The Parties, the President, and the 1994 Midterm Elections
HAROLD W STANLEY
Midterm elections are almost always hard on the president's party. The 1994 elections were particularly harsh for President Bill Clinton and the Democrats. High Democratic hopes after the 1992 presidential election made the midterm losses all the more painful. Republicans gained, but the election also stimulated questions about the health of the two-party system and the electorate's attachment to it. This analysis of Clinton and the political parties during the first two years of his presidency discusses the extent to which the midterm elections were a referendum on the Clinton presidency, whether the elections signaled a partisan realignment, and how the results might affect the parties and the presidency in the last two years of Clinton's term.
The 1992 and 1994 elections bracketed the first two years of the Clinton presidency. The 1992 elections put Clinton in the Oval Office with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. The 1994 elections provided, in part, a judgment by voters on how well Clinton and his fellow partisans had met the expectations raised by the 1992 elections. Thus, understanding the 1994 elections requires consideration of the 1992 elections.
The 1992 election results offered at least a temporary end to divided government--Republican presidents and Democratic control of at least one house of Congress--that had characterized the national government for twenty of the previous twenty-four years. This divided government, as 1992 campaign rhetoric had it, produced legislative gridlock from which Clinton and Democratic legislative dominance promised relief.