Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., who served as Senate majority leader before being elected president, died early Friday. He was 98.
The legislative leader died of pneumonia at his home in Russell, Dole’s family said in a statement.
Dole became Senate majority leader in 1986 at the age of 69, replacing William H. Knowland. Known for his “dogged stand against the Soviet Union,” Dole was the presumptive heir apparent in the Senate to serve as its leader.
His mother, Hazel Dole, died the day before Republicans lost the 1988 presidential race, leaving the platform wide open for President George H.W. Bush.
Dole carried out the terms of his predecessor’s mandate to “do whatever it takes” to defeat the former Soviet Union. In the lead-up to the first Reagan-Bush debate in 1987, Dole said then-Vice President Bush was “wrong” on key issues including “mechanism and course,” and that the “Reagan doctrine” lacked clarity on the future of the Cold War.
He won reelection as Senate majority leader in 1991, but his presidential campaign stalled when candidate George H.W. Bush captured the White House. He later supported Republican Pat Buchanan in the 1996 election, which Buchanan lost to Democratic candidate Bill Clinton.
Dole entered the Senate in 1964 and left in 1996, when he retired.
He’s credited with devising an amendment process that focused on preventing filibusters and saving bills from Senate exhaustion, known as the Dole rule. On the night of the last night the Senate was expected to be out of session, the rules committee closed down the chamber to ensure that filibusters wouldn’t tie the chamber.
He and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who served alongside him in the Senate, were seen as close friends. When Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2004, Dole donated $50,000 to help the cancer treatment.
Dole helped Bush win re-election in 2004, and was active in Republican politics. In 2014, he ran for the presidency as a GOP candidate. While he lost to businessman Donald Trump, Dole was among the governors who endorsed Trump, highlighting their shared views on a number of issues. He said the nominee was “not perfect,” but “on the whole he’s the most qualified.”
In a statement, Trump said “Bob Dole was always a fighter.”
“He never gave up, and never, ever gave in,” Trump said. “His lifelong dedication to a stronger America made him a true patriot and an example to all.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus praised Dole’s “belief in public service and the love for country,” and said that “words are inadequate to express his immense legacy.”
Dole will be buried in Sedgwick, Kan., according to his family. His wife, Elizabeth, died in 2010.