Although Presi…

Michelle Kibiger

Although President Bill Clinton’s second term election was a surprise neither to Minnesotans nor voters in the rest of the United States, the fact that Clinton barely achieved a majority of the popular vote caught his supporters by surprise.
An ABC News poll released Monday showed that 51 percent of likely voters supported Clinton, while 39 percent supported Republican candidate Robert Dole. Reform party candidate H. Ross Perot had the support of seven percent of those polled.
Minnesota did more than its share to contribute to Clinton’s quest to gain a majority of the popular vote.
While CNN predicted a national turnout of less than 50 percent, Minnesota Secretary of State Joan Growe anticipated that the state would reach its voter turnout goals of 70 percent.
Polls suggested that voter turnout would have a significant impact on whether or not the president received a majority of the popular vote.
Although achieving 25 percent of the popular vote was a goal for the Perot campaign, Cedric Scofield, a volunteer for the Perot campaign, said Perot was unlikely to reach that goal. Early results showed Perot with about 10 percent of the national popular vote.
Clinton’s acceptance speech was quick to honor former Senate Majority Leader Dole. However, Clinton was jubilant at his renewed four-year lease on the White House.
“Just four years from now we will enter a new century of new challenge and unlimited possibility,” Clinton said. “We’ve got a bridge to build and I’m ready if you are.”
Clinton listed many challenges the United States will face in the coming years. He suggested that all levels of government need to work together to meet the challenges.
“It is time to put politics aside, join together and get the job done for America’s future,” Clinton said.
Volunteers with the Minnesota Dole-Kemp campaign showed optimism until the end. Warren Anderson, a Minnesota volunteer coordinator, said he expected a Dole victory right up to the last few hours. He also said Dole’s 96-hour campaign marathon helped boost supporters’ confidence.
“It showed that age was a red herring, that he has proven himself capable,” Anderson said. “I don’t know if any of us at our ages could do it (like he did).”
Sen. Dole’s concession speech was cordial, but showed how the final days of a presidential election can wear on a candidate, especially when they mark the end of a political career.
“It occurred to me on the way down the elevator,” Dole said, “tomorrow will be the first time in my life I won’t have anything to do.”
Dole also said he was optimistic about the future.
“We’re going to keep the Senate, we’re going to keep the House,” he said.
Although Dole was quick to thank the two most important women in his life — his wife Elizabeth and his daughter Robin — the biggest factor in the Minnesota vote for president was the gender gap. Women in Minnesota voted for Clinton 25 percent more than they voted for Dole, according to a WCCO-TV analysis.
Anderson said issues of character in the final days of the election really helped turn voters on to Dole’s message.
“He’s been hammering home the message,” Anderson said. “It should have been the message we’ve been hammering home all along.”
Many Americans polled by ABC agreed that character and trust were important issues for them.
Fifty-two percent of likely voters polled indicated that they did not consider Clinton honest and trustworthy. However, Dole’s greatest weakness with voters was that 48 percent of those polled thought he did not understand their problems.
Republican fears that a big Clinton victory would allow Democratic candidates to ride presidential coattails to a takeover of Congress were allayed when preliminary returns suggested that Republicans will retain control of both the House and the Senate in the 105th Congress.
Partisan conflicts have dogged Clinton for the past two years and are likely to continue as divided government continues into Clinton’s second administration.
Battles over Social Security and Medicare will continue. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Medicare will be defunct in 2002 and that Social Security won’t have enough money to support the baby boom generation.
Both Dole and his running mate Jack Kemp wished Clinton well on his next for years in office. After greeting well-wishers in Costa Mesa, Calif., Kemp said Clinton “has our prayers and best wishes.”