Wow! Things stayed......almost the same..By Carolyn Gargaro
Commentary on the '98 Election Results
November 4, 1998
While some people were calling for huge Republican gains in this election, I did not believe that would necessarily happen. I actually believed there would be at most, modest Republican gains, and possibly even some Democratic gains. As it stands at the time I am writing this, the balance of power in the Senate stayed the same, and the Democrats gained 5 seats in the House. The GOP has one less Governor, but that seat went to an Independent. Of course, being the little right-winger that I am, I would have preferred to see more Republican gains, but I didn't think that would happen this time around. All indicators show that people are very satisfied with the way the country is going, especially the economy, and when people are satisfied, things tend to stay the same. While I believe there were people who voted because they are upset with the President, and thus, tended to vote Republican, there were also those who may have voted Democrat because they are afraid of going through impeachment proceedings.
The result was that the impeachment inquiry did not have a major effect on the election either way. This election was a collection of nearly 500 local races -- Senate, House, Gov., etc. -- NOT a national referendum. Candidates won or lost on purely local issues. Only about 6% of the people said that the impeachment business effected their vote. Some claim that strong Democrat showing in this election is said to be some kind of "mandate" to end the impeachment hearings. If only 6% of people said that the impeachment influenced their vote, which means that people did not vote based on impeachment, how is this a mandate? If the Republicans had a stronger showing yet only 6% of the people said that impeachment was a key factor in their voting decision, would people claim that the election results were a "mandate for impeachment"? I think not.
The "status quo" election shows that there is not a strong correlation between how many Republicans or Democrats are elected and what Americans think about President Clinton. If the exit polls showed that the impeachment hearings were at the top of the list and there was a large swing either way - either Republicans losing control of Congress or Republicans gaining a lot of seats, then one could say that the election results were an "impeachment mandate." It isn't surprising though, that the impeachment inquiry would have little effect on the race, since all Republicans and almost all Democrats voted for some type of impeachment inquiry. There was little dissention in the two parties on whether ot not an impeachment inquiry should be held.
Now, one could also argue that for the first time in 64 years, the president's party has gained House seats in the 6th year of the President's term, and thus, the Democrats won big. Or as Dick Gephardt stated on CNN on election night, a "historical reversal." But maybe not. First, Republicans retained control of congress - a "historical reversal" would be a Democrat majority in the Congress, not a net gain of 5 seats in the House. In addition, Republicans picked up a great deal of seats in 1992. It would be unusual to pick up a large amount of seats again. As Cokie Roberts pointed out on ABC News last night (November 3) "The Republicans didn't pick up lots of seats this year because so many were picked up 4 years ago. The losses were based on local politics not a referendum on the Republican congress." In addition, Sam Donaldson stated, (ABC news on-line discussion forum 8:21pm EST, Nov 3 '98) "This election based on what people are telling us in the exit polls is not a mandate for or against impeachment." In addition, one must remember that this is the first time in 70 years that Republicans have held control of congress for three consecutive terms. Other results, such as the exit poll which shows that about six in 10 voters said their vote for House candidates had nothing to do with support for President Clinton, while the rest were evenly divided between those who voted to show support for the president and those who voted to register opposition, show that this election was based on local issues, not President Clinton.
What seemed to drive voters was the economy, and the Democrats received the benefits. Exit polls show that the more people saw the economy as favorable, the more likely they were to vote Democratic, which means people credit Clinton, rather than congress, for the country's economic stability. Democrats picked up votes thanks to the stable economy.
Surprises, wins and losses
Brief commentary on some of the more prominent races.
Of course, the big surprise of the night was Jesse "the body" Ventura, the Reform Party candidate who won the governor seat in Minnesota. The tough-talking former mayor came out of nowhere, and spent next to nothing, to win a three-way race in one of the most amazing upsets in Minnesota history!
In California, for the first time since 1980, there is a Democratic Governor, as Lt. Gov Gray Davis defeats Republican Attorney General Dan Lungren, which gives the Democrats a significant edge when the state is redistricted after the year 2000 census.
In one of the nastiest races this election year, New York Democratic Rep. Charles Schumer beat out three-term Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato.
The "Bush Brothers" came out strong as George W. Bush became the first re-elected Republican Governor in Texas in two decades, and Jeb Bush won against Democrat Buddy McKay in the Florida Governor's race. Congratulations to the Bush family!
Republican Peter Fitzgerald beat out incumbent Democrat Carol Moseley-Braun for the Illinois Senate seat.
Talk about a close race! In Kentucky, Rep. Jim Bunning beat out Democratic Rep. Scott Baesler in one of the tightest and nastiest races in the nation. The seat was left open by the retirement of popular Democratic Sen. Wendell Ford. This was an extremely close race, with only a few thousand votes separating the winner from the loser. Races like this one show that EVERY VOTE COUNTS!!
"Radical Right", or the "Moderate"?
Do these election results mean that Republicans should focus on the more "moderates", or push for more "far right" candidates? Some say that losses, such as Dan Lungren for the California Governorship, means that the Republicans are "too far right" and that this is a call for a more "moderate" Republican party. Yet, on the other hand, people say that Republicans shouldn't run moderate candidates, and provide Barbara Boxer's defeat of Matt Fong in California as an example. In addition, Peter Fitzgerald beat out Carol Moseley-Braun, and Fitzgerald isn't a "moderate" and the Bush brothers are not moderate either. Local politics ran this election - there was no referendum either FOR or AGAINST "far right" conservatives.
So, the election is over, the campaigning is complete. Democrats claim a victory for their strong showing, while Republicans hold on to the congress and the majority of Governor positions. And I am tired of politics for right now. I have to rest up for the year 2000 elections! ;-)