Now that the impeachment debacle is nearing a conclusion, it's time for damage control by both parties. Conventional wisdom has the Republicans hurting more -- but the Democrats have good reason to be worried too. Though polls indicate that Democrats are navigating through the controversy reasonably well, "Clinton's high approval rating is in large measure a backlash result of what is perceived to be an impeachment stampede," says TIME congressional correspondent John Dickerson. In other words, after the trial ends and the sympathy factor dissipates, Clinton and his fellow Democrats will need to worry about an inevitable fall in the polls. And that could prove to be a particular problem for Gore. Says Dickerson, "People may conclude that although they didn't want Clinton out, he and his Democratic entourage are nonetheless the source of all the woes that led to impeachment." And if that perception begins to take hold, it could lead to a get-all-the-bums out reaction from the electorate.
The Republican problem is more direct. "The GOP simply has to change the perception that it's the impeachment party," says Dickerson. That unpopular image is a much harder noose to slip out of, and one that will take all the political talent that GOP leaders can muster. "The Republican party," says Dickerson, "needs to quickly hammer out a post-impeachment agenda and start lining up achievements in Congress." Policy activism, however, is also the strategy that the Democrats need to pursue. That battle could make for yet another nasty partisan fight. So what else is new?