Dems Turn the Tide

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WASHINGTON: So much for the six-year itch. When Tuesday dawned, Republicans could reasonably wish for a five-seat gain in the Senate, which would have made their majority filibuster-proof. Instead, they suffered an astonishing defeat. The Democrats picked up five seats in the House -- a gain without historical precedent for the party that holds the White House. "This was the Republicans’ election to lose," says TIME Washington correspondent Jay Branegan, "and it appears they have." Heading up the GOP casualties: outspoken New York Senator Al D’Amato, unseated by Rep. Chuck Schumer despite spending a record-breaking $22 million; California challenger Matt Fong, who failed to oust Sen. Barbara Boxer; and in North Carolina, the ultraconservative Lauch Faircloth, who lost out to John Edwards in a bellwether race that Democrats were watching closely. Few will doubt that they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Special Report Not that there wasn’t good news for the GOP, too -– at least if your name happened to be Bush. Jeb in Florida and George W. in Texas both coasted to victory in what may be a foretaste of the next presidential election. Elsewhere, it seems, the religious conservative base of the Republican party was simply not motivated enough to turn out in the same kind of numbers that made 1994 such a watershed. Does that mean President Clinton is off the hook? Not according to Branegan. "After a deep breath of one or two days," he says, "the Washington establishment will again be baying at the moon of impeachment."

The most topsy-turvy race of all was for the Minnesota governor’s mansion, where Reform party candidate and former wrestling champ Jesse "The Body" Ventura pulled off the upset of his career, defeating political scion Hubert Humphrey III in the process. Get ready to rumble in 2000, Washington.

Follow the key House and Senate races.