In light of the across-the-board Republican gains in 1994, in the Senate and elsewhere, the elections lend themselves to the kind of partisan interpretation that lost most of its appeal during the recent decades of split results and electoral fragmentation driven by voters' weakening party loyalties. In 1994, in addition to the flawless reelection rate of Republican incumbents, the "disjunction" between House and Senate races dating back to the early 1970s ( Jacobson 1990a) disappeared in 1994, with the GOP controlling 53 percent of the seats of both chambers of Congress. Furthermore, 22 states held elections for senator and governor, and only 9 (41 percent) returned a split outcome; going into the election, 14 of these states elected governors and senators from different parties. Finally, the percentage of states with a split Senate delegation dropped to the lowest level since 1966.
The situation in 1994 was, to some extent, similar to the circumstances surrounding the 1980 election: "Whether or not it proves to have the makings of a realigning or critical election, 1980 certainly appeared to refute House Speaker Tip O'Neill's favorite aphorism that 'all politics is local.' The decisiveness of the results, the content of the campaign, the involvement of the national Republican party, all pointed to a national decision by voters that President Carter and his party had failed and that the Republicans--in the presidency and in Congress--deserved an opportunity to govern" ( Mann and Ornstein 1981: 50). Although Clinton could not be on the ballot in 1994, early readings of the "message" sent by the midterm outcome include a mix of "dissatisfaction with President Clinton, with liberalism, with the Democratic party, and with Washington in general" ( Apple 1994b). Analyst William Schneider ( 1994) put it more bluntly, "It was Bill Clinton, stupid. A massive anti-Clinton coalition came together and produced the revolution of Nov. 8" As in 1980, Republicans did have a blueprint for action; if implemented, it can radically change the current balance between local and federal government and deeply transform existing social and domestic policies. Whether 1994 will mark the beginning of a short-lived experiment or inaugurate a long-lasting political and partisan change depends, of course, on the congressional performance of the new Republican majority. The ability of House and Senate Republicans to agree on major initiatives, muster the necessary votes for them, and persuade skeptical and often confused voters of their soundness will be a key variable in the political equation of the 1996 elections.