Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
1996 Republican National Convention
After a bitter primary (see U.S. presidential election, 1996), 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 San Diego on the even of the convention. 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 due to 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 Congresswoman Susan Molinari, and Dole was nominated by fellow veteran Arizona Senator John McCain. Gingrich, who less than two years ago had been a star of the party, was denied a prime time slot altogether. 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 in the event, 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. They continued to trail the incumbent Clinton-Gore team, however, and failed to win either California's electoral votes or the election.
Order of speakers
- Congressman John Kasich
- Congressman J.C. Watts
- Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
- Congresswoman Susan Molinari (Keynote Address)
- former Vice-President Dan Quayle
- former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick
- former Secretary of State James Baker III
- Robin Dole (daughter of Bob Dole)
- New York Governor George Pataki (nomination of Jack Kemp)
- Senator John McCain (nomination of Bob Dole)
- former Secretary of HUD Jack Kemp
- former Senator Bob Dole
The 1996 RNC was the first presidential nominating convention to be held in San Diego, and the first and only Republican National Convention held in Southern California. Indeed, San Diego's bid had been considered unlikely to win. The SDCC was far smaller than its predecessor venues, the Astrodome in Houston, Texas 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. The San Diego Host Committee, "Sail to Victory '96," was organized on September 8, 1995.
It would also be 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 and 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, due to the extra costs of security.
- PBS Online NewsHour: Convention: The GOP in San Diego, archive including transcripts, analysis, photographs, and streaming audio.
- CNN AllPolitics: 1996 Republican National Convention, archived fact, news, chat and speech transcripts, and links
- EmergencyNet News Service: GOP National Convention Security Plan, August 10, 1996
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