FIRST it was Paul Coverdell in Georgia, then Kay Bailey
Hutchinson in Texas and Richard Riordan in Los Angeles.
Barely recovered from the defeat of George Bush in the 1992
presidential election, Republicans began to speculate openly about
possible gains in the House of Representatives and prospects for
recapturing control of the Senate in 1994.
Then, in early November elections, three more Republicans won
major elections: Christine Todd Whitman ousted Democratic Gov. Jim
Florio in New Jersey, Rudolph Giuliani sent David Dinkins packing
in New York's mayoral contest, and George Allen beat out Mary Sue
Terry for the open governor's seat in Virginia.
Six major elections held in the United States since Bill Clinton
became president have gone to Republicans. A few Democrats won
important mayoral races on Nov. 2 - Dennis Archer in Detriot,
Thomas Murphy in Pittsburgh, Sharon Sayles Belton in Minneapolis,
and Thomas Menino in Boston. And the GOP suffered one significant
mishap Dec. 8 when Ms. Hutchinson was indicted a second time on
election fraud charges almost identical to those dismissed six
weeks ago. But Republicans remain sanguine. Instead of speculating
about forthcoming gains in the House and Senate in 1994, they are
beginning to predict them.
Of course, these are the same folks who thought Mr. Bush
invincible in the fall of 1991 after a summer of parades
celebrating the president's triumph in the Persian Gulf war.
Republican pundits would be well advised to consult their history
books before putting too much of their credibility on the line in
predicting a resurgence for the GOP in 1994.
First, consider the House of Representatives. The average loss
in the House for the president's party during midterm congressional
elections is historically very high, but not high enough for even
the most devoted GOP enthusiasts to contemplate a Republican
majority come January 1995. From 1862-1990 the average midterm loss
in the House for the president's party was 34 seats. If the 1994
election followed this pattern it could mean a 21-seat to 34-seat
gain for the GOP. The best scenario would still leave Republicans
35 seats shy of a majority in the House.
The loss of seats for the president's party in the House
typically followed a boost in House seats for members of the
president's party. In times past, presidents brought members of the
same party into Congress with them during the general election,
hence the idea of "presidential coattails." For example,
Democrats picked up 75 House seats with Truman's victory in 1948,
and Republicans picked up 34 seats with Ronald Reagan's election in
Midterm congressional elections then took back from the
president's party some part of what was gained in the general
election (and on occasion even more than that). Republicans won 47
new seats in the House in President Lyndon Johnson's midterm
election in 1966, and 49 new Democrats entered the House following
the Watergate debacle in the election of 1974.
However, in the current era of candidate-centered politics, a
president's coattails do not hold much influence in congressional