Robert Joseph Dole (born July 22, 1923) is a retired American politician, statesman, and attorney who represented Kansas in the U.S House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 and in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1996, serving as the Republican Leader of the United States Senate from 1985 until 1996. He was the Republican presidential nominee in the 1996 presidential election and the party’s vice presidential nominee in the 1976 presidential election.
Born in Russell, Kansas, Dole established a legal career in Russell after serving with distinction in the United States Army during World War II. After a stint as Russell County Attorney, he won election to the House of Representatives in 1960. In 1968, Dole was elected to the Senate, where he served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1971 to 1973 and Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from 1981 to 1985. He led the Senate Republicans from 1985 to his resignation in 1996, and served as Senate Majority Leader from 1985 to 1987 and from 1995 to 1996. In his role as Republican leader, he helped defeat President Bill Clinton’s health care plan.
President Gerald Ford chose Dole as his running mate in the 1976 election after Vice President Nelson Rockefeller withdrew from seeking a full term. Ford was defeated by Democrat Jimmy Carter in the general election. Dole sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 but quickly dropped out of the race. He experienced more success in the 1988 Republican primaries but was defeated by Vice President George H. W. Bush. Dole won the Republican nomination in 1996 and selected Jack Kemp as his running mate. The Republican ticket lost in the general election to Bill Clinton, making Dole the first person to be nominated for both president and vice president by one of the current major parties without winning election to either position. He resigned from the Senate during the 1996 campaign and did not seek public office again after the election.
Though he retired from public office, Dole has remained active in public life after 1996. He appeared in numerous commercials and television programs and served on various councils. In 2012, Dole unsuccessfully advocated Senate ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He initially supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 Republican primaries, but later became the only former Republican nominee to endorse Donald Trump, after Trump clinched the Republican nomination. Dole is currently a member of the advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and special counsel at the Washington, D.C., office of law firm Alston & Bird. On January 17, 2018, Dole was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. He is married to former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina.
In 2019, the U.S. Congress unanimously passed a bill promoting the 95-year-old Dole from Captain to Colonel for his service during World War II.