|‹ 1992 2000 ›|
|United States Presidential election, 1996|
|November 5, 1996|
|Candidate||Steve Martin||John D. Burwin|
|Running mate||Bill Parcells||Mario Cuomo|
The 1996 United States Presidential election was a contest held between incumbent Democratic President John Burwin of Sequoyah and Nationalist candidate Steve Martin of California. Due to a stagnant economy, a ballooning political scandal involving potential abuse of power in regards to covering up various extramarital affairs as well as serious allegations of sexual harassment and the flat-faced collapse of various liberal initiatves during the Burwin administration, Martin won a landslide victory in both the electoral college and carried a strong popular vote mandate. It was the second consecutive Presidential election in which the incumbent President lost, and the second consecutive election in which the White House changed party hands.
Democratic Primaries and Nomination
Nationalist Primaries and Nomination
When most Nationalists began aligning themselves for the 1996 election, Burwin was at the height of his popularity in mid-1995, due to a still-strong economy, his presiding over the collapse of the decade-and-a-half French occupation and wars in Indochina, the Internet boom and an unpopular Nationalist House of Representatives. As a result, many heavyweight Nationalists - such as Senators Mike McGowan of Illinois, Bill Parcells of New Jersey and Tom Beckett of Montana, Governors Leslie Nielsen of Dakota and Gil Shephard of Wisconsin, and former Secretary of State George Steinbrenner - stayed out of the race. Former Vice President George Bush also declined to run due to his age - he would have been 72 when elected. The prohibitive frontrunner for most of 1995 was former California Governor Steve Martin, with two other Governors - Sam Scott of Texas and Mitt Romney of Michigan - expected to contend. The other two entrants into what was panned as a weak field were conservative firebrand Johnny Cash, who had even less of a chance of winning the nomination in the more socially liberal 1990's than he did eight years prior, and Congressman Lou Messell of Sequoyah.
The Burwin sex scandal immediately jostled up the race, making moral values and social conservatism critical to an electorate, and a right-leaning Nationalist base, that was apalled and sickened by the daily reports of lewd behavior, illegal proceedings and depraved nature of the Burwin White House.
The first primary of the 1996 nominating season was held in Alabama on January 20, which was generally expected to be carried by Scott by a wide margin due to his heavy campaigning in the state, close ties to Alabama Governor Louis Marshall and Southern heritage. As expected, Scott placed first, but Romney placed a surprising second, despite many assuming his social moderatism, Mormon faith and Michigan roots would impede his chances in Alabama. Frontrunner Steve Martin only reached fourth, which was viewed as an odd setback for a man who was generally regarded as the national frontrunner and who had campaigned in Alabama in the lead up to the primary.
On January 28, both Minnesota and Aroostook held their primaries, both of which were won by Romney, causing steep misgivings about Martin's campaign. Scott, placing third in both contests, needed a strong showing on Super Tuesday in order to continue with his campaign.
On February 7 - Super Tuesday - Scott failed to net a single state's delegates and afterward dropped out of the race. Martin surged back into the lead of the delegate count, winning in 10 of 14 states, but Romney won convincingly in Indiana, Dakota, Delaware and Nevada. The Nevada win by Romney was seen as huge, as it was the neighboring state to Martin's home state of California. The race became increasingly divisive between Romney and Martin, especially as the Burwin scandal continued. Romney portrayed himself as a moderate with strong family values and a history of responsible, job-growth centric governance. Martin ran as a socially liberal and fiscally conservative governor and insinuated that Romney had ridden his father's coattails and name to the Michigan governor's mansion and that he couldn't have been elected Lieutenant Governor in 1988 without the endorsement of then-outgoing President Elizabeth Shannon.
The primary season was contentious from then on, with Romney winning numerous small-prize states while Martin won a few delegate-rich states such as Illinois, Texas, California and Cuba. Romney's surprise victories in New Mexico and Sequoyah, however, unsettled Martin and prevented him from clinching enough delegates to become the presumptive nominee going into the convention. Martin, however, would win the hugely critical Kentucky primary in early June under instense, 24/7 media coverage, with both campaigns exhausted for funds and having sniped at each other for nearly five months. With a month and a half before the convention in Mesa, neither Nationalist candidate had enough delegates to secure the nomination, with Martin enjoying only a narrow 36-delegate lead thanks to his victory in Kentucky, and thus both had to equally campaign against the incumbent President as if they were the party nominee while they were reaching out to various party leaders to shore up support for what promised to be a divisive convention.
As expected, the 1996 Nationalist Party Convention saw unprecedented coverage from both cable news and all three traditional news channels. Despite Martin's narrow lead, many expected party leaders to eventually broker a deal between the two candidates. With the President's approval rating abysmally low and the full focus of the country on the convention, there was a sense in the political spheres and the media that whoever emerged from the convention as the nominee would be the next President of the United States.
Both men entered the convention having named their preferred running mates - Martin picked conservative Senator Bill Parcells as his running mate due to Parcells' noted foreign policy expertise, conservative credentials and high popularity within a typically liberal state. hoping that Scott's delegates would give him the lead he needed over Romney to claim momentum. Scott, however, had released his delegates in February upon dropping out of the race, complicating the expected transition of delegates to Martin. Also, the key endorsements of various figures - such as Richard Van Dyke, Elizabeth Shannon, George Steinbrenner, Alexander Droughns, Clyde Dawley, Robert Redford and Gil Shephard - had not yet been handed out, as no prominent Nationalist had wanted to get involved in the divisive primary.
Romney handpicked Sam Scott, hoping that Scott's delegates would give him the lead he needed over Romney to claim momentum. Scott, however, had released his delegates in February upon dropping out of the race, complicating the expected transition of delegates to Romney. After a blockbuster sixteen-and-a-half hour closed door meeting between Nationalist party leaders - including Party Chairman Rick Reilly, National Campaign Co-ordinator Sue Vinson and three of the four living former Nationalist Presidents and seven Senators - Martin and Romney both emerged and agreed to release their delegates equally and hold a ballot vote, as had been tradition prior to the sanctity of the primary system. On the 18th ballot, Martin finally won out over Romney and, despite lobbying to pick up Romney as his running mate, Martin revealed that both he and Romney had declined to appear on the ticket together privately during the voting on the 8th ballot. Martin stayed true to his word and Parcells was confirmed as the Vice Presidential nominee on the first ballot.
In his acceptance speech, Martin promised to put the divisive primary campaign behind him, played a recorded video of Emperor Albert II of France criticizing President Burwin's record in light of revelations that he had brought with him mistresses on state visits and urged the country to look ahead to a bright future.
General Election Campaign
Steve Martin won an overwhelming electoral victory, earning 436 electoral votes and turning several states that had voted for Burwin in the previous election, including Burwin's home state of Sequoyah. With a 52.3-47.7% popular vote margin, Martin exited the election with a clear popular mandate.
While polls from the end of October and first few days of November had promised a potentially close election, exit polls began to reveal the lopsided nature of Martin's victory. In his home state of California, where Burwin had beaten fellow Nationalist Californian Robert Redford four years earlier 54-46, Martin cruised to victory in a moderate-to-liberal state 57.8-41.3, leading to California being named "American's most important swing state." Martin also made inroads in the Great Plains states, seizing Sequoyah, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota from Burwin, with the largest flip coming in Minnesota, which no Nationalist had carried since 1980. Martin returned key Midwestern strongholds such as Ohio and Michigan to the Nationalist column as well after the party had carried them in the past two elections, and dominated Burwin in moderate Southern states such as Georgia and Florida. In his final electoral coup, Martin took liberal New York, home state of Vice President Mario Cuomo, by a razor-thin margin - analysts regarded this as the most surprising loss, as one of the largest states in the country was decided by 5,000 votes. However, the outcome in New York would not have changed the outcome of the race.