Democrats crushed in Texas poll: The loss of a Senate seat is another blow to Clinton's flagging fortunes and boosts Republican morale

BILL CLINTON was further bruised this weekend when his candidate in a special Senate race in Texas was not just defeated but ground into the dust by his Republican opponent.

The loss in the Texas election, billed in advance as the first serious electoral test for President Clinton since he took office last winter, is a further notch in a long tally of mishaps and controversies, including the abandonment last week of his civil rights nominee, Lani Guinier.

Though the Democratic candidate, Bob Krueger, had for some time been written off by pollsters in Texas, nobody had predicted the scale of his defeat to the Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison, the State Treasurer. In the end he suffered a vote against him of 68 per cent to 32 per cent.

The most immediate consequence for Mr Clinton is a narrowing of his party's majority in the Senate to just 56 seats to 44 for the Republicans. Mr Krueger had been appointed, pending the weekend's election, to keep warm the Texas seat vacated by Lloyd Bentsen when he became Treasury Secretary.

That perilous majority will be critical to Mr Clinton in the coming weeks in particular, when his economic package comes up for debate and eventual vote in the Senate. First consideration of the proposals, on which Mr Clinton has arguably staked his entire presidency, begins in the Senate today.

It is not without signficance that Ms Bailey Hutchison based her successful campaign on lambasting Mr Clinton's deficit-reduction programme, and particularly its heavy reliance on tax increases. 'I'm going to go in there and vote against the taxes, first and foremost,' she declared after her win.

The Texas defeat simply adds to an impression rapidly taking hold that Mr Clinton's problems may now have accumulated to the point of being almost insurmountable. It also provides a tremendous morale boost to the Republicans, who for weeks have been content virtually to stand on the sidelines and watch Mr Clinton implode.

A New York Times/CBS poll released yesterday confirmed that Mr Clinton's standing with the public is worse than that of any recent president at this stage in an administration. Only 38 per cent of voters said they approved of the President's overall performance, with 47 per cent disapproving. Increasing numbers are apparently viewing the President as an old-style Democratic liberal, too enamoured of tax increases, in spite of his increasingly conspicuous efforts to move towards the political centre.

The President's withdrawal last Thursday of Lani Guinier, the racial equality advocate, as his nominee to head civil rights in the Justice Department continued at the weekend to provoke furious reactions from the left wing of the Democratic Party and civil rights groups. 'This is a very serious situation, which is not going to go away,' Benjamin Chavis of the NAACP, the black rights organisation, warned Mr Clinton yesterday.

The poll, the first since the latest nomination debacle, suggested that a majority of ordinary voters thought the President was right to drop Ms Guinier, depicted by opponents as a radical supporter of positive discrimination in favour of blacks. But by a greater margin they questioned why Mr Clinton had nominated her in the first place.

On the brighter side, there is evidence that most voters have still not given up on Mr Clinton. An impressive 69 per cent of those questioned said he had a vision of where he wants to lead the country. The same number said he was still in a learning phase of his presidency, with only 26 per cent ready to conclude that he is not up to the job.

Leading article, page 19

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine