Democrats Wednesday celebrated their gains in Congress and the takeover of governors' offices in high-growth Sunbelt states. They swiftly proclaimed the midterm election results show "George Bush is extraordinarily vulnerable in 1992."
But Republicans also had victories to crow about, including the biggest prize of all as Pete Wilson kept the California governorship in GOP hands. The president's party also made inroads in the Northeast and industrial Midwest, electing governors in Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and Massachusetts.In an election framed by fear of recession and war, by unhappiness with taxes and politicians, governors of both parties took a beating. That wasn't true in the House and Senate, where most incumbents won and where the 102nd Congress will look a lot like the late, unlamented 101st.
"We've got a lot to smile about," said Democratic National Chairman Ron Brown on CBS "This Morning."
At a news conference later, Brown made it clear he was taking dead aim on the 1992 presidential election and was determined to pursue the "fairness issue" Democrats used effectively this year.
"The American people are saying enough is enough," said Brown, reciting the now-familiar Democratic description of the past decade as a time when "the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and the middle class got squeezed."
"George Bush is in a slide," he said. "The debate now is focused on issues where Democrats are the strongest. George Bush is extraordinarily vulnerable in 1992."
Bush spent the morning in the Oval Office and offered no comment.
But the Republicans' chief spokesman, Charles Black, said the GOP had bested the trend for midterm losses and insisted, "It's a good day for the president."
The president "campaigned heavily for 18 candidates and 14 of them lost," Brown said.
Of the 32 senators who sought re-election, 31 won easily. Only Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz of Minnesota lost - to liberal college professor Paul Wellstone. In the House, the re-election rate for incumbents was 96 percent.
With several House races still undecided, the likely outcome would give the Democrats a 268-167 majority, a gain of nine - including Vermont socialist Bernard Sanders, who's expected to side with the Democrats.
The three fastest growing states - California, Florida and Texas - entered the election with Republican governors. The Democrats captured Florida and Texas, while the Republicans held on to California, Illinois and led the way into the post-Dukakis era in Massachusetts.
John Engler of Michigan and Arne Carlson of Minnesota brightened the morning after Election Day for the Republicans, ousting Democratic incumbents. Engler beat James Blanchard, and Carlson unseated Rudy Perpich.
In Arizona, Republican Fife Symington nursed a tiny lead over Democrat Terry Goddard, but the margin was so thin that a recount - and a runoff - were likely.
Symington led Goddard by about 4,500 votes with 99 percent of 1.03 million votes counted. To win outright, a candidate must get one more vote than 50 percent.
Lawton Chiles of Florida and Texas State Treasurer Ann Richards led the Democratic assault on statehouses crucial to next year's redrawing of political maps to follow population shifts to the Sunbelt.
Wilson won the multimillion-dollar battle with Democrat Dianne Feinstein for California's top job. With 98 percent of the vote counted, Wilson had 49 percent of the total to Feinstein's 46 percent.
Republicans elected governors in Ohio, where George Voinovich defeated Anthony Celebrezze; in Massachusetts, where William Weld edged out conservative Democrat John Silber; Vermont, where ex-governor Richard Snelling reclaimed his old job, defeating Peter Welch.
But Democratic gains were widespread. Joan Finney rode voter anger against GOP Gov. Mike Hayden to victory in Kansas, and businessman Bruce Sundlun unseated Republican Gov. Edward DiPrete in Rhode Island. Democrats won formerly Republican statehouses in Oklahoma and New Mexico.
Former Republican Sen. Lowell Weicker was elected governor of Connecticut as an independent. In Alaska, former GOP governor Walter Hickel was running as an independent and leading two opponents for the governorship.
The Democratic-dominated Senate emerged unscathed. Challenges once thought formidable were swept aside by well-financed incumbents.
But the night had its terrifying moments for Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., whose anticipated easy ride to a third term ended up a cliffhanger before he outlasted Republican Christine Todd Whitman. She capitalized on virulent anti-tax sentiment.
Generally, it wasn't a good night for those with presidential ambitions.
Along with Bradley's scare, Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York received a disappointing 53 percent of the vote against a blundering Republican and a little known Conservative who were never seen as more than fighting for second place.
Two other would-be presidents, Democratic Sens. Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee and Joseph Biden of Delaware rolled over token opposition. Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia was re-elected without opposition.
Winning more easily than expected were Republican Sens. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Mark Hatfield of Oregon, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Democrats Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Paul Simon of Illinois, Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, James Exon of Nebraska, Carl Levin of Michigan and John Kerry of Massachusetts.
House GOP whip Newt Gingrich also had a scare. The Georgia conservative, who abandoned Bush when the president was seeking support for a budget compromise that increased taxes, narrowly edged Democrat David Worley.
Particularly devastating to Bush was the loss in his adopted home state of Texas, where oilman Clayton Williams lost the governorship after spending $8 million of his own money. Florida's results also hurt Bush, who campaigned three times for Gov. Bob Martinez to no avail.
In all, eight states will gain and 13 will lose seats when House districts are reapportioned to reflect population shifts enumerated in the 1990 Census. Democrats will control the process outright - holding the governor's office and both legislative chambers - in at least five of the states gaining House seats.
The biggest winner will be California, gaining seven House seats. Florida will pick up four and Texas three.