THE 1966 CAMPAIGN Softprop and Hardprop
The 1996 campaign devolved into a more subtle battle than in 1992 when Clinton succeeded in voiding the character issue and substituting newprop issues for the old. The question looming in 1996 was if Dole could soften his approach so that he could be regarded as an acceptable alternative to an incumbent President who by position and inclination already was feasting on a political diet of newprop.
Dole could continue to embarrass the President with a steady barrage of oldprop -- the character issue, broken promises, shifting positions, marginal moral conduct of the Presidency, and so on -- but to define himself as an ac -- ceptable custodian of the popular culture, he needed to soften his positions on such issues as pro-life, Medicare, Medicaid, gun control, and the environment.
Dole started with a personal handicap: He had not mastered newprop, and it was doubtful that he could; at best he could be successful with softprop -- the projection of tolerance across those and other issues -- but he would have to limit his dependence on a litany of oldprop to succeed. It was not enough for him to say that Clinton had promised a welfare reform program but vetoed one, that he wanted tax cuts but vetoed them, and that he wanted a balanced budget but vetoed one. This was deceptively oldprop because they were Republican bills.
The polls bore witness to the emergence of these contrasting positions. Only 22% opposed Republican programs in January 1995, but by November opposition had reached 45%, and positive support eroded from 49% to 35%.