The balance of power in Washington will shift significantly next month when Congress convenes and Democrats take charge of the U.S. Senate for the first time since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. The results of last month’s elections indicate renewed momentum for Democratic candidates, but no apparent repudiation of Reagan’s policies.
Voters, who split their tickets in unusually large numbers, sent several signals that may shape political strategy between now and the presidential election in 1988: They appear to want moderation from both parties; they are turned off by candidates’ explicit appeals to religious faith; and they want a clearly articulated vision for the future. Voters appear to be open to either party to produce that vision, heralding a race toward 1988 that has suddenly become quite unpredictable.
After the November election, analysts from both Left and Right were quick to point out that results are similar to other elections held in the sixth year of any President’s administration. The average gain in Senate seats for the party out of power is seven. (Last month the Democrats gained eight seats.) Six of the defeated Republican senators were elected in 1980, on the coattails of Reagan’s first landslide victory. They include Jeremiah Denton (Ala.), Paula Hawkins (Fla.), Mack Mattingly (Ga.), Slade Gorton (Wash.), Mark Andrews (N.D.), and James Abdnor (S.D.).
Democrats also replaced retiring Nevada Republican Paul Laxalt and North Carolina’s James Broyhill, who was appointed to fill the seat of the late U.S. Sen. John East. Two “Reagan-revolution” senators who returned to the Senate, Charles Grassley of Iowa and Don Nickles of Oklahoma, distanced themselves from ...1
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