Once again, Florida's GOP voters confronted a choice of an establishment Republican, a conservative Texan and a hard right extremist. But instead of Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, PresidencyIII delegates were choosing among Bob Dole, Phil Gramm and Pat Buchanan.
The November 1995, straw ballot was a bitter battle between Kansas Sen. Dole, Texas Sen. Gramm and former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander. Dole, who first ran for president in 1980, desperately needed to win Presidency III to shore up support for his campaign.
There were 3,325 voting delegates and the halls were intense as the candidates pushed hard to win votes. When the voting was over, it was Dole 33, Gramm 26 and Alexander 23.
Dole's weak victory cast a long shadow over his campaign. Gramm and Alexander both pushed the idea that Dole could not win the nomination and that if he did he could defeat incumbent Democratic President Bill Clinton.
Gramm tried to convince national party leaders that Dole's less than 40 percent showing was a terrible performance by a perceived frontrunner. Indeed it was. But there was little interest in either Gramm or Alexander when the campaign moved to the Iowa caucuses.
Dole won Iowa getting 26 percent of the vote. Buchanan, who thrived in the dark side of gutter politics, shocked the political world by coming in second with 23 percent. Alexander was third with 18 percent. Gramm was fifth (and done) with 9 percent to Steve Forbes 10 percent.
Crowley Political Report had one of its coldest nights in New Hampshire watching a Dole, torchlight parade of supporters. It was a very cold primary for Dole who was stunned by Buchanan who won New Hampshire with 27 percent of the vote to Dole's 26 percent. Alexander finished third with 22 percent.
It was Buchanan's last hurrah and Dole would go on to easily become the nominee. Dole would live up to the fears of Gramm and Alexander by being an awful general election candidate.
What will be the big surprise at Presidency 5, this weekend? We'll soon find out.
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