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May 03. 2011 12:29PM

1996: Another front-runner buried

Expect the unexpected.

U.S. Sen. Bob Dole cornered the market on endorsements and enjoyed a 2-to-1 lead in the polls a month before New Hampshire's Republican Presidential primary.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box.

New Hampshire Republicans gave former White House aide Patrick Buchanan a victory in one of the primary's biggest upsets.

Buchanan's strong showing in New Hampshire and Iowa weakened Dole, who would later earn the Republican nomination.

A big question mark in 1996 was whether retired Gen. Colin Powell — who led Presidential polls — would seek the Republican Presidential nomination.

With about 100 days left before the primary, Powell announced he would not run for President or serve as anyone's vice president.

Powell's announcement came five hours after Gov. Steve Merrill formally endorsed Dole.

Millionaire businessman Steve Forbes spent millions on television commericals, riding his spending spree to the top of New Hampshire polls a month before the primary.

He finished fourth.

"New Hampshire is the graveyard of front-runners," said David Carney, a senior adviser to Dole in 1996. "I don't think we take pride in that. We do our job and take these guys down to reality."

Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, who visited the state in 1993 with an eye on the 1996 Presidential race, withdrew from the race less than a week before the primary. He also endorsed Dole right before the primary.

Dole aides and the candidate himself realized the senator was in trouble, lowering expectations in the primary's closing days.

Dole finished second with 26 percent of the vote, a single percentage point behind Buchanan.

"Now, I know why this is the Granite State," Dole said on primary night. "It's so hard to crack. But that's why I love New Hampshire."

On the Democratic side, President Clinton ran virtually uncontested, receiving 84 percent of the Democratic vote.

In November, Clinton won reelection. His victory once again meant the person winning the White House won New Hampshire first. The Democrat also captured New Hampshire's four electoral votes for the second consecutive Presidential election.


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