President Clinton completed a remarkable comeback from the political ashes Tuesday as Americans voted their pocketbooks and rejected Bob Dole's challenge on taxes and trust. He awaited final returns at home in Little Rock, Ark., where supporters had already begun a jubilant celebration.
Two years after storming into power promising revolution, chastened Republicans battled to keep their rare hold on the House and the Senate.
Clinton showed strength in every region of the country as he rebounded from the 1994 Republican midterm rout and became the first Democratic president re-elected since Franklin Roosevelt
Victories in 25 states and the District of Columbia gave Clinton 291 electoral votes - it takes 270 to win the White House - and he had high hopes in Western states where polls were still open.
Victory in in hand, Clinton was looking for an electoral landslide and hoping, against tough odds, that Ross Perot's candidacy would not again cost him a majority of the popular vote. Perot was gaining about 8 percent of the national vote, less than half his 19 percent 1992 total.
Clinton was already weighing Cabinet changes as he plotted a second-term agenda and looked for his his place in history. Republicans hoped for a milestone of their own: Not since 1930 has the GOP won both chambers of Congress in consecutive elections.
Republicans were confident they would hold the Senate. In the House, Newt Gingrich's tenure as speaker at risk. Democrats needed an 18-seat gain to regain the gavel they had held for 40 years until the 1994 Republican sweep.
The breadth of Clinton's victory was sobering news to Republicans who once talked of benefiting from an Electoral College lock because of the party's strength in the South, Plains and Mountain West.
Clinton began the big night by becoming the first Democrat to win Florida in 20 years. As Dole monitored the results from his Watergate apartment, Ohio delivered an even more telling blow: no Republican has ever won the White House without that state.
Clinton went on to an industrial belt sweep, winning New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois. Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota added to Clinton's Midwest rout. The border states of Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee, home state of Vice President Al Gore, also were in the Democratic column, as was Clinton's Arkansas. New Mexico brought good news from the Southwest; Louisiana from the South.
Clinton carried the six New England states and rolled through New York, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Dole, on the other hand, carried Oklahoma, Indiana, Alabama, Wyoming, North Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Idaho and his native Kansas - for 98 electoral votes, and led for 15 more in South Carolina and Mississippi.
"Bob Dole has completed his last political mission with courage and honor," GOP campaign press secretary Nelson Warfield said. "Even in defeat, he has much to claim in the way of success." The Dole campaign later said the statement was issued prematurely.
Republicans began the evening with a 53-47 Senate majority and won two seats from retiring Democrats. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions took the Alabama seat of Howell Heflin. And Chuck Hagel captured the seat of James Exon in Nebraska.
Republicans held open seats in Wyoming and two in Kansas. Democrats did the same in Rhode Island, Georgia, Illinois and New Jersey. Control hinged on competitive open seat races in Louisiana, Arkansas, Colorado, Oregon and Maine. In New Hampshire, exit polls indicated Dick Swett would unseat Republican Sen. Robert Smith but the outcome was unclear later in the evening and indeed Smith held the lead with half the vote counted.
Sen. Jesse Helms won his rematch against Democratic challenger Harvey Gantt in North Carolina. In Massachusetts, Sen. John Kerry withstood a stiff challenge from popular Republican Gov. William Weld.
Democratic incumbents won new terms in Michigan, West Virginia, Minnesota and Delaware. Republican senators won re-election in Texas, New Mexico, Missisippi, Virginia and Oklahoma.
Dole based his challenge to Clinton on a pledge of dramatic tax cuts and an indictment of Clinton's ethical record. Clinton asked for four more years by citing the 10 million new jobs and low unemployment that marked the first four. Beyond policy differences, the White House campaign offered a stark generational contrast, pitting a graying 50-year-old baby boomer against Dole, 73, a veteran of 35 years in Congress and the battlefields of World War II.
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