GOP Keeps House, But Margin Is Razor-ThinBy Thomas H. Moore/AllPolitics
House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt wanted the Speaker's gavel bad. But by the time most of the votes were counted, it became clear that Republicans had held their ground, and even gained enough ground in Democratic open seats to keep control of the House for two more years.
The night started with the GOP in control of 236 seats and the Democrats holding 198. At 12:30 p.m. EST today, the count stood at 223 GOP seats, 204 Democratic seats and 8 seats still up in the air. But enough races have been called to make it mathematically impossible for Democrats to take over the chamber.
That's because the House's new independent is a stealth Republican. Missouri's Jo Ann Emerson ran for her late husband's 8th district as an independent only because she jumped into the race too late to run as a Republican. But count her as a Republican. (The House's other independent, Vermont's Bernard Sanders, will stay independent, as he has been since he was first elected to the House in 1990.)
The Democrats' inability to knock off GOP freshmen doomed their efforts to take back the House. Counting the nine open seats they lost, the Democrats had to take 28 other seats away from the Republicans -- a tall order, and one they didn't come close to carrying out.
So what does this mean? For one, it means that House Speaker Newt Gingrich will return to Washington with a razor-thin margin. He'll control the House's rules and committees, but he won't have a whole lot of maneuvering room.
It also means that most of Gingrich's 1994 freshman army will become sophomores, and thus fully integrated into the fabric of the House. Historically, it's easiest to knock off members when they first run for re-election. Once they pass that hurdle, they tend to be unstoppable. Their graduation into the sophomore class of Congress could be the biggest legacy of this election.
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