WASHINGTON: Republicans are rubbing their heads and looking for leadership after Tuesday's political train wreck. For the first time since 1934, the party occupying the White House recorded a midterm net gain in the legislature, winning five House seats and holding their ground in the Senate. Voters were more concerned with the economy and education than with Monica Lewinsky, and appeared to rebuke the Republicans for their handling of those issues. "This was the Republicans' election to lose," says TIME Washington correspondent Jay Branegan, "and it appears they have." Voters sent a strong message to Washington to back off on impeachment -- in exit polls, 61 percent disapproved of the Republicans' handling of the presidential scandal -- but that doesn't mean President Clinton is off the hook: "After a deep breath of one or two days the Washington establishment will again be baying at the moon of impeachment," says Branegan.
Al Gore has more reason than most to be cheerful, with Democratic gains in California and the South jump-starting his presidential campaign. But there was a bright silver lining for the GOP: George W. Bush's victory in the Texas gubernatorial race, where he bucked national trends by collecting almost half of the Latino vote and nearly two thirds of the women's vote, confirms his big-tent appeal. And after Tuesday's setback, that's exactly what the Republicans will need in 2000.