Bob Dole, a former senator, the running mate of President Gerald Ford on his failed 1976 presidential ticket, and the GOP nominee for president in 1996, died early Sunday, according to a statement by his wife's Elizabeth Dole Foundation. He was 98.
The foundation tweeted, "It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep. At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years. More information coming soon. #RememberingBobDole."
Dole was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in February.
The last U.S. presidential nominee to have served in WWII, Dole had been abandoned for dead on a battlefield during the conflict. His experience instilled in him a sense of duty toward veterans, and led to his lifelong devotion to raising money for the WWII Memorial in D.C., and to securing aid for veterans. He was a rare Republican vocally supportive of Social Security, and during his lengthy time in the Senate was a strong booster of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Born in Russell, Kansas, on July 22, 1923, Dole was catapulted into a life of political service following a career as a lawyer and a long-shot run for the House in 1960. He was elected to the Senate eight years later, serving as RNC chairman from 1971-1973 and House Minority or Majority Leader from 1985-1996, when he left to pursue the presidency for a third time, having been a candidate in 1980 and 1988.
His presidential runs were rare failures for Dole, making him the first-ever major-party nominee to lose in efforts to win both the vice presidency and the presidency. His 1996 campaign was especially crushing for Dole and his party, allowing scandal-battered President Bill Clinton a second term.
After his years in elected office ended, Dole raised eyebrows as a TV pitchman for Viagra. He also appeared in ads for Pepsi with Britney Spears, Dunkin' Donuts, and Visa. He remained committed to humanitarian causes with his second wife, one-term North Carolina Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who survives him.
In his later years, Dole became one of the only old-guard GOP figures to endorse Donald Trump in 2016, albeit by default. More recently, he was seen saluting the body of the late George H.W. Bush at Bush's December 2018 funeral.
Along with his wife, Dole is survived by his daughter with first wife Phyllis Holden, Robin.