US ELECTIONS: Republicans likely to hold on to power in Congress

`Scandal over seamy Democratic fundraising has rekindled the issues of ethics and character'

As President Bill Clinton's lead diminishes in these closing days of the campaign, prospects are receding that the Democrats will regain control of Congress and thus be able to close down the many Capitol Hill investigations into White House ethics that threaten to bedevil a second term.

As recently as a week ago, when the President was ahead of his Republican challenger, Bob Dole, by as much as 18 per cent in some polls, the Republicans' two-year reign in Congress looked as if it might be rudely and quickly ended. Now, however, the party is widely expected to cling to a majority in the House of Representatives, and even increase its 53-47 edge in the Senate.

On balance, yesterday's crop of polls shows Mr Clinton clearly ahead. But the margin is shrinking - to 13 per cent according to CNN/USA Today and as little as 3.8 per cent in a Reuters/Zogby survey - and a potential landslide has turned into what could be a near repeat of 1992, when Mr Clinton prevailed by 5 per cent in the popular vote and by 370 to 168 votes in the electoral college.

In recent elections, presidential coat-tails have rarely been long. Now the drumbeat of scandal over seamy Democratic fund-raising practices has indirectly rekindled the familiar issues of Clinton ethics and "character", and made them shorter still.

With 34 seats in contention this year, the Democrats need a net Senate gain of only three, assuming a Clinton victory tomorrow that would leave Vice- President Al Gore with the decisive casting vote in the event of a tie. In practice though, all depends on a dozen or so very close races, and to prevail the Democrats must gain Republican seats while losing none of their own - including in the South, a region becoming as Republican in Congressional elections as it traditionally has been in presidential voting.

In Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana, Democratic incumbents are retiring. In each case, Republicans have at least an even chance of victory. In Alabama they are clearly favoured, and in Arkansas Congressman Tim Hutchinson has an opportunity to inflict embarrassment on Mr Clinton in his home state by becoming its first Republican senator since 1932. Adding to the pressures of history are those of the religious right: the Christian Coalition of Pat Robertson yesterday was aiming to distribute 45 million "voter guidance" leaflets at churches throughout the country, which, though technically non-partisan, leave little doubt that on ethical and "family-value" grounds, Mr Dole is infinitely to be preferred to Mr Clinton. In the Bible Belt South especially, the White House is worried the leaflet campaign could damage not only the President but also other Democrats on the ticket.

In other fiercely contested seats as well, no Democrat can feel secure. In Massachusetts, Senator John Kerry may have opened up a slight lead over the Republican Governor, William Weld, thanks to a strong candidates' debate performance last week. And the avowedly liberal Paul Wellstone, once the Republicans' prime target for a gain, looks as if he will retain his seat in Minnesota.

Elsewhere, however, Republicans are faring better. In North Carolina, Harvey Gantt, former mayor of Charlotte, is still underdog in his second attempt to unseat the arch-conservative Jesse Helms, which he must do if the Democrats are to have a realistic hope of recapturing the Senate. Next door, in South Carolina, Strom Thurmond is all set to secure his eighth consecutive term at the tender age of 93. If he completes it, he would be first centenarian senator in US history.

In the House of Representatives also, the Republicans are confident of keeping control after a period last month when their 19-seat majority seemed ripe for the snatching. Now, enough of the 70 Republican new members of 1994, whose radical conservatism stamped the 104th Congress, look safe enough to ensure Newt Gingrich remains Speaker in the 105th. As in the Senate, the Republicans are banking on further gains in the South to cushion losses elsewhere.

In addition, 11 state governorships are at stake this week. No dramatic changes are in the offing, but the Democrat Jeanne Shaheen is poised to become the first female governor in New Hampshire's history, while in Washington state Gary Locke is favourite to become the first the country's first Asian-American governor.

Leading article, page 13

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas