1996: Presidential Primaries at Dartmouth College

The midterm elections of 1994 saw a wave of young Republicans enter Congress in defiance of Clinton’s persona as much as his substance.

The frontrunner for the nomination in 1996 was always Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas. Dole had run twice before in 1980 and 1988, and was nominated for vice president in 1976. That being said, this time spent inside Washington was not universally positively received. “Outsider candidates” like political commentator Pat Buchanan and publisher/businessman Steve Forbes launched major campaigns. Other candidates such as former Governor and Education Secretary Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, Congressman Bob Dornan of California, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Governor Pete Wilson of California, lawyer and republican activist Arthur Fletcher, and former ambassador to the United Nations’ ECOSOC and Assistant Secretary of State Alan Keyes also sought the nomination. Specter, Wilson and Fletcher would drop out before the primaries began.

With only the Republican primary election, students flocked to New Hampshire’s state GOP dinner in Manchester. While the snow prevented some candidates from attending, it did not do so for students, some of whom waited outside the exclusive event for just a few seconds with the candidates.

Soon after this event on the 22nd, Senator Dole traveled north to Dartmouth, visiting the now-defunct Alpha Delta fraternity for a private reception before a speech on the steps of the house. With the help of student supporters, Dole then knocked on doors in Hanover as part of MTV’s “Choose or Lose” campaign to get out the vote. That same day, Senator Gramm addressed members of the Dartmouth College community in Collis’s Common Ground. “Dartmouth is one of the great universities of this land,” he commented, asking students to continue in its legacy of high achievement and contribution to American society.

In 1996, the states of Alaska and Louisiana moved their caucuses to January 29thand February 6th, ahead of Iowa’s on the 12th, but fearing retribution in Iowa and New Hampshire for defying local’s first-in-the-nation contests, campaigns largely overlooked these states. Buchanan won both, but due to lack of participation, this did not help him establish himself much compared to the rest of the primary field. (This is in part why Louisiana would go on to hold a second primary which Dole won.)

In between these primaries, Senator Lugar visited Dartmouth College. After visiting the also-now-defunct Beta Theta Pi fraternity for a dinner with thirty brothers and fifteen members of the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma, he held a town hall meeting in Alumni Hall at the Hopkins Center of the Arts.

In Iowa Caucus, Bob Dole established the legitimacy of his frontrunner status, garnering 26.3% of the vote. Pat Buchanan did, however, receive a significant 23.3%, trailed by Lamar Alexander at 17.6%, Steve Forbes at 10.2%, and Phil Gramm at 9.4%. Alan Keyes received 7.5% of the vote, above Richard Lugar’s 3.7%. Gramm, although landing near the middle of the pack, was the only the end his campaign soon after. Candidates like Lugar, Keyes, and Alexander saw one last real opening to establish themselves in the New Hampshire primary while Dole and Buchanan saw a place to establish themselves as the leading candidates.

This opportunity brought Ambassador Alan Keyes to Dartmouth’s campus not twenty hours before voting began to speak to a group of two hundred Dartmouth community members about moral decay in the United States, once again, in Collis.

The New Hampshire Primary itself was held eight days after Iowa on the 20th. In an upset, Pat Buchanan received 27.25% of the vote to Dole’s 26.22% and Alexander’s 22.59%. Forbes, Lugar, and Keyes received 12.22%, 5.19%, and 2.67% respectively. Grafton County, however, did not contribute to this trend, as Dole received 28.5% to Buchanan’s 24.1%.

Neither Buchanan not Alexander would go on to see much success afterwards, however, as after New Hampshire Lugar also dropped out and the establishment began to coalesce around Dole instead of Alexander. On March 9th, Dole lost his last primary, Missouri, to Buchanan and May 15th, Dole resigned from Senate to spend his time exclusively running for president.