Gephardt Expects Big Things for Democrats: With Eye on Higher Office, Lawmaker Predicted Victory

By Akers, Mary Ann | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 4, 1998 | Go to article overview

Gephardt Expects Big Things for Democrats: With Eye on Higher Office, Lawmaker Predicted Victory


Akers, Mary Ann, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


ST. LOUIS - House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, hoping either to be speaker or possibly president in 2000, declared a Democratic victory well before the final results were tabulated.

He would make no predictions, but he had great expectations his party would fare much better than it normally would in a nonpresidential election year.

"I think it's going to be a good election," he said after casting an early morning vote for himself in his district here, where the 11-term Democrat faced only token opposition. Also voting with him and for him were his wife, Jane, and his 90-year-old mother.

On a misty, chilly morning - weather conditions that analysts say keep more Democrats away from the polls than Republicans - Mr. Gephardt expressed confidence that his House Democratic Caucus would remain strong because "people want to stop the investigations."

"Wherever I go, there are any number of people who say, `When are you going to stop talking about the president's problems and start talking about mine?' " he said.

Even at 9:30 in the morning, well before exit polling showed that Democrats were in fact faring better than expected, Mr. Gephardt claimed a tactical victory of sorts over what he has condemned as a "do-nothing" GOP Congress bent on impeaching the president.

He prepared to make a "victory" speech to his supporters later in the night rebutting House Speaker Newt Gingrich's claim that Republicans would pick up as many as 10 seats this year, seeking to chide the speaker for the Republicans' investigations of President Clinton.

While yesterday's congressional elections were widely viewed as a referendum on Mr. Clinton's tarred presidency, they also hold profound implications for Mr. Gephardt.

If Democrats could contain or even narrow the Republicans' 11-seat majority, the outcome could be a needed boost to his leadership, which has come under some scrutiny from various factions within his party.

Most recently, Rep. Harold Ford Jr., Tennessee Democrat, suggested to the New York Times magazine that House Democrats might reconsider their leadership if they were unable to take back the House this year. …

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