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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dole's Journey to Power Appears to Near Its End

WASHINGTON -- Bob Dole has travelled a classic American journey from poverty in the Great Depression, through European battlefields, to the corridors of power.

But his last mission -- to be elected U.S. president at age 73 -- seems doomed to failure as polls show him running far behind President Bill Clinton, a 50-year-old emblem of a post-war "baby-boom" generation very different from Dole's.

A plain-speaking man from the plains of Kansas, Dole found himself fighting uphill against an incumbent president bolstered by a favorable economy and a flare for campaigning.

Pragmatic, phlegmatic, sardonic, taciturn, modest, sometimes inarticulate, Dole often seemed out of tune with a TV-generation electorate that seemed to value Clinton's charisma and relative youth over Dole's homespun virtues.

Now Dole, who in May gambled by quitting the Senate to run full-time for the presidency, an institution he said he loved above any other, may face a future of unwanted leisure.

He gave his most inspiring and coherent explanation of his core beliefs in his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination in August.

"Let me be a bridge to a time of tranquility, faith and confidence in action," Dole said. "To those who say it was never so, that America has not been better, I say, you're wrong, and I know because I was there. I have seen it. I remember."

But Clinton cleverly seized on the speech and turned it around, declaring that he wanted to "build a bridge to the 21st century" -- a phrase he made the mantra of his campaign.

Dole proved willing to take risks in his quest for the White House. In August, he turned his back on long dedication to budget-balancing and proposed a $548 billion tax-cut package.

The man, who as a child in Kansas knew neighbors who committed suicide over debt, became a latter day convert to the idea that economic growth should come first and debt would take care of itself.

But the 15 percent income tax cut never caught fire with voters and eroded Dole's credibility.

He did win praise for his bold choice of bitter rival Jack Kemp as running mate. That gave his campaign a short-lived jolt of energy. As the campaign wore on and little seemed to work, Dole became increasingly strident, attacking Clinton's ethics.

He began his third run for the White House in April 1995, 50 years to the week after he was wounded as a U.S. Army second lieutenant in Italy.

Twice decorated for heroism, he spent 39 months in hospitals before returning to civilian life. He went to law school unable to write, managing with the help of his first wife.

He lost the key New Hampshire primary in February to conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan, but kept his cool and relied on his superior organization, money and the support of the Republican establishment.

Having exhausted his funds in the bitter nomination battle, Dole was unable to buy television advertising until federal campaign subsidies arrived in late summer, leaving Clinton free to build up a huge lead Dole has never really reduced.

He was born on July 22, 1923, one of four children of a grain elevator manager in Russell, Kansas. After the war he became a lawyer and joined politics. He won a House of Representatives seat in 1960 and a Senate seat in 1968.

Dole twice sought the Republican nomination without success in 1980 and 1988, and was then-President Gerald Ford's vice presidential running mate in 1976. Once divorced, in 1975 he married Elizabeth Hanford. He has one daughter, Robin, from his first marriage.