Clinton bounces back

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 November, 1998, 12:00am

They drank diet cola rather than champagne at the White House, but it clearly was celebration time for President Bill Clinton all the same. His Democrats did astonishingly well in Tuesday's US congressional elections, all but guaranteeing that the President will avoid impeachment and serve out the final two years of his term with more authority than seemed possible only weeks ago.

The Republicans kept control of the legislature but made no gains in the Senate and actually lost seats in the House. Majority leader Newt Gingrich, not Mr Clinton, could become the election's leading casualty.

However much they disapprove of the President's personal conduct, voters made clear that they do not favour the drastic course of impeachment. The economy is thriving and no overwhelming security threats loom, so they chose the safe and familiar over sudden change.

The Democrats held on to their traditional supporters, and the Republicans appear to have made a serious miscalculation of the national mood. The right-wing agenda which worked so effectively against the President midway through his first term simply does not play so well today - as was shown most dramatically by key Republican losses in New York and the South, and the loss of the governorship of California.

That will be extremely welcome news for Vice-President Al Gore, who will be able to run for the White House in the knowledge that his association with Mr Clinton will not work against him.