Senator Dole’s secretary of his presidential campaigns released a statement thanking the senator and lifelong Republican for his services to the party
Bob Dole, who played a pivotal role in helping Ronald Reagan defeat Gerald Ford in the 1976 Republican presidential primaries before going on to back his father’s unsuccessful 1980 bid, has died. He was 98.
Born Ed Wilson Dole in Nebraska on 8 October, 1923, to a family of successful farmers, Dole initially enrolled at Northwestern University but was later drafted into the US army after he became a national lightweight boxing champion.
The senator served as a public affairs officer in Japan during the second world war, as well as in Fort Riley, Kansas, before returning to college, and graduated with a history degree from Kansas State University in 1946.
His record in the field of public affairs would lead to his first campaign for political office, when he was elected to the Kansas state senate in 1946. Two years later, Dole was elected to the US House of Representatives, representing Kansas and nine other eastern states.
Dole served in the House until 1962, when he was elected to the US Senate. A one-term senator, Dole would join his father to run a losing campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980. After leaving Congress, Dole ran unsuccessfully in 1992 for the Kansas governor’s seat.
In 1996, Dole returned to the Senate for a full 16-year term, he served as the Senate majority leader and as the titular head of the GOP. In 2001, he would join forces with other Republican leaders, including then-Senate majority leader Trent Lott, to give President George W Bush the lame-duck majority he needed to ram his election-year agenda through Congress.
Following that election, Dole ran unsuccessfully against Bill Clinton in 1996, twice serving as vice-president.
After leaving the Senate, Dole worked as a Washington lobbyist, but he lost his position in that field after being embroiled in the latest president’s extramarital affairs.
In 2008, Dole ran for the GOP presidential nomination. His campaign appeared to be faltering in the wake of a GOP showdown with John McCain in New Hampshire. But Dole took a high-profile role in President Obama’s 2008 general election campaign, appearing at events where he urged Republicans to coalesce around the president.
After backing Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012, Dole continued his involvement in the GOP. In 2015, Dole was a special assistant to the White House chief of staff for legislative affairs. He continued to hold an office suite in his native Kansas, which he decorated with pictures of himself with presidents and his wife, Elizabeth.
Dole’s secretary of his presidential campaigns released a statement thanking the senator and lifelong Republican for his service to the party.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend, the great Senator Bob Dole,” Ernie Koontz, Dole’s secretary of his Republican campaigns in 1980, 1984 and 1988, wrote. “When our party nominated Ronald Reagan in 1976, Bob led the campaign, and when Reagan was ready to serve the country again, he welcomed Bob into the White House as part of his team.”
“To Bob, representing the people of Kansas, the United States Senate, and the United States of America, was a life well lived.”