CHARLES O. JONES
It is a measure of the progress made in studying elections that most of the time we can predict the outcome. Every so often, however, we are startled by the results and scramble to search for deeper meanings. Forevermore, the 1994 congressional elections will be classified among those events marking important change. Special features abound: the Contract with America, a bold party platform signed by a huge majority of House Republican candidates; the end of 40 years of Republican minority status in the House of Representatives; a candidate for Speaker of the House essentially campaigning for the job; the only newly elected Democratic president in this century to lose both houses of Congress at the midterm; and the continuing transformation of the South from a Democratic to a Republican stronghold.
These developments have encouraged a stronger-than-usual policy reading of the election that has enhanced, even amplified, Speaker-designate Newt Gingrichs' plans for taking charge of the national agenda. The contract and the media event of its signing in late September were ridiculed by most analysts. Many Democrats, including the president, appeared delighted to campaign against the document. It was widely believed that the Republicans had made a strategic blunder since they were bound to do well in the election and the contract could be used by Democrats against Republican candidates. One Democratic political consultant, Paul Begala, was quoted as saying, "There is not a night that I don't thank God for the contract."
On November 8, the Republicans won control of both houses of Congress, as well as control of several statehouses and state legislatures. No Republican incumbent governor, representative, or senator was defeated. The net gain of 52 House seats exceeded the expectations of the most optimistic Republican. It was the greatest net gain for Republicans since 1946 and was the basis for interpreting a mandate for the new Speaker. Imagine--a policy mandate for a leader of the House of Representatives! Not all congressional leaders would know what to do with such a charge. Gingrich, however, had the clear intention of bringing each of the contract's ten proposals to a vote in the House within a 100-day period. He proceeded to make organizational changes to achieve this goal, to set the House to work early in the new session (and late into each working day), to maintain strong party unity, to attract substantial Democratic support on several bills, and to pass