How They Fared
November 6, 1996
The NewsHour focused at various times on several specific congressional and referenda contests during this election. Kwame Holman reports on how each turned out, and Charlayne Hunter-Gault looks at some other national races.
KWAME HOLMAN: Colorado's open Senate seat was the battleground for Republican Congressman Wayne Allard and Democrat Tom Strickland. Strickland called Allard an extremist, too conservative for Colorado. But Republican Allard prevailed in this battle over who was the true moderate.
REP. WAYNE ALLARD: We did it together, didn't we?
KWAME HOLMAN: Still, it was close--Allard 51 percent, Democrat Strickland 46 percent. In House races, freshman Republicans elected in the 1994 GOP takeover were in the spotlight. Washington State Republican Randy Tate lost his bid for a second term to Democrat Adam Smith, whose campaign was bolstered by AFL-CIO ads that portrayed Republican Tate as too far to the right for this traditionally swing district.
AD SPOKESPERSON: It should be illegal to do something like that.
RICK WHITE: I'm doing just great. How's everybody doing there?
KWAME HOLMAN: Rick White, another Washington State Republican freshman, apparently was successful in fending off charges he is a clone of Speaker Newt Gingrich made by Democratic opponent Jeff Coopersmith. Republican White focused on a theme of reduced federal bureaucracy and devolving power back to the states to pull out a four-point victory last night.
SPOKESMAN: How you doin'? Good to see you guys.
KWAME HOLMAN: On the other side of the country, Pennsylvania Republican Phil English also won after distancing himself from the conservative agenda in Congress, including voting to increase the minimum wage.
REP. PHIL ENGLISH, (R) Pennsylvania: I think clearly the freshman class was depicted as being much more ideologically monolithic than it really was in the final analysis.
KWAME HOLMAN: In Tennessee, the NewsHour tracked Republican freshman Van Hilleary, also an AFL-CIO target, who nonetheless handily defeated Democratic opponent Mark Stewart, and in a rematch of a tight race two years ago, Democratic Congressman Bart Gordon won a seventh term easily defeating Republican Steve Gill. Redistricting ordered by the Supreme Court gave some incumbents new territory and new problems in the 1996 campaign. In Georgia's new 4th district, Democrat Cynthia McKinney won her race over John Mitnick. In Texas, redistricting reshaped 13 races from Dallas to Houston. In a district with 11 candidates on the ballot, Democratic Congressman Ken Bentsen got 34 percent of the vote, followed by Republican Dolly Madison McKenna. The two meet in a runoff December 10th. Voters also decided a variety of local and statewide ballot initiatives yesterday, among them approval of California's Proposition 209, ending race and gender preferences in the public sector. But they rejected Proposition 211, which would have made it easier for people to sue corporations for stock fraud. Californians also voted against regulating HMO's. Californians and Arizonans also approved measures making marijuana use legal for medicinal purposes. And in Colorado, voters defeated a proposed state constitutional amendment codifying the right of parents to raise and educate their children. Opponents argued the measure would lead to increased child abuse and never-ending curriculum battles in the classroom.
JIM LEHRER: We return now to the larger picture and to the decision of the country, a continued divided government in Washington, a Democratic President but a Republican-controlled Congress. Charlayne Hunter-Gault has more on that.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And those details now come--uh--with some of the factors underlying yesterday's vote. And we're joined by Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Andy, what have learned--what--is it almost 24 hours later now--not quite--about why people elected--re-elected Bill Clinton, Democrat, and a Republican Congress?
ANDREW KOHUT, Pew Research Center: I think the overall--the first factor is this was an electorate disposed to the status quo. They were contented by a 53 to 43 percent public--voters said last night the country was on the right track. Most said economic conditions were good, even though they weren't feeling them particularly in their pocket. They saw that the larger economy was doing well. And there was no--there was not a case to go out and seek change, and then the case wasn't made by the challengers, uh, for change. We talked a lot about how Bob Dole didn't make the case for change, but the same thing was true, I think, for the congressional Democrats. There was an interesting in the exit polls. There was a larger percentage of American voters this year worrying that the Democratically-controlled Congress would be too liberal than were worried that a Republican Congress would be too conservative. In other words, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know at a time when you're satisfied.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, are you saying that the public voted more for incumbency than they did for divided government? I mean, we heard Henry Cisneros say earlier on the program to Elizabeth that he thought the public was voting for a check on the President.
MR. KOHUT: Well, I have--I have had real doubts about it. I continue to have real doubts about it. The public was focused in congressional issues on local factors more than on national factors, while--while Newt Gingrich and the 104th Congress are not popular with--still not popular majorities in the exit polls said they didn't like Gingrich--60 percent--54 percent said they didn't like the 104th Congress. Most people told us throughout the campaign that they were thinking about local factors. And if you analyze the nature of the vote, the congressional vote, it--it really expresses the partisan, uh, parity in this country. 90 percent of the Republicans in the country voted for a Republican congressional representative. 90 percent of the Democrats--close to that--voted for a Democrat, and the independents broke, uh, slightly for Republicans.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, did any of your polling show that the public voted this way because they wanted a check on the President they regarded as untrustworthy?
MR. KOHUT: Well, there is--there is the notion that the President, uh--there is concern about, about the President. In fact, 50 percent of voters said--when asked to describe their reaction to a--to a Clinton win--and this is obviously an electorate that voted for Bill Clinton--they said that they worried that--that--or were scared in fact that Bill Clinton might make mistakes. But still, I think it's mostly the case that these inde--that Democrats didn't make the case to these independents that, uh, they were going to provide--they were going to do better--do better things if--if they once again controlled Congress. Uh, I'm sure that there were some strategic voters but my guess is it's a pretty small number.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So what do the polls say about the mandates--the President's mandate vis-a-vis Congress and the Congress mandate vis-a-vis the President?
MR. KOHUT: Well, perhaps to oversimplify it a little bit--
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And briefly.
MR. KOHUT: --and briefly--the public didn't have a lot on its mind. No one issue emerged with more than 20 percent in the exit polls. There wasn't--certainly there wasn't an ideological tone. The public said it wanted less government but it didn't like the 104th Congress.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So this notion that the public is going to press the Congress to get along with the President and the President to get along with the Congress to do something, as the President said last night--put our divisions behind them--may not be borne out in what the public is thinking?
MR. KOHUT: That doesn't follow. Yes, I think it may be borne out, because we found in July both the President went up and the Republicans did better in Congress after the passage of welfare reform and portability and, and, uh--in that stream of legislation. So cooperation and moderation I think will be--will benefit both.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: All right. Andy, thank you.