Take control of the Senate and/or the...


September 15, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

WILL REPUBLICANS take control of the Senate and/or the House of Representatives in November's elections?

Monday I promised a fearless prediction in this space today. Here it is:

Maybe, maybe not. Just kidding. My real prediction: no and no.

But I do believe the Republicans will come close in the Senate -- and win more seats in the House in a mid-term (or off-year) tTC election than at any time since 1954.

That was the election that ended Republican control of the House forever. In the 84th Congress, chosen that year, Republicans held 203 of the 435 seats. Fell to 201 in 1956 and haven't been 200 since.

My guess -- oops, prediction -- for the Senate in the 104th Congress is a gain of five or at most six Republicans. Republican candidates are very strong in these eight states where a Democrat now holds the seat: Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma and Arizona.

Republicans now hold 44 seats, so a net gain of eight would make Bob Dole majority leader. But some Democrat(s) will survive in those states, and a Democrat could replace a Republican in one of these states: Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming. A Republican net gain of six makes the Senate 51-50 Democratic with the vice president's tie-breaker. Close, but no cigars -- or committee chairmanships.

My prediction for the House is 199 Republicans and 236 Democrats (plus 1 Independent). That's a Republican gain of 21 seats -- a somewhat lower number than many political activists, officeholders and pundits predict.

Some even predict a Republican gain of 40 seats and control of the House. But I figure a party that has been unable to win control of the House for 20 straight elections is not a good bet to do it on the 21st try.

The problem with the Republicans is that they always end up nationalizing House of Representatives races. They're going to do it this year with a flourish. They're going to take a group photo of every Republican candidate posed on the Capitol steps. Like it's a ticket? Like Newt Gingrich has coattails?

Democrats keep control of the House because its members really believe and practice something that a Democratic pol said back in 1934: "all politics is local." (Any Reader who IDs him gets a prize. Be specific, and be careful.)

Almost all incumbent representatives get re-elected if they run not to solve national problems but close-to-home ones.

Republicans this year are pinning their hopes on President Clinton's dismal popularity. They think it will rub off on Democratic candidates for the House. But in most districts, voters sing this song: "What's Bill Got To Do With It?"

A new CBS/New York Times Poll shows that 18 percent of all voters will consider their congressional vote "a vote against Clinton"; 17 percent will consider theirs "a vote for Clinton." So that's a wash, and 59 percent say "Clinton not a factor."

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