Chaos: The Presidential Election of 1996 v1.2

Jasen777

Donor
Chaos: The Presidential Election of 1996 v1.2

The 2nd edit of the original timeline. (V1 posted here years ago, v1.1 elsewhere). Posted now to serve as the official version before a sequel is started.
 

Jasen777

Donor
Chaos: The Presidential Election of 1996


From the autobiography of Dick Morris -


Colin Powell had just published his memoir, and it had the President worried. Powell was leading him in the polls, but he was a phantom, presenting nothing that could be attacked. I was bringing good news however. Powell was pro-choice, for affirmative action, and favored some gun control. He didn't really have a party. Polls showed him way behind Dole in the race for the Republican nomination. "Congratulations," I told the President, "he can't win the nomination and so won't make it to the general - you've just won re-election." Of course, I had overlooked a possibility...


From Chaos: A History of the 1996 Presidential Election -


Most historians agree that in 1995 Powell had been strongly leaning towards declaring himself a Republican (this despite the fact that he had voted for Kennedy and Johnson). He had however, decided not to run for the Presidency. The wishes of Alma, his wife, in this decision was well known. History changed that terrible day in April. Alma was killed in a car accident. Colin, by all accounts, loved his wife deeply and her death hit him hard. He disappeared from public for a month. When he reappeared, it was obvious he was intent on running for president, all unease about seeking political office had disappeared. His inclination was still to run as a Republican. It is not certain what changed his mind. What is known is that he had a closed door meeting with several influential Republican Party leaders on June 12th. What happened there is still unknown. Some speculate that he was insulted personally, or perhaps became convinced that as a black man he couldn't win the Republican nomination. There is no evidence for this however. It seems more probable that he simply took a look at the information. Polls of him running as a Republican against Clinton had him winning. But polls also had him well behind Dole for the Republican nomination. Advisors also warned him (erroneously as it turns out) about the Bradley effect. Running as a Democrat would have put him up against a incumbent president, typically an impossible task in a primary. The prudent thing might have been to wait until 2000 to run. Perhaps if his wife had not died he would have. But he was intent on running in '96.

By fall of 1995, the race appeared to be taking form. President Clinton looked like he would be unopposed in the Democratic Primary. Bob Dole was a huge favorite in the Republican race, but he would face a large crowd of challengers. Colin Powell was as yet undeclared, but few doubted that he would run as an independent. Ross Perot was nowhere to be seen, and the third parties were their usual irrelevant selves. On October 1st, the first major nationwide poll with the 3 main candidates was published. The results:

Clinton: 32%
Dole: 30%
Powell: 30%
Undecided/Other: 8%.

It was a statistical three-way tie. The stage was now set.
 
Ah nostalgia. This was the first timeline I read when I discovered the board. I am glad it is back. Do you plan to change the storyline or just make minor tweaks to create a smooth transition into your sequel?
 

Jasen777

Donor
Do you plan to change the storyline or just make minor tweaks to create a smooth transition into your sequel?

It's just some minor tweaks. Posting for new members and as a extended recap before the sequel for people who've read the original version.


vultan said:
BTW, will this one go on longer than the last one?

Well this is mainly a re-posting. But the sequel will cover through the 2000 election.
 
Well this is mainly a re-posting. But the sequel will cover through the 2000 election.

Whited out due to not wanting to spoil it for new readers:

I'm really excited to see your take on 2000. Are you going to have Bill Clinton try to pull a Grover Cleveland? I mean, the way he lost ITTL was just gut-wrenching. Especially for someone with his ego. Dole on the other hand, despite being a sitting President, may not even seek re-election IMHO. I mean, he's getting up there in age (77 in 2000, he'd be the oldest President ever if he got a second term), and his election victory looked like a flukish accident to begin with. The dignified thing may be to just bow out. Will Powell go again? It would certainly make sense for him to given his fantastic performance in the previous cycle.
 

Jasen777

Donor
From the autobiography of Dick Morris -

The President's opinion of me appeared to have dropped as a result of my failure to predict Powell's run as an independent (he hadn't declared, but everyone could now see it coming). Nevertheless, I was still a great asset for him… Dole had to focus on the Republican primaries; he was constantly absent from the Senate to be on the campaign trail. Powell was still undeclared. With some shrewd media buys and the free press available to an incumbent president, we were able to put out a positive image of the President, especially in what were expected to be crucial states... The political battle with Congress over the government shutdown also helped. We turned Gingrich into our whipping boy and used him to smear all Republicans with, even Dole who was trying to stay as far away as he could…


From Chaos: A History of the 1996 Presidential Election -

Clinton had clearly benefited from his showdown with Congress, and Dole was losing ground in the national polls as his Republican rivals attacked him. By late January, some analysts were even predicting that the Republican race was meaningless and that come November the election would be a two-man race between Clinton and Powell...

Aggregate Presidential Poll 01/31/96

Clinton: 35%
Powell: 30%
Dole: 26%
Undecided/Other: 9%


News Clippings -

Feb. 13rd

Dole Barely Survives Iowa
Strong Showings by Buchanan, Alexander

As expected, Bob Dole won the Iowa Caucus yesterday, gathering 24 percent of the vote. This is a disappointing showing for Dole however, as his air of inevitability has been critically punctured. Building on his win in the Alaskan Straw Poll, firebrand Patrick Buchanan came in second with 23 percent of the vote. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the strong third-place finish of Lamar Alexander who pulled in 21 percent of the vote. Steve Forbes and Phil Gramm finished in a practical dead heat for fourth with a disappointing 8% each. The Dole campaign must be concerned as the race now moves to notoriously underdog favoring New Hampshire…


Feb. 21st


Buchanan wins New Hampshire
Dole second, Alexander third

Pat Buchanan pulled off a surprise victory in the New Hampshire primary yesterday, winning 30% of the vote. Bob Dole barely hung on for second place over Lamar Alexander, 24% to 23%. With Steve Forbes positioned to win the Delaware primary in three days, one wonders what the future of the Dole campaign is…


Feb. 25th


Dole Wins Delaware
Dejected Forbes to Announce Withdraw

In a surprise victory that supporters hope will reinvigorate his campaign, Bob Dole won the Delaware primary with 34 percent of the vote to Steve Forbes' 28 percent. The Forbes campaign, which had counted on winning the state, is now expected to announce a withdraw from the race shortly.


Feb. 28th

Banner Day for Dole

Bob Dole swept the three primaries today: Arizona, South Dakota, and North Dakota. His campaign now believes they have rebuilt their air of inevitability that was lost in New Hampshire. This is likely premature however, as Pat Buchanan had strong second place showings in all 3 states. It now appears the Republican nomination has become a two-man race.


March 3rd

Buchanan Wins South Carolina

Just when things were starting to look up for Bob Dole, Pat Buchanan has handed him another setback by wining the South Carolina primary. Rhetoric had heated up between the two, and the state saw the hardest campaigning of the presidential season yet. Buchanan's narrow victory, 37 percent to 35 percent, likely means that the race will now become a protracted one. Republicans had hoped to avoid that, as President Clinton has been unopposed, and Colin Powell looms as well…


March 6th

Super Tuesday a Victory for Dole
Buchanan wins Georgia

Bob Dole won seven of the eight states up for grabs yesterday, with Pat Buchanan managing a win only in Georgia. This would seem to all but clinch the nomination for Dole…


From Chaos: A History of the 1996 Presidential Election -

The strong challenge from Buchanan had been unexpected. With Powell looming over the proceedings, it was thought by many in the Republican base that a true social conservative would be needed in the general election, in order to draw a clear distinction from the other two candidates. This seems to have been what fueled Buchanan's rise. It gave Dole no choice but to move further to the right during the Republican campaign. Dole still had the money and the support of the party bosses to win the longer than expected race. It was clear after Super Tuesday that Dole would win the nomination. It was also clear that Buchanan could keep on campaigning and win a state here or there, and perhaps critically wound Dole for the general election. This lead to the deal that saw Buchanan surprisingly drop out of the race two days after Super Tuesday, and not so surprisingly, later receive the Republican vice-presidential nomination. Rumors that Dole disliked Buchanan and hated being stuck with him would surface later in the campaign. These rumors were confirmed after the election....

Meanwhile Colin Powell had shrewdly announced his official candidacy shortly after Dole's defeat in New Hampshire, and had received a round of favorable coverage from the press…

Aggregate Presidential Poll 03/10/96


Powell: 35%
Clinton: 33%
Dole: 24%
Undecided/Other: 8%
 

Jasen777

Donor
From the autobiography of Dick Morris -

I had warned the President that whenever Powell got around to officially declaring his candidacy that he would receive a bump in the polls, but the President was still quite upset. Other of his advisers seized the opportunity to poison the President's mind against me, and forced me out of his inner circle. In effect, I was fired. It was only natural then that I join Powell's campaign staff…


From Chaos: A History of the 1996 Presidential Election -

The time from mid-March until the party conventions in August were relatively uneventful, especially compared to what came later. It was too early for the public to pay that much attention to the race, and they were experiencing news fatigue anyways after the Republican primary and the excitement of Powell's entry. Nevertheless, many important events transpired during this time. Perhaps the most important of these events was Powell's decision to pick Ohio Governor George Voinovich as his running mate. The campaign had hoped to pick a moderate Democrat for the VP slot, but all of the top choices were uninterested. The search then turned to independent and Republican candidates. Voinovich meet many of the campaign's wish items: he was a moderate (or could be presented as one), had solid economic credentials as the man who had turned around Ohio's economy, hadn't taken any real positions on a variety of national issues which left room open for maneuver, and had government, but non-D.C, experience. Of course, being a popular governor of a key state didn't hurt…

It appears that it was during this time that Perot was convinced by advisers that with Powell in the race there was no room for another independent candidate…

Aggregate Presidential Poll 08/01/96


Clinton: 35%
Powell: 30%
Dole: 26%
Undecided/Other: 9%


From the autobiography of Dick Morris -

… Voinovich wasn't a perfect pick of course, there were a few problems. His positions were generally acceptable, but he had taken an anti-abortion stance in the past. We were able to modify this to supporting abortion rights with reasonable restrictions, which of course was the line Powell was taking. I'm a believer though that the Vice-President pick doesn't matter much as long as he doesn't make any big mistakes. We were hoping he could deliver Ohio though… Powell had dropped in the polls as his honeymoon period ended and the public realized he was a real person and not some sort of political messiah. This was only to be expected, and we launched our "leader with vision and integrity" campaign in hopes of making ground back up. I was also taking a long look at the electoral map. We really needed to win some big states. Winning the eight largest states (California, New York, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan) would get us to 228 electoral votes and almost to the majority. This fit well with our mass-media strength, raising money had been no problem, but local level organization was still lagging, and would always lag behind the political machines of the Democrat and Republican parties. We deiced to focus then on the largest states, California in particular was absolutely critical…


From Chaos: A History of the 1996 Presidential Election -

August election news was dominated by the political conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. The Republicans meet first in San Diego, and affirmed the presumptive nominee, Bob Dole. They also announced the worst kept secret in politics, that Pat Buchanan would be the vice president nominee. Strangely, Dole did not experience the bump in the polls that is customary after a convention. Most attributed this to reaction to Buchanan's speech…

The Democrats met two weeks later in Chicago. Although television networks grew impatient with the convention's tendency to run behind schedule, the convention was in general more of a success than the Republican one. President Clinton did experience the customary bump in the polls…

Aggregate Presidential Poll 09/01/96


Clinton: 39%
Powell: 26%
Dole: 26%
Undecided/Other: 9%
 

Jasen777

Donor
From the autobiography of Dick Morris-

August was a tough month for our campaign. The President's post-convention bump came largely at our expense. It put the President in position to run away with the race, and it threatened to put us behind Dole in the polls, something that would be fatal to our chances to ever mount a comeback. We badly needed a public relations coup, and the incompetent campaigns of the President and Dole handed one to us on a silver platter…


From Chaos: A History of the 1996 Presidential Election -

The election saw perhaps the most wrangling over debates in modern history. Word leaked on Sept. 6th that the Clinton and Dole campaigns were working on putting a series of debates together, debates which would exclude Powell from participating. The public reacted poorly to this and it helped to reinvigorate Powell's campaign…

The three candidates only managed to get together for a single debate. It was in St. Louis on Oct. 3rd and hosted by PBS' Jim Lehrer. The debate was generally regarded as lackluster, and was highlighted by an argument between Clinton and Powell over who could best implement "sensible" reforms. It wasn't exactly clear what either meant by the term however. Clinton was generally considered to have won the debate, but it appears that it actually benefited Powell the most. He was able to show that he could hold his own on stage against Clinton, and he came across well in comparison to Dole who seemed a bit enfeebled in comparison…


Aggregate Presidential Poll 10/07/96


Clinton: 33%
Powell: 30%
Dole: 25%
Undecided/Other: 12%


From Chaos: A History of the 1996 Presidential Election -

As October moved on the populace was subjected to an intense barrage of ads from all three of the main candidates. The result was unexpected; the biggest effect of the ads was to raise the percentage of undecided voters...

The shape of the race had pretty much been set. Dole, although not particularly a staunch social conservative himself, was left with social conservatives and loyal Republicans. Powell was strong with independents and Republican moderates. Clinton was strong with liberals and loyal Democrats. The biggest battle seemed to be if Powell could draw a significant number of Democratic moderates away from Clinton…

Race had become a theme in the election due to Powell's campaign. Hindsight shows us that the so called "Bradley effect" had disappeared by 1996. This is not to say that there were not some racists who would refuse to vote for Powell, but that the lying of such voters that plagued certain polls in the past no longer applied. This was not realized at the time however. In any case, Powell was perhaps the perfect African-American to break the color barrier in presidential campaigning. Racism is a tricky thing, and its adherents seldom apply it consistently. Powell was a war hero, relatively light skinned, not given to making racial political points, and as one Powell supporter put it, "he doesn't act black." While someone like Jesse Jackson would have been utterly unelectable, Powell was electable...

The Powell campaign had made a sustained outreach to African-American voters, but most were sticking with the President. Polls constantly showed Clinton with a 2-1 lead in black voters over Powell, with Dole barely registering. Even such a showing as that among African-Americans by Powell represented a significant threat to Clinton...


Aggregate Presidential Poll 10/18/96


Clinton: 33%
Powell: 28%
Dole: 24%
Undecided/Other: 15%
 
I aways thought that having Perot in here would make it more interesting. Maybe he gets in the debates and it becomes a close 4 way race!
 
I aways thought that having Perot in here would make it more interesting. Maybe he gets in the debates and it becomes a close 4 way race!

Nah. Perot's big shot was in 92. In 96 he's a has been. He could be a very irritating has-been however by drawing his OTL 8% of the vote away from one of the other candidates (probably mostly Powell).
 

Jasen777

Donor
From the autobiography of Dick Morris-

We were still trailing the President in the polls, and I was growing increasingly alarmed at the electoral college picture. Our internal polling showed not a single state that we could count on for a victory, whereas the President and Dole both had states in the safe category. We were in danger of finishing second in every state, an electoral college death sentence. What this meant was that we had to win nearly every state in which we had a chance. We badly needed an October surprise. Fortunately, I knew where we could get one…


Editorial -

Should the Lewinsky scandal affect your vote?

The scandal has dominated press coverage over the last week and pundits on all sides have reacted hysterically. Let's take a minute to review the actual facts that we know. The scandal broke when Linda Tripp released phone recordings of Monica Lewinsky and herself in which Lewinsky admitted to sexual encounters with the President. President Clinton at first refused to comment and then denied the accusations. Lewinsky has refused comment and apparently gone into hiding. Therefore, what we are left with isn't so much a "he said - she said", but a "he said - she was previously recorded as saying." Personally, I do not doubt the allegations at all, though there is nothing now that could be termed proof. The question however is should our votes be influenced by these revelations. I don't think they should. After all, we all knew that Clinton had these failings; did we not learn anything from his past scandals? If you were going to vote for him, I don't see how this changes anything…


From the autobiography of Dick Morris-

The scandal had hurt the President, but it likely wasn't enough, the electoral picture still looked bleak… Then Perot decided to endorse our campaign. We had been working on him for a long time. Many of his trade views were more in line with the positions the Dole campaign had adopted. Our campaign had tried to strike a careful course between free trade and protectionist rhetoric, which was another example of our campaign's attempt to claim the middle ground. Nevertheless, Perot was worried about the extremism on social issues that the Dole campaign had adopted and he had a bone to pick with the major parties. His endorsement would be a big help…
 

Jasen777

Donor
From the autobiography of Dick Morris -

We set up our result watching party in Sacramento and prepared for a very long night. The latest polls showed us in a dead heat with the President, but we hoped that the undecideds would break our way…

East coast results started to come in and they were a bit disappointing. Virginia was close, but it looked like we were going to lose it to Dole, which was an unpleasant surprise. We looked good for New Hampshire but the President was leading in Vermont. Maine and Connecticut were too close to call, and more importantly, so was Florida. The President picked up New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, none of which were surprising, but still a bit disappointing.

Our prospects picked up with the next round of projections. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin were all going our way. The President would win Illinois and Louisiana though, and Michigan was too close to call. We then got news we would win the classic bell-weather state of Missouri, but it looked like Texas in a ferocious 3-way contest would go narrowly for Dole, after which I knew we weren't going to achieve an electoral majority. We picked up steam as the projections moved west, but it wasn't going to be enough. We weren't going to win tonight…


News Update Desk -

"It's currently 2 A.M. on the East Coast, this truly has been one long election night. We can now project the state of Alaska for Senator Dole. This brings his projected electoral vote total to 110. President Clinton leads with 199, and Mr. Powell is in second with 123. Some states are still too close to call, as other networks have found out the hard way. Georgia is tight between Clinton and Dole, whereas Maine, Delaware, Florida, Oregon, and California are all still too close to call between Clinton and Powell. What this all means is that President Clinton is now the only candidate to still have a chance to win an electoral majority. In the national popular vote, we can now project Powell as the winner with approximately 36% of the vote compared to 35% for Clinton, and 27% for Dole."


Election Map as of early morning November 6th

Red - Dole
Blue - Clinton
Gold - Powell
 

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Jasen777

Donor
Nov. 6th Evening News -

Florida has now been declared a victory for President Clinton, giving him an additional 25 electoral votes. With only California not decided, the electoral total stands at 228 for Clinton, 133 for Powell, and 123 for Dole.


From Chaos: A History of the 1996 Presidential Election -

Therefore the election came down to California. The vote was very close between Clinton and Powell. If Clinton won the state, he would win the Electoral College, with a mere 35% of the popular vote, which would be the lowest popular vote percentage for a candidate to win the Electoral College in history. The public eagerly awaited the result, but it would be some time in coming. California had often been slow in counting early and absentee ballots, but it had never before mattered that much...

One of the many interesting results of the election was shown in Nebraska and Maine. They are the only two states the do not follow a winner take all system. The winner of the state gets two electoral votes, but the others go to the winner of each Congressional District. For the first time the winner of each of these sates did not win every district, and so their votes were split. Powell won both states (Maine was very close), but Dole picked up Nebraska's third district and Clinton won Maine's first district.


From the autobiography of Dick Morris-

It wasn't until November 11th that California was ready to declare Powell the winner of the state. The President of course demanded an immediate recount even though the margin was outside the margin for an automatic recount in the state regulations. That would not end until the 15th, and Powell still came out on top…

The election would now shift to the House of Representatives. That didn't offer much hope for our campaign…


Final Election Stats

Electoral Vote – 538 (270 needed to win)

Clinton - 228
Powell - 187
Dole - 123

National Popular Vote - 99,891,138

Powell – 36,193,596 - 36.2%
Clinton - 35,079,051 - 35.1%
Dole - 27,272,414 - 27.3%
Other - 1,377,256 - 1.4%


Final Election Map

Red - Dole
Blue - Clinton
Gold - Powell
 

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