Former GOP senator and 1996 presidential nominee Bob Dole dead at 98

Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who won his party’s nomination for president in 1996, died Sunday at the age of 98, his family said.

“It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep,” the Elizabeth Dole Foundation said in a statement, according to NBC News.

“At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years,” the statement added.

Bob Dole was a World War II veteran who sustained combat injuries that left him permanently disabled. He went on to win election to the Senate in 1968, representing Kansas.

He served as Republican National Committee chairman in the early 1970s and leader of the Senate Republican caucus in the 1980s and 1990s. Dole was also the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1976 and the presidential nominee in 1996, though he lost both races, first to the Jimmy Carter-Walter Mondale ticket and later to the Bill Clinton-Al Gore ticket.

“Bob Dole never forgot where he came from. He embodied the integrity, humor, compassion and unbounded work ethic of the wide open plains of his youth,” Dole’s family said in a statement Sunday.

“He was a powerful voice for pragmatic conservatism, and it was that unique Kansan combination of attributes and values that made him such a giant of the Senate.”

According to The New York Times, Dole was “almost alone among his party’s old guard” in endorsing Donald Trump for president in 2016.

In a statement Sunday, Trump praised Dole and mourned his passing.

“He served the Great State of Kansas with honor and the Republican Party was made stronger by his service,” the former president said. “Our Nation mourns his passing, and our prayers are with Elizabeth and his wonderful family.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence expressed similar sentiments.

“Senator Bob Dole was a truly great man who lived an extraordinary life of service to America and he will be deeply missed by all of us who had the privilege to know him,” Pence tweeted.

“His courageous service in World War II, his heroic recovery, his service in the House and in the Senate where he served as Majority Leader and his service on two national tickets, including as Republican nominee for President in 1996,” he added, “were all driven by a love of country and patriotism synonymous with the Greatest Generation.”

“Bob Dole’s legacy is a legacy of service and Karen and I send our deepest sympathies and prayers to his beloved wife Elizabeth, the entire Dole family and all who loved and admired this true American hero from Kansas. God Bless Bob Dole,” the former vice president concluded.