Bob Dole’s South Dakota connections Original

Bob Dole at Augustana University during his 1996 Presidential campaign.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Throughout a 36-year political career, Bob Dole made many stops in South Dakota. 

Dole, a World War II Veteran and three-time presidential candidate, died at the age of 98 on Sunday.

The Kansas native and longtime leader in the Republican Party won presidential primaries in South Dakota in 1988 and 1996. While running against President Bill Clinton in 1996, Dole made a campaign stop in Sioux Falls two days before Election Day.  

During that stop, Dole told the crowd he’s made so many stops in South Dakota over the years, he “feels at home here too.”

You can see a video clip from his 1996 speech and photos from the KELOLAND News archive below.

In the video, Dole welcomes the crowd to the “Bill Clinton retirement party” and brags to the crowd about his Midwestern values.

“I have Midwest values. He doesn’t have any Midwest values, he doesn’t have any values at all,” Dole said in 1996.

In 1996, Dole defeated Clinton in South Dakota 46-43, but Clinton won reelection with 379 Electoral College votes to Dole’s 159.

In that same election, former U.S. Senator Tim Johnson defeated incumbent Senator Larry Pressler 51-48 and current U.S. Senator John Thune won his election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Former state lawmaker Bill Peterson was the main host for a few of Dole’s trips to South Dakota, including the 1996 visit during the final days of the presidential campaign. Peterson noted how Dole resigned from the U.S. Senate after receiving the Republican nomination to dedicate all of his time to the campaign.

“That was a big roll of the dice,” Peterson said. “He didn’t quit. Bob Dole was not a quitter. He fought long and hard and came up short.”

Peterson emphasized how Dole brought “decency” to politics and when campaigns ended, he focused on working with Democrats. Recalling Dole’s 1996 concession speech, Peterson said Dole later went on late night TV shows and talked about uniting the country.

“He wasn’t afraid to poke fun at himself,” Peterson said. “He had a good sense of who he was. He didn’t over-inflate himself at the expense of others.”

Peterson said Dole’s legacy lives on with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which passed in 1990 and was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

“We are a different country today because that act passed,” Peterson said. “We are a far better country today because that act passed. And that passed because of Bob Dole.”

After 1996, Dole teamed with another South Dakotan — George McGovern. Both Dole and McGovern were named co-recipients of the World Food Prize in 2008. In 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, known as the McGovern-Dole Program. It fed millions of children in schools in 41 different countries.

“They were both idealistic. They both believed in this country and what this country stands for,” Peterson said.

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