|Thursday, November 5, 1998||
Volume 64, Issue 53
Remembering Lynn Eusan
Dems despite lack of issue
By Jacqueline A. Newmyer
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (U-WIRE) -- Talking heads christened it the "Seinfeld election" as many voters thought Tuesday's contests were about nothing.
But the lack of a single national issue did not prevent Democrats from taking the gubernatorial race in the nation's largest state and a number of other close contests across the country.
California Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, defeated the Republican candidate for governor, State Attorney General Dan Lungren. In the state's Senate race, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) beat another GOP hopeful, State Treasurer Matt Fong.
Democrats also won tight Senate contests in Wisconsin and New York, and the party captured House seats in Pennsylvania, Mississippi and New Mexico.
Elsewhere in the country, Republicans did not fare as badly, with Massachusetts Acting Gov. A. Paul Cellucci beating out his Democratic challenger, State Attorney General L. Scott Harshbarger and a Republican defeating incumbent Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun in Illinois.
Democrats celebrated some unexpected victories in the nation's gubernatorial contests. Challengers who enjoyed the overwhelming support of black voters ousted Republican governors in South Carolina and Alabama.
Democrats also emphasized that their strong showing in the congressional contest defied a historical trend. Since 1862, the president's party has fared poorly in mid-term elections.
Republicans stressed last night that the results should be judged in light of overwhelming GOP gains in the House and Senate in 1994. As holders of the majority, they had fewer seats to capture.
Despite losses in a few close races, Republicans managed to retain their dominance of the nation's statehouses.
With such mixed results, however, both Republicans and Democrats were quick to declare victory.
Former White House Press Secretary Michael D. McCurry called Tuesday's race "a national Rorschach test," predicting that "people will make of it whatever they want."
Pundits on both sides of the aisle said Republican attempts to highlight the president's sexual misconduct in the course of local and statewide campaigns backfired.
Rather than convince GOP supporters to head to the polls, the anti-Clinton message became a weapon for Democrats, who accused Republicans of lacking concrete programs to offer the public.
"There were more likely to be negative reactions to Republican anti-Clinton ads than positive ones," McCurry said.
Poll results indicated that the Lewinsky affair would not resonate with voters in most of the country, but Republicans attempted to use it in select regions, where they believed it would encourage right-wing constituents to vote.
Democrats may also have benefited from stumping by Vice President Al Gore and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who barnstormed in districts where races were tight.
The vice president appeared with Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who defeated incumbent Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.), an ardent Clinton critic, after months of intense campaigning.
The first lady addressed crowds in her home state of Illinois on behalf of incumbent Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.), who nonetheless lost to her Republican challenger, 38-year-old Peter G. Fitzgerald -- now the youngest senator.
The most effective support Democratic candidates received from the White House, however, had less to do with personal endorsements than with tactical political maneuvering, as they devoted a substantial part of their campaign efforts to promoting voter participation in inner cities.
This strategy served them well as many Democratic winners last night received more than 70 percent of the black vote.
The success of the Democrats' last-minute maneuvering to woo black voters stands in stark contrast to the failure of Republicans to launch final-stretch campaign efforts.
Alan Simpson, director of the Harvard Institute of Politics and a former Republican senator from Wyoming, chastised Republicans for not being vocal enough in responding to criticism from their Democratic opponents.
"An attack unanswered is an attack believed and, worse, an attack believed in," Simpson said.