^ a b c d e West, Paul (August 13, 1996). "'We're a big enough party to disagree' Fiery Powell speech opens convention; CAMPAIGN 1996; REPUBLICAN CONVENTION". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  26. ^ a b c "Remarks at the 1996 Republican Convention 08/12/1996". www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov. Gerald Ford Presidential Library & Museum. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  27. ^ Keen, Lisa (2016-07-21). "The Bay Area Reporter Online | Tension between gays and GOP shrouds convention". Ebar.com. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  28. ^ "Republican Convention 2000". The Green Papers. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
Preceded by
Houston, Texas
Republican National Conventions Succeeded by
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania