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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 09/98: US midterms  
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US midterms Friday, 6 November, 1998, 12:02 GMT
Impeachment process in spotlight
Bill Clinton
For Clinton: Victory is stopping the Republican offensive
By BBC Washington Correspondent Paul Reynolds

Americans voters handed the Democrats a surprising success which might give President Bill Clinton a reprieve from the threat of impeachment.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Why success, you might ask, when the Democrats won only five seats in the House of Representatives, made no gains in the Senate, and left both Houses of Congress under Republican control?

The answer is that, in politics as in warfare, it counts as a victory if you stop your enemy's offensive.

If you can gain some ground as well, that is even better - and that is what the Democrats have done.

Monica Lewinsky
Lewinsky left voters cold
The Republicans had hoped to increase their majorities in Congress.

They thought that the Monica Lewinsky scandal would help, and in a late surge of advertising, they urged voters not to "reward" Mr Clinton for his misdeeds.

The plan backfired badly. Americans proved scandal-weary.

Mr Clinton has escaped unscathed. The "comeback kid" lives up to his name again.

Congress might now lack the political will needed to drive impeachment forward.

It might have to negotiate with the White House to bring an end to the scandal, perhaps by passing a vote of censure instead.

Birth of new political dynasty

George W Bush
George W: Expected to stand for president in 2000
One of the few bright spots for Republicans was the emergence of the Bush brothers, George W and Jeb, who rolled to victory as governors of Texas and Florida.

I met George W recently and marked him down as a potentially powerful presidential candidate.

He is a new type of Republican, occupying the centre ground and appealing to minorities in a way which few Republicans have done before.

In Texas he won nearly 50% of the Hispanic vote.

America has witnessed the establishment of another political dynasty. The brothers - the sons of former President George Bush - established a southern base from which George W Bush could launch a bid for the presidency.

He will not take his decision until early next year, but I see no reason why he should not run, especially after his landslide victory in this election.

'Gingrich looks like yesterday's man'

Republicans will be in disarray. Conservatives in the party were unhappy with concessions made to Mr Clinton in the last budget, and they hold Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich accountable.

While Mr Clinton's position has improved, Mr Gingrich's has now become more precarious.

He failed to deliver election advances and party leaders are looking for a scapegoat. Suddenly Mr Gingrich looks like yesterday's man.

The new Republicans, like the Bush brothers, think that Americans are interested in compromise, not confrontation. They call it "compassionate conservatism". Keep an eye on it.

Links to more US midterms stories are at the foot of the page.


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Links to more US midterms stories

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