DOUGLAS B. HARRIS
The elections for Senate seemed to be the bright spot for the Republican party in the otherwise troubled 1996 elections. Where Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole lost decisively to President Bill Clinton and where Republicans lost seats in the House of Representatives, Republicans actually extended the number of Senate seats they held. Senate Republicans were able to capitalize on an extraordinary number of opportunities in an otherwise unfavorable political climate, picking up two Senate seats. Put in the context of the other national election outcomes, the Republican gains in the Senate are impressive indeed.
However, when one views the great many opportunities Senate Republicans squandered and how short they fell of their earlier stated hope of a filibuster-proof majority, it seems Republicans were lucky to have extended their Senate majority at all. A tide of anti-Republican sentiment—blunted only in the last weeks of the campaign by growing evidence of campaign finance irregularities by the Democratic party and some backlash against the activities of organized labor on behalf of Democratic candidates—kept Republicans from capitalizing as well as they might have on a host of remarkable opportunities for gains in Senate seats.
Thirty-five Senate seats were determined during the 1995-1996 election cycle. Thirty-three of those seats were scheduled to be up for election in 1996 and the resignations of Senators Bob Packwood (R-OR) and Bob Dole (R-KS) increased that number to thirty-five. Packwood’s Oregon Senate seat was filled in a January 1996 special election. The net outcome of these races was a one seat increase for Senate Republicans. In the November elections (excluding the race to succeed Packwood),