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US midterms Thursday, 5 November, 1998, 01:49 GMT
Clinton: People before politics
Bill Clinton: Impeachment is in the hands of Congress
President Bill Clinton has said he is proud of the Democratic performance in the United States mid-term elections.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]In his first public comment he said the results showed public had chosen "progress over partisanship" and "people before politics".

He said the key message was that the American people were concerned about the minimum wage, social security, education and the environment.

"The American people basically said: 'We sent you there to work for us, and we want you to find a way to do it, to address the challenges we face and to bring this country together and move this country forward'," he said.

"I think that was the loud, clear and completely unambiguous message of the election," the president added.

He declined to comment on the impact of the elections on the impeachment procedure against him.

He said it was an issue for Congress and the American people to decide.

In surprising results, the Democrats made gains in key election battlegrounds across the country.

Although the Republicans retained control of both chambers of Congress, the Democrats gained five seats in the House of Representatives and maintained their 45 seats in the Senate, where they had been expected to lose up to four seats.

Click here for interactive map of results

With only two weeks until impeachment hearings begin, the results have blunted Republican hopes of impeaching President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Democrats are certain to trumpet their gains as a mandate to end the investigation.

But as in many elections, both sides claimed victory.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is facing renewed questions about his leadership in the wake of the poor showing, said the results showed faith in the Republican party.

"This is the first time in 70 years the Republicans have kept the House for three terms," Gingrich said. "So I think it's a pretty good night."

Key states, key victories

The Democrat victories were all the more surprising as history was on the Republicans' side.

Previously only two presidents this century - Theodore Roosevelt in 1902 and Franklin Roosevelt in 1934 - had seen their parties make inroads in the House during mid-term elections. Seven presidents have seen gains in the Senate.

In New York, where a bitter battle was fought, Democrat Charles Schumer beat incumbent Al D'Amato, one of Mr Clinton's leading critics.

The Democrats also did well in the richest and most populous state, California, where Barbara Boxer retained her Senate seat and Gray Davis won the governorship.

In North and South Carolina Democrats took both senate seats up for grabs. Florida and Vermont also voted for Democrat senators.

Bush dynasty advances

G W Bush
George W Bush: Returned as Texas governor
But the Republicans had their successes too, with the nascent Bush political dynasty leading the way.

Jeb Bush, son of former President George Bush, took the governorship of Florida; and his brother George W Bush reinforced his hopes of running for the presidency in 2000 by holding onto the governor's seat in Texas.

It is the only the second time in US history that two brothers have been state governors simultaneously.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, one of the major Republican players in moves to impeach President Clinton, also retained his seat.

But the Republican Party had hoped to make gains in both houses and the BBC's Gavin Esler says there may be blood-letting in the party. The former Vice-President Dan Quayle has already spoken of a need for changes in the national Republican leadership.

Polls had predicted a record low of turnout of around 35%. But Tuesday saw nearly 38% voting, nearing the 1994 level.

BBC News
Katty Kay: It has been called the election about nothing
BBC News
Katty Kay: For Democrats, turn-out is crucial
BBC News
David Gergen: "The Hillary election"
BBC News
James Helm on John Glenn's call from space
BBC News
Washington Correspondent Paul Reynolds: "Clinton appears to have escaped unscathed"
BBC News
Jane Hughes speaks to Americans who just don't care
BBC News
Newt Gingrich: "Solid framework for 2000"
BBC News
BBC Washington Correspondent Tom Carver: Outcome may be decided by only a handful of voters
BBC News
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt: "Picking up seats would be historic"
BBC News
Tom Carver: Only half of Americans likely to vote
BBC News
Washington correspondent Bridget Kendall reports on the winners and losers
BBC News
Bill Clinton: "Astonishing result"
BBC News
BBC's Tom Carver: "A rejection of the Republican preoccupation with scandal"
See also:

30 Oct 98 | US midterms
04 Nov 98 | US midterms
04 Nov 98 | US midterms
04 Nov 98 | US midterms
04 Nov 98 | US midterms
06 Nov 98 | US midterms
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