DOWN IN THE DUMPS after 1994's historic election in which Republicans gained control of Congress for the first time in 40 years, and staring at polls that predicted more Republican victories at the state level in this week's off-year voting, Democrats got something to smile about Tuesday. They held onto the governorship in Kentucky, where Lt. Gov. Paul Patton's pro-Medicare, pro-affirmative action, pro-choice campaign, anti-Newt Gingrich campaign paid off. He "nationalized" the election the way Speaker Gingrich did in 1994.
In Virginia the same phenomenon occurred. Gov. George Allen led a major, million-dollar effort by his Republicans to take over the state legislature. He even had a Gingrich-style contract with Virginians. But his party gained only two Senate seats and no House seats, not enough in either case. Non-partisan observers on the scene believe this outcome resulted in large part from voters' concerns that the Republican agenda in Congress is too far reaching, too fast moving.
Local issues seem to have played the major role in Mississippi, where the Republican governor, Kirk Fordice, was re-elected, but he also invoked Speaker Gingrich and the Contract with America, in his behalf. Local issues also seem dominant in New Jersey and Maine, where Democrats made small legislative gains.
Some Democrats say 1995 is an omen for 1996. They say they now have the momentum, "the big mo." Probably not, not yet. Democratic National Chairman Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut used a more accurate metaphor. He said the Republican revolution had hit a speed bump. It has been jolted and slowed down, but it is still moving. Democrats have been re-invigorated but not put back in the driver's seat.